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Creating Tomorrow’s Leaders Through Team Building Experiences

In the United States, organized sports are a significant part of the physical, psychological and cognitive development of youth. Research indicates that 75% of U.S. families have at least one child who participates in organized sports.1 An estimated 45 million American children and adolescents are involved in some form of youth sports.1 According to the Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, when considering goals and motivation for involvement, most children consider fairness, participation and the development of skills as paramount, with winning taking a back seat.1 However, most adults believe their children are most motivated by winning.1 Joe DeRing, founder and president of Empower Adventures, considers this disconnect a serious problem within organized youth sports.

“Unfortunately, many Americans are familiar with stories about parents pushing their child athletes too hard, and even lashing out against coaches or other parents at games,” said DeRing, an expert in team building and leadership training. “Instead of treating children as professional athletes who are paid to win, parents and coaches should prioritize building confidence, team building, communication skills and social development.” Rather than creating a negative atmosphere in which children develop stress and anxiety, parents and coaches should emphasize fun while encouraging physical fitness and emotional well-being.1

Involvement in organized sports teaches children important values, such as teamwork, fair play and respect for oneself and others.2 Skills needed for effective leadership—time management skills, how to develop winning strategies, and how to identify strengths and weaknesses among teammates and competitors, for example—can also be taught through participation in sports.3 Research has shown that the learned behavior and positive attitude associated with playing sports will contribute to better academic performance, as well.1,2

Outdoor adventure activities that force children outside of their comfort zone, like zip line canopy tours, inspire collaboration and team building, and may fast-track leadership development. Zip line outdoor adventures foster confidence, encourage peers to support and help one another, and challenge participants to identify the differences between positive and negative risks and challenges.4 Participants find themselves in a forum where they must make decisions quickly for themselves and may serve as a role model for the decision-making of others.4

“I started Empower Adventures as a way to translate the positive experience I gained in the military to civilians—both adults and children,” added DeRing. “Through the challenging physical and psychological experiences shared with one’s peers at our adventure parks, participants find the courage to face adversity and attain goals.”

With 60% of U.S. companies facing leadership talent shortages, developing leadership skills in American youth is vital to sustaining economic success.4 Leading experts in team building and leadership development believe that acquiring leadership skills from real experience outside the classroom is far more effective than reading about leadership theory.4 Physical activities, such as outdoor adventure and organized sports, provide an outlet for youth to learn how to meet the challenges of life and achieve their full potential.

About Joe DeRing:

Joe is a true American hero. Having served multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Joe returned from service seeking to use his leadership skills in a way that would help people to leave fear, frustration and limitation behind. Partnering with advisors Dev Pathik and Jason Clement, Joe developed Empower Leadership Sports in Middletown, Connecticut. Later the team created Empower Adventures in Middleburg Virginia and Empower Adventures in Tampa Bay. Empower Adventures and Joe’s incredible personal journey from battlefield to inspirational adventure operator have now been featured on CNN, FOX, and numerous other media outlets across the U.S.

About Empower Adventures:

Empower Adventures operates canopy tours, zip lines, ropes courses, and leadership development and adventure activities at its central location in Tampa Bay, Florida, as well as in Connecticut and Virginia (in the Washington, D.C., area). At Leadership Sports in Connecticut alone, Empower Adventures has served over 75,000 guests since 2009. The company’s goal is to help guests overcome fears in order to gain confidence and empower themselves; over the past three years, 10,000 guests have visited the Virginia Empower Adventures location, and only four did not continue to the Tree Top Zip Tour.

Empower Adventures utilizes best-in-class techniques to train guides, and offers the highest standard of safety protocols within the outdoor adventure industry. Empower Adventures provides a guide for each adventure group, regardless of size. The adventure center guides at Empower Adventures aim to provide customers with a powerful, memorable and inspirational experience which engenders a positive attitude and encourages teamwork. Outdoor adventure guides are specially trained to cultivate the creativity and problem-solving skills that are necessary to overcome challenges and develop leadership skills. Special team building sessions are also available to facilitate bonding within any group.

1.    Merkel, Donna L. “Youth Sport: Positive and Negative Impact on Young Athletes.” Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine. Dove Medical Press, 31 May 2013. Web. 12 June 2017.

2.    “Healthy Development of Children and Young People through Sport.” N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2017.

3.    Duggan, Tara. “Do Sports Help Improve Leadership Skills?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 17 Oct. 2015. Web. 12 June 2017.

4.    “Leadership Development.” Empower Adventures. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 June 2017.

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