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Don’t Let Regulations Become the Program by Jim Grout

Author(s): Chris Ortiz
Posted: September 5, 2008

Below is an article by High 5‘s own Jim Grout. Jim brings a unique perspective, having been a member of the committee that drafted the ACCT Practitioner Certification Standards and his 28 years in the field. Jim offers up a much needed reminder of why we all do what we do. Thanks Jim ~Chris Ortiz

Over the last several years the challenge course industry has been in the midst of some of the most significant changes in its three decade plus history. Practitioner certification guidelines and governmental regulation are changing the way we do business more than ever before. Whether or not we agree with these changes matters little, for change is inevitable. We all must now decide how to best adapt to these changes. As we enter the second year of Practitioner Certification influencing the way we do business, it seems a bit of reflection may be in order.

It’s a given that we all must use our technical skills to deliver challenge course experiences within a safe environment. But in this era of growing requirements and regulations coming from many directions, administrators, insurance companies, government regulators and our industry itself, it is important not to let all of this become the program. Over my 28 years in the field of adventure I have always thought that experiential education can be defined simply; it is an educational tool for helping people develop as a person. When I’ve found myself challenged with what feels like too much information and regulation, too many details and demands, I go back to that simple definition for perspective.

Most skills based training workshops contain an enormous amount of information to absorb. It can feel overwhelming at times for participants to remember how to tie the right knot, choose an appropriate game or initiative, facilitate a debrief, set up a belay or put on a harness properly. Program managers are also taxed with the additional responsibilities of training and managing staff, developing local operating procedures and staying current with trends in the field.

It is because of all this that I end my training workshops by telling participants, “When in doubt, give them your heart.” Hopefully it reminds people that the essence of what we do as adventure educators is to provide people with a powerful learning experience that is engaging, challenging, thought provoking, fun and safe.

It is our job as skilled educators to try to achieve the magical balance between technical skills and thoughtful facilitation, to create the best and most powerful experience for our audience.

So by all means dot the I’s, cross the T’s, learn your skills and learn them well. But then make sure to connect and inspire those with whom you work.

~Jim Grout

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