It was Friday afternoon, Day 4 of our Outward Bound Backpacking Expedition, and at this point, our group was up for anything. Earlier that day, they had rock-climbed and repelled together without hesitation. Really, what was rock-climbing after 27 miles of Appalachian Trail in 2 days? When told of G-Unit’s long march, the rock-climbing facilitators were visibly shocked and impressed. They had never heard of another Outward Bound student crew doing so many miles in so little time. The students were incredibly proud of what they had accomplished, a task they had collectively chosen to undertake, and their new-found bond as a group had been forged by the intensity of that shared experience. So, that afternoon, as the students broke from the huddle, they were fully confident that together they could master the Flat-Footed Long Jump Challenge, one of a series of afternoon team-building games devised by our facilitators, Andrew and Jenna.
In the first round of the Flat-Footed Long Jump Challenge, the students had been told to jump as far as they could. After the first student jumped, her landing place was marked, and the second student jumped from there. Student followed student, until all 9 had jumped and all landing points, individual and collective, were marked. For the second round, Andrew moved the goal for the students back a few feet, and he challenged them to reach the new goal. As the jumping commenced, the students cheered one another on. When a student exceeded the distance of his original jump, the group cheered and high-fived. 9 jumps later, the group had reached the goal line set by Andrew. The students celebrated. Andrew set another goal, and this time, he offered them a bag of candy – the forbidden fruit of the trail – if they met the goal. Another huddle, 9 more jumps, and another goal had been met.
That simple game, the Flat-Footed Long Jump Challenge, captured the power of the Outward Bound experience. Every aspect of the Outward Bound program, from daily routines and silly songs to games in the woods and conversation topics by the fire, has a purpose. The Long Jump Challenge forced the students to set goals, it allowed them to experience meeting and exceeding clearly established goals, and the game demonstrated the power of a supportive network of friends and colleagues. It made evident that by living and working purposefully, successes, even small ones, become tangible, achievable events. In the game’s debrief session, Andrew discussed all of these things, and acknowledged the application of the game to real life. A simple game had become a significant moment of learning and reflection.