Ropes Course Training – Surprises, Challenges, & Team Building

By Faculty Matt Kinney

When the builders and engineers broke ground on the Phoenix Nest in July, I quickly became excited. As we carried out a majorly successful Summer Leadership Challenge program this summer, the entire community was able to observe and watch it take shape. This small corner of our campus quickly turned into what appeared to be one of the nicest looking, well-built challenge courses I had ever seen.

Phoenix Nest Ropes Course
Phoenix Nest Ropes Course

And then I stood underneath it. My jaw dropped and my excitement quickly turned into nerves, despite years of experience high in the trees.

On August 27th, a courageous group of ten faculty, veteran and greenhorn, showed up to training. When I received the opportunity to volunteer back in May, I quickly jumped at it expecting a few hours of training and a tour of the new facility. None of us knew at the time that we would be undergoing a rigorous 40-hour training that would occupy the entire week. The time had arrived for us all to face our fears and conquer the challenges and obstacles that lay ahead.  

Our instructor was Phil Brown, a trainer and course designer with High 5 Adventure Sports, who traveled from Brattleboro, VT to quite literally show us the ropes. Within an hour of our start, Phil and his curriculum captivated all of us. We quickly learned that this training was going to be far more than just training on ropes, but rather a total overhaul of our team building programming at Hyde. Students and parents will recall the icebreakers and name games, often played in the Sunken Garden, that define the first days of school, Summer Challenge or any Family Weekend. By lunch on day one, we had played and tweaked nearly all of these often monotonous activities, making them more engaging, fun, and challenging. All of this and we still were standing on solid ground.  

As we made our way through the games, we transitioned to the wall for an opening round of belay training and climbing. From the onset, I could feel our group of ten getting closer and more cohesive by the hour. While we were all nervous to an extent, we realized the importance of support and relying on each other. This support system is what brought us all through, and in my mind something that makes Hyde so special. Every day in our community we are called to face challenges and push each other out of our comfort zones. Standing on a platform, about to step out on another swinging platform forty feet in the air, we all felt the discomfort. But the fact that we had people pushing us in the right direction made what we wrote off as impossible, possible.

Learning to team belay
Instructor Phil Brown (second from left) leads the group through how to team belay. Pictured left to right, Jacob Sargent, Phil, Matt Kinney, Lori Hobart, and Caitlin Sperzel.

Experiences like this shape who we are. As facilitators, we realized the power that this new course will have and the potential that it has for our students. If we can confront challenge that lays before us 40 feet in the air, we can look back at those feelings and bring the mettle and determination with us as life takes its turns on solid ground.  

As a young faculty member, I feel extraordinarily lucky to have been afforded the opportunity to become a facilitator on our world-class ropes course. But more importantly, I look forward to helping our students find the sense of accomplishment in performing the elements just as we did as a group of ten. The Phoenix Nest is sure to be a defining feature of many students’ and families’ Hyde experience, and it gives me continued hope and a positive outlook for our community.

Faculty member Jacob Sargent reaches the summit.
Faculty member Jacob Sargent reaches the summit. Wilderness faculty Tripp Henderson is close behind.