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To Trust Fall or not to Trust Fall?

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Paul Petzoldt had a great open letter to a mum that he used at Outward Bound. The guts of it ran that it was her right or even duty to do her utmost in gautanteeing her sons safety and that if she did that OB could gaurantee the death of his soul.


Not recommending that you throw a copy at her just that it is an issue that often arises and the result of seeking to completely protect is a death of a diiferent kind.

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I had a really neat experience with the trust fall activity. The way I learned to do it was to lock your arms and then say, I am John, I trust you with my life. Then I say falling the catchers reply fall on


I had planned that this activity was the culmination of a special JLT I was holding. I had all of the boys take their turns taking the fall. They loved it, really built the team.


Then I was last. When I was standing on the rock about 6 feet up looking down on the scouts I got a little emotional seeing all of the scouts many I have worked with for 5 years each with their arms out ready to catch me. I felt inspired to change the dialog. I said My name is John, I trust you with my life, and I also trust in you the youth leaders the program of scouting and my goals and dreams for the troop. I trust you because I know you, I know your potential and I know you can do it. Just as each of you need to do your part to catch me each of you need to do your part for our troop and our friends. Falling.





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  • 3 weeks later...

The Trust Fall is the strongest low course element on a COPE course for building trust. I have sent literally hundreds of people, young and old, off the trust fall. The vast majority of them are scared to death when they are preparing to fall. Once they fall safely into the arms of their group, almost all of them seem to have a new respect for their group members.


They also have a newfound sense of pride in themselves. They all have a look of accomplishment in their eyes. That look gives me a great deal of satisfaction knowing that they have just taken a huge step inside.


That is a feeling no one should be deprved of if they want to participate.

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I did not do the trust fall activity during COPE this year.


I really didnt like it when I saw it, but I did get up there and try. When I was ready, I went through the commands. As I was starting to fall, I guess instead of falling straight back, my feet picked themselves up and moved and I panicked. I was going to try going again, but we had run out of time.


Many of the people in my group couldnt understand how I couldnt do the Trust Fall activity, but wanted to jump out of planes and helos, and just rappel off of the climbing tower (which I love doing so much:))

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The trust fall is a great opportunity to strengthen the bounds of a group that needs to rely on each member, great for building up the teamwork attitude of a patrol. The group needs to earn the trust of the person taking the fall. There's a difference between being brave and being stupid. Falling backwards into a group that you do not believe will catch you is stupid. Falling into a group you trust will keep you from harm is brave.


I'm looking forward to seeing how its done on a COPE course since I've not seen that yet. I do hope there are lead up activities in COPE of increasing risk such as a Trust Lean, Trust Fall Circle, and low Trust Fall before having a scout fall from 4 feet up - that is how the trust is earned. The actual fall shouldn't really change the faller's view of the group because he should already have complete trust in them, but it sure can change his view of himself and his capabilities.


If anyone can point me to a COPE course description of how the trust fall is done, I'd appreciate it.




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When I am directing a COPE course, the trust fall is the last low element I do. COPE is designed to be a progressive building program that is founded on seven key principles--teamwork, decision making, leadership, teamwork, problem solving, self esteem and trust. We start with initiative games that are used to break the ice, learn names and generally get the group comfortable working together. We teach basic things like spotting techniques, etc.


After the initiative games, we move to the low course. These elements range from ground level to about 12-13 feet high. On the low course, they will use the lessons learned from the initiative games to accomplish the tasks of the low course. The group will run through about 6 low elements. These are just as tough mentally as they are physically. This is really where the group dynamics start to form. It is where they really start to work as a team, communicate with each other, learn to solve problems and develop leadership skills.


The trust fall is the final low element they do. After that, they move to the high course, which starts at 35 feet up and tops out on the rappelling tower a cool 65 feet up. As before, they use the skills learned during the initiative games and low course to meet the goals of the high course.


As for a description of how the trust fall is run, I'll give it a shot here.


First, you line all the team members up facing each other, shoulder to shoulder, starting at the edge of the platform. They will make two lines that face eaach other, with about two feet between the two lines. Then, they all extend their arms out, palms up and fingers flat. They will alternate arms so that one side does not have two hands next to each other.


Then, the "faller" gets on the platform with the instructor. The faller crosses his arms across his body to prevent his elbows from hitting another group member during the fall. The instructor positions the faller so that his back is to the group and he is centered up and ready to fall.


At this point, the group goes through their commands. Faller asks, "Team ready?" Team replies, "TEAM READY!!" Faller says, "Johnny falling." Team replies, "FALL ON, JOHNNY!!" Then, the faller falls into the arms of the group.


It should be noted that for safety purposes, anytime a person is on the platform, the group should be in position and ready to catch them should he fall accidentally. Also, when you fall, it is VERY important to stay as stiff as a board. We always tell people to put a dime between your buttcheeks and pinch. :)(This message has been edited by OXCOPS)

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Way back when in COPE we didn't exactly have a trust fall station. What we did have was a bar that you had to jump out and grab (or fall to the ground) and then move to the next position (higher and farther from the bar) and jump again. At the start of the course we tried it as above, at the end we did it with the troop there to catch us. In every case we were able to jump farther with the team in place.


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