Recognise that when a fall occurs, they usually happen quickly and may occur in any direction but most often the participant will fall towards the starting point.
When a fall is imminent, the participant agrees that they will step off the cable and immediately let go of the rope.
When a falls occurs, the spotters agree to move in to support the participant and prevent them from landing on the ground.
Spotters will move to keep pace with the traversing participant at all times.
Spotters will provide sufficient space between their spotting stance and the participant to allow room for movement.
Practical Leadership Tips
The foot cable should be strung no higher than approx 45cm (18″) above the ground so as to prevent harm on the occasion the participant falls and straddles the cable.
This element gets its name from the tension that is required to be placed on the hand rope to allow the participant to successfully traverse the foot cable.
The activity gets more and more difficult as the participant traverses further along the cable.
Urge your group to resist the temptation to offer or seek physical support from the spotters. When a fall occurs, simply encourage participants to make another attempt.
This activity perfectly reflects the continuum of empowerment. Spotters often feel compelled to offer a hand or a shoulder to prevent a fall from occurring (disempowering the participant.) Equally, the hand or shoulder of a spotter is a very attractive option for the traversing participant when they are feeling unsure. Ideally, the participant should feel empowered to engage in an attempt that would not be possible without the safety net of their spotters. To this end, spotters should never stand too far back from the participant to be ineffective. It’s a fine balance and the more practice one makes, the better judgements are exercised.
A practical tip: at the beginning of a traverse, the excess hand rope can sometimes get in the way of the feet of the spotters. If available, ask a volunteer to keep this excess rope out of the path of the spotters, ie they may stand well ahead of the traversing participant being careful not to lift the hand rope off the ground.
You could integrate Tension Traverse as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
Most people will discover that they need multiple attempts to improve their abilities to traverse the foot cable. To this end, you could explore a bunch of strategies that build resilience before your group tackles this challenge to help prepare them for the task.
Frame this activity as an experience that will feature and leverage an abundance of relationship skills such as trust, empathy and patience. Indeed, most of the key tenets of the full value agreement can be easily explored in this challenging traversing task including:
Being Here – working hard to focus on one’s effort, not being distracted by extraneous events;
Being Safe – adhering to certain safety guidelines as both participant and spotters;
Letting Go & Moving On – choosing to have another go and not wallow in a failed attempt; and
Care for Self & Others – this includes the responsibility of the spotters as much as the participant themselves.
High-Low Challenge: Provide a second hand rope option fixed from a position lower than the first hand rope to make the challenge even more difficult.
There & Back: Invite the participant to traverse back to the starting point after they have reached the end of the furthest point of the traverse.
Paired Tension Traverse: Invite two participants to traverse the cable together maintaining physical contact at all times. In this case, you will need twice as many spotters.
Triangle Tension Traverse: Establish three taut foot cables forming the shape of a triangle. Affix two hand ropes high on the point of the triangle apex. You may either invite one person to traverse the full triangle in one direction or invite two people to traverse in opposite directions and attempt to pass each other.
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Increasingly difficult traversing challenge for groups.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Relationships are not a set-and-forget mechanism. To keep a relationship healthy, it is necessary for each party to consistently work hard on the relationship. This responsibility and effort is exemplified in this next exercise…
Do you look at people who can walk tightropes and wonder how they make it look os easy? Do you wonder why their rope is not twitching all over the place in a mild-panic? In times of trouble, any form of trouble, one of the first things we are told to do is to be calm. These are wise words and will bode you well in our next challenge activity…
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 undertaking this challenging activity:
As the traversing participant, what did you immediately notice as soon as you stepped up on the cable?
What did you observe as you progressed further along the cable?
Did the presence of your spotters make a difference to your efforts?
As spotters, did you notice any patterns or anything else significant?
Describe what happened when you had to support a fall. How did you feel?
Did you feel you were effective as a spotter? Why or why not?
How does this challenge reflect a healthy or unhealthy relationship?
The inspiration for the Tension Traverse is generally unknown but was popularised during the development of Project Adventure‘s adventure-based curriculum in the early 1970s.