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How COPE Works

Before entering the course

Before any group enters the course itself they are presented with a COPE Neckerchief. This neckerchief is presented to every participant who completes at least four (4) hours of participation on the course. At this time the course guidelines, rules, etc. are explained as well as a brief explaination of the concept of "Challenge by Choice." A number of Initiative Games are presented to the group to teach the basics of "Spotting." Spotting is used throughout the course (particularly the Low Course) to protect the head, neck, back, and shoulder areas from injury.

The Low Course

Once the Low Course is entered, the group is presented with an initial theme for the entire course. An example would be: "The group is in search of the lost artifact which explains why green jello has small air bubbles suspended in it." This theme is designed to give the group a purpose for the course. The theme is then combined with synarios for each element. For example: The group is not presented with just a "a grid to go through," they are presented with "a large spider's web to pass through in order to enter the jello factory which may have clues as to where the artifact may be found. The web is very sensitive to anything that touches it. However the group must pass through the web in order to continue through the cave that leads to the jello factory's hidden enterance."

This theme is carried from element to element and each element is presented to the group by use of a "Briefing." In addition to the synario, the Briefing is also used to present the group with the general safety parameters/guidelines for each element and any additional limitations that need to be placed on the group or individuals within the group.
After the "Briefing" is completed, the group attempts the element while keeping in mind the safety precautions, element objectives, and limitations placed upon the group or individuals. "Spotting" is used extensively throughout the Low Course and is manditory on all elements for every participant. The "Spotters" are allowed to break the group and individual limitations for each element while they are spotting. For Example: When a participant is going through the "Spiders Web" they must have a sufficient number of Spotters to protect them as they go through. Therefore, two participants may go to the other side of the element in order to spot the individual going through the element. These Spotters may not touch the individual going through the Spiders Web unless the individual becomes unbalanced and requires assistance for safety purposes.
Once the entire element is completed, a "Debrief" takes place. In the Debrief the group sits down to discuss what happened at the last element/activity (or number of elements/activities). The Debrief is the most important part of the COPE experience, it is where the real learning takes place. A Debrief may take many forms and can be pursued in a variety of ways. Most importantly is that each person in the group gets a chance to express their opinions, concerns, or comments about the element/activity.
Photos in Low Course section by: Bob Beverly, WVU Photographer

The High Course

It is important to note that no group is permitted to use the High Course area without at least six (6) hours of Low Course work and two hours of High Course Training. The High Course Training consists of knot tying, proper safety procedures, equipment use guidelines, "Belay" training, and much more.

The High Course is more individualized, but does require the assistance of the other group members to "Belay" the individual on the High Course element. The High Course can be very exciting and frightening at the same time, you can call it the ultimate "Self-Esteem Builder." It is the "Belayers" job to make sure that the individual on the element does not fall. This is accomplished through use of a Dynamic rope, this means that the rope gives a little, creating a comfortable fall rather than a sudden jerk with other types of "Static" ropes. There are also two additional safety lines (called Rabbit Ears) that attach the participant, via a harness, to safety cables located above the participant.

Each element has one "Belay Team." A Belay Team is made up of one main Belayer, a Back-up Belayer, and one Bucket Person. These teams are closely watched by a COPE Staff member to ensure that all safety and belaying guidelines are followed correctly. The entire High Course is watched by a COPE Director and at least two Instructors, one of which is always perched high to come to the aid of any participant which may have problems.

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Updated Thursday, 02-Sep-1999 12:35:18 CDT.