It has been very interesting for me during the first four months. My outdoor company is growing slowly whereby I ran some programs which help provide outdoor practitioners with abseiling and climbing skills. I’ve also been out there conducting students’ outdoor activities. One of the main jobs that I have been carrying out for the past four months is conducting abseiling. This is just another movement to fill the program’s gaps. In every session, however, there are a lot of participants who are very scared even after being shown how safe the activity was.
The common behaviors the portrayed included
• Some would walk up to the edge and mutter ‘I’m gonna die’ or ‘I can’t do it’
• Some would walk backwards from the participating team as I had arranged them in a sequence
• Some would volunteer to start first only to freeze while they are in the platform
Furthermore, despite the difficulties I faced in convincing the student to take up the activity, I told myself that the students had to experience this activity. In the past I changed tacks some few times, tried different strategies so as to encourage them to try abseiling and came up with my personal set of top five tips when conducting this activity.
1. Focus on giving a solid briefing
One of the safe abseiling tips is not to rush in the activity. This is just how the participants learn to abseil without being subjected to any pressure. The best way to abseil is to go slowly then go faster later. For example if my whole activity is about fifteen minutes, I spend around ten minutes sharing about the whole experience of the activity and what the participants will experience during the activity and how to abseil safely. I also try to emphasize on the idea that it is not just a common activity but it has a purpose for them.
2. Redefining challenge by choice
Some of the team members would at the start of the activity say that their teacher says that they have a challenge by choice and ask whether not to participate in the activity. I hate to hear that remark. Therefore, when such an event happens, or even before they participate, I explain to them that it is still good to challenge themselves and attempt the challenge as much as they can. The important this is to not give up at the start of the activity. So, I would encourage them to use the stairs and meet me on the rooftop. This is a challenge which they could do.
3. It’s all about them and not me
I also emphasized that the activity is not for me but for them. As an instructor, position them before yourself. Let them be aware that being able to learn to abseil will conquer their fears. This activity is specially designed for their own benefit. Talk to them about the best way to abseil so that they find it fun and not scary.
4. The main reason I’m here is to help you explore, let’s see how far you can go
After I have taken myself out of the math, I then share with them to enable them realize that my main role there is to help them explore. I encourage them that each step they take is itself a challenge. They have to celebrate each step like a big success. When you congratulate the students who walked to the edge and still could not complete the abseil, it makes them motivated and proud of themselves. It is important to understand that people have different abilities.
5. Activity debrief
At the end of the session, leave your equipment and go down to meet with the participants. If you are not able to grab the whole group, speak to a few individuals, congratulate them all even those who did not attempt the activity. In addition, explain to them that it was all about how they were able to manage their fear and link back their managing fear action to some ordinary life challenges.
How do you abseil
To abseil, first, you need to secure a rope at the top of where you desire to abseil down and always check if the area is free of obstacles. That particular rope is run through a friction device that is attached to attach around the waist. Lean backward and slowly begin to lower yourself down. As you move down, the friction device normally slows the rope a bit, and this makes it easier to control the descent.
When conducting abseiling, I spend little time talking to the participants about the technicalities. It is known that this activity is safe, but the minds of the participants tell them otherwise. If you are trained on tricks to abseiling and equipped, you can perceive verses real fear. Conducting abseiling is still a time-consuming activity if used properly, your participants can benefit a lot form it.
With your support, I’m hoping to launch courses online and write more blog posts on abseiling. I hope that they will be of help to you, regardless if you are an educator, beginner instructor, seasoned one, or a person who just love the outdoors.