Building trust

Jessie Marks

Rec center program uses physical challenges to help strengthen connections among groups, employees

Sports management major Francesco Vitone grabs athletic training major Jordan Kocher during the “Trust walk” at the recreation center as part of team leadership challenges for student faculty supervisors. Steve Mantilla | Summer Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Students stood on a wooden platform four feet from the ground and fell backward off the edge of that platform, trusting that the group of strangers below would catch them.

The Teambuilding and Leadership Challenges program offered by the Student Recreation and Wellness Center is designed to build trust among group members through a series of physical and mental challenges as they rely on one another for safety. To enhance the learning process, groups stop to analyze their experience after each element.

“A lot of learning takes place,” said Dave Herpy, outdoor adventure and camp coordinator at the rec center. “It is learning by doing, with reflecting. We talk about what they learned, what they felt and how they can apply what they learned to their situation as a group.”

University groups, such as fraternities or sororities, and non-university groups such as sports teams and the Boys and Girls Club, take advantage of the TLC program. The busiest time for team building exercises is the beginning of fall semester when groups are coming together for the first time.

With three components of the TLC program – trust exercises and initiatives, low-challenge course and high-challenge course – there is a component for every group size and comfort level.

The most popular component, Games, Trust Exercises and Initiatives, is made up of non-competitive activities that familiarize group members with one another. Physical and mental problems are given to the group and it must react by assessing the problem, forming and following a solution plan, then evaluating the plan for effectiveness at the problem’s completion.

Herpy said one of the most popular group initiatives is “group juggle,” where participants work together to develop a ball-juggling pattern between all members of the group, so that each member touches the ball only once. After the pattern is established, the number of balls is increased and the group must maintain the same pattern while keeping all the balls in the air.

“Balls are flying all over the place,” Herpy said. “It gets chaotic and everyone is always laughing in the group juggle.”

Aside from the unique games, convenience lends to the team building exercises’ popularity.

“We can do the (Games, Trust Exercises and Initiatives) portion of the program anywhere,” Herpy said. “It’s mobile, so we can go to a classroom and do it. We can take it to any gymnasium.”

The stationary components of TLC include a low-challenge outside course located in the woods at the Allerton Sports Complex and a high-challenge course located in the multipurpose gym at the rec center. The low-challenge course focuses on interpersonal relationships, group dynamic and group cohesion, and the high-challenge course focuses on the individual within a group, building self-confidence.

Matt Kress, senior parks recreation and tourism major, participated in all three components of the TLC program.

“With TLC, you develop teamwork, problem-solving skills, trust and confidence,” Kress said. “By the end of the program, not only do you know someone you didn’t know before, but you now have a bond with them.”

The team building and leadership challenges are priced at an hourly rate that ranges from $60 to $500 based on group size and the organization’s affiliation.

“TLC is all about learning,” Herpy said. “I mean yeah, it is a lot of fun, but it is really designed for people to learn about themselves and the other group members.”

To register for Teambuilding and Leadership Challenges, call (330) 672-4REC or register online at

Contact student recreation and wellness reporter Jessie Marks at [email protected].