MCC COPE & Climbing
What is COPE?
Challenging Outdoor Personal Experience (COPE) is one of the programs of the Boy Scouts of America. COPE was launched in 1983. The program comprises group initiative games, trust events, low-course events, and high-course events. Some activities involve a group challenge, while others develop individual skills and agility. Participants climb, swing, balance, jump, rappel, and devise solutions to a variety of problems. Most participants achieve much more than they imagined they could.
COPE is designed to meet the needs of people of all ages who are seeking ways to challenge and expand their physical and mental abilities. As a noncompetitive program, COPE permits every participant to succeed. The group activities are ideal for enhancing the leadership and teamwork of Scout units, and activities that challenge individuals can be used to promote self efficacy and personal growth.
Goals and Objectives of COPE
The COPE program is designed to enhance the Scouting experience and to promote Scouting values and objectives among its participants with fun and challenging activities. While each COPE course is unique and each person who experiences it has individual objectives, the COPE program emphasizes eight major goals.
COPE encourages communication among individuals in the group to help achieve goals. The challenges
presented by the COPE experience often provide opportunities to sharpen communication skills and adapt communication to fit unusual situations.
COPE participants are encouraged to consider and/or develop goals for each activity and options for achieving those goals. The group then utilizes its collective knowledge and skills to design and carry out a course of action. Nontraditional solutions that are “outside the box” may be appropriate.
The COPE experience makes it clear that each individual can accomplish more as a member of a team than by going it alone. The sense of belonging to the group is one of the most powerful potential outcomes from participating in COPE.
Participants completing difficult tasks on a COPE course often develop trust in themselves and their team. For some, trust comes easily, and for others, extending trust and letting go of control is more difficult.
Some individuals are naturally gifted with leadership qualities while others have to develop those qualities. Participants who may not normally take a leadership role will have opportunities to take on more responsibility and leadership. Similarly, those who easily take charge will have opportunities to learn when it may be appropriate to step back and follow someone else’s lead.
COPE encourages groups to make decisions by developing one or more solutions to a problem. Group members consider the available resources and alternatives, evaluate the probable results, and adjust their plans accordingly.
COPE challenges groups and individuals to develop solutions to interesting problems. Participants can then test their solutions and evaluate the results as they process the experience with the help of a trained facilitator.
Participation in the COPE program provides opportunities for individuals and groups to develop confidence in their ability to meet challenges. The COPE program, like other outdoor programs of the Boy Scouts of America, provides opportunities to develop self-esteem in a safe and positive environment.
Categories of COPE Activities
A COPE experience can include initiative games, trust events, low-course events, and high-course events.
Initiative games at the beginning of each COPE session help participants learn to work together through communication to achieve their goals. Initiative games do not require constructed elements. Many initiative games require only simple props or no props at all.
Trust events are a series of activities designed to develop trust in the mind of the individual and with the group as a whole, as well as to develop spotting skills.
Low-course events do not require participants to be on a life safety system. While individual coordination and strength are helpful, participants accomplish the low-course activities with the support and combined efforts of the group.
A COPE activity is considered a high-course event when participants are required to be on a life safety system. Some high-course events tend to focus on individual initiative rather than group problem solving, depending on the design of the program. Creative high-course program designers have incorporated team challenges into high-course events, such as couples climbing the Giant’s Ladder. Group support and belay teams also provide teamwork opportunities.
Features of COPE
Among the features that make COPE interesting and challenging to a variety of participants are the following:
COPE activities emphasize the importance of working together without creating the “winner–loser” situation found in most team sports.
People with underdeveloped coordination or strength can be discouraged by traditional sports and games, while experienced athletes might be overconfident in their physical abilities. COPE encourages the involvement of all team members in all COPE activities and events.
The actual risk of a properly conducted COPE program is lower than in traditional sports programs, but the perceived risk can be very high. Facing this type of risk helps participants build self-confidence and trust.
Process vs. Performance
COPE experiences emphasize the process of decision making and problem solving, and how outcomes can be affected. This process helps participants develop and reinforce skills needed to solve problems in the real world.
COPE encourages spontaneity, creativity, and exploration. COPE activities and events teach participants to challenge themselves while having fun in a responsible manner. COPE experiences allow group members to interact without being restricted by preconceived notions of behavior.
Acceptance of Responsibility
COPE participants are never coerced into doing any activity. Participants may be encouraged to take part, but COPE staff members, group leaders, and other participants respect the right of each individual to refrain from taking part in any or all activities or events. It is important to remember that there can be a fine line between encouragement and coercion!
By varying the goal or adjusting the situation, most COPE activities and events can be customized to challenge each team and each participant at an appropriate level.