Challenge course goes beyond the box
Elliott Pervinich loves his job. “I get paid to play,” he laughs. Elliott is modest.
He’s the challenge course coordinator for Georgetown Parks and Recreation. Challenge courses dot the central Texas area, but they’re generally located at university campuses or part of summer camp programs. Georgetown is one of a few cities that can boast its own challenge course, but many residents don’t even know that it’s there or what its purpose is.
Hidden among the trees near the North San Gabriel River, the challenge course offers organizations the opportunity to work on their group dynamics and teambuilding. The course consists of low team elements, such as walking across a wire cable suspended two feet off the ground, and high elements perched thirty-five feet above ground. Before a group is ready for the high element adventure, a lot of preparation takes place on the ground level.
“We run groups through various activities like tag game initiatives or problem-solving activities,” Elliott says. “Even in the tag games, we debrief the activities and make the group aware of what skills it took for them just to play the game. They have to be aware of their surroundings, aware of others’ abilities.” After the problem-solving activities, Elliott and the group talk about what worked, what didn’t work, how to improve the process the next time, and the skills it took for the group to succeed or to attempt the challenge. “It’s the same skills that require them to function as a group. We just try to make them more aware of their abilities, of themselves, and of each other to hopefully make them better when they leave.”
Elliott works with all ages and backgrounds, from children’s summer camps, athletic teams, and church groups to business corporations and substance abuse treatment programs. He can tailor a challenge course to fit a variety of ages, experiences, and abilities. Although the main object of the course is therapeutic recreation, Elliott admits that the course is physically challenging. But he would never turn anyone away because of physical limitations: “We’ll find a way to help everyone participate in the activities.”
Elliott understands the hesitation many face on the course. Some people are pushed outside their comfort zone just by showing up to participate. Elliott is right there with them. “I fear public speaking,” he says. “I fear heights. . . . A challenge course took me beyond public speaking, beyond the fear of heights. I still get butterflies before groups, I’m still not one hundred percent comfortable climbing a pole, but I have to do it anyway. I know every emotion they’re having. I know what it feels like to be uncomfortable with all that, and I can talk them through it.”
On the flip side, Elliott loves creating fun activities. He keeps records of each visiting group and the games they play. One volleyball team has come for four years in a row, and he makes sure they play different games each year. Elliott’s creativity and innovative games won Program of the Year from the Texas Experiential Resources Association, a group of which Elliott is now president.
The same year he won the award, Elliott also presented at TERA’s annual conference, speaking on the idea of throwing away the box. “My process on [thinking outside the box] is sometimes you put yourself in a bigger box,” Elliott explains. “Why not explore every corner of the box? Go explore that idea that no one wants to look at.”
Elliott’s philosophy is what keeps Georgetown’s challenge course energetic, vitalized, and—most important—fun.
For rates and more information about the challenge course, visit challengecourse.georgetown.org or contact Elliott at 512-931-2757.
For more information about Texas Experiential Resources Association, visit www.txtera.org.