If deemed necessary, allow participants to enjoy a practice swing on the rope to test their strength and experience what is required to traverse safely.
Spot every participant as they swing across the no-touch area.
Do not allow diving or jumping for the rope.
Be an active spotter at all times.
Be an active member of the group.
Offer support to all group members both physically (spotting) and emotionally (supporting and contributing.)
Understand that some people will have difficulty holding their own weight.
If a person chooses to use the spliced foot loop to support their weight, they must remove their foot before they let go of the rope.
Agree not to use excessive force to swing members across the no-touch area.
Agree to communicate their intentions when swinging towards the safe zones and plan together for the effect that a swinging body may have on a crowded area.
Practical Leadership Tips
Some people find it difficult, if not impossible, to carry their own weight. A spliced foot loop at the base of the swing rope may help, but not always. If you suspect this may present an issue for one or more members of your group, invite everyone to enjoy a free swing on the rope before you start the activity.
As with the All Aboard, a popular strategy to squeeze everyone into a tight space is to place some people on the back or shoulders of others. This is acceptable provided you assess that the group has the requisite skills to manage this safely.
As with many group initiatives, there are many penalties that can be levied when a parameter is infringed. Here are a few examples particular to this problem-solving exercise:
All group members return to the start;
The three most recent people who arrived in the safe zone must return; or
Tally the number of touches or infractions and aim to keep these as low as possible (or perform the task 2 or 3 times and aim to record the fewest errors.)
As an extra challenge, announce that the swing rope will return to its original hanging position every time an infraction is incurred, eg when someone touches outside the safe zones or the water is spilled.
Be prepared for unexpected spills of water, ie you may need to refill the bucket one or more times, so equip yourself accordingly.
Tradition informs me that the name Nitro Crossing emerged as a nod to a popular scenario which involved the transport of a delicate substance such as nitroglycerine.
Prouty’s Landing: Challenge your group to land on a wooden platform (such as that used in All Aboard.) Clearly one of the challenges your group must solve is how to fit every person on the limited space of the platform with or without the bucket of water.
Disc Jockeys: In advance, lay a series of rubber poly spots (one for every person in your group) on the ground, starting from approx 2 metres back from the swing rope, as representing the safe area. Typically I create an inverted triangle (with the point of the triangle closest to the swing rope) but you can lay them in any pattern you choose. Explain that each spot may only be occupied by one person and as soon as they land, they must keep both feet on their spot at all times. For safety purposes, allow group members to use one foot to step off their spot while they help new members of the team arrive on their spot.
Do I Go? Randomly lay a large circle of numbered poly spots – one for every person plus one – on the ground approx 2 metres radius from the swing rope. Ask each person to step onto one of the spots (there will be one empty.) Challenge your group to re-arrange themselves in alphabetical order (by first name) so that the spot numbered #1 is eventually occupied by the person named closest to A, etc. All movements must involve the use of the swing rope.
Zits: Set-up as for Do I Go? variation and ask everyone to remember the very first spot that they stand on. At any time an individual touches the no-go zone, they are required to return to their original spot. However, if someone happens to be occupying this spot, this will cause this person to return to their original spot, and so on. Thus, one mistake may cause a cascading series of chemical reactions (ie this is what causes zits or acne) which may return the whole group back to the start.
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Useful Framing Ideas
When you look at a swing rope, often hanging from a tree, it just begs you to grab it and swing, right? Some of my fondest memories of summer camp are captured in moments swinging on a rope over our favourite swimming hole. Well, today, the only water you’ll see is inside this bucket…
The area you are presently standing overlooks a deep, deep canyon and behind you is a rampaging mob of mutant ninja turtles. You must escape, but your only safe place is on the other side of the ravine. The gap is too wide to jump so you must use this handy swing rope which just happens to be suspended from a skyhook…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this popular group initiative:
On a score of 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest, rate how challenging this task was.
What were the most difficult parts of this group initiative? Why?
How well did you look after the nitro crossing?
What words would you use to describe your group’s decision-making process?
If you could solve this problem again, what would you do differently?
Did you observe moments in this exercise that reflect the way your group operates day to day?
What’s the biggest takeaway from this exercise?
The inspiration for Nitro Crossing is generally unknown but was popularised during the development of Project Adventure‘s Challenge Course curriculum in the early 1970s.