On a bright, sunny morning in early October, the Nike Academy visited our Outdoor Leadership Centre for the first time to challenge their 20-strong squad of players in an experiential learning environment; taking them out of their comfort zone on the pitch. Joe Mackintosh, a Senior Facilitator at GRA, and Andy Norton, Outdoor Leadership Centre Operations Manager, were on hand to put the team to the test.

The half-day team building programme kicked off with a safety briefing and an introduction to GRA’s challenge by choice philosophy. After a short icebreaker, the team was split into two groups. One group set off to tackle the Steeplechase, while the other group attempted to complete the low ropes Criss Cross challenge.

Steeplechase has the ability to stump people and requires excellent communication, collaboration and the ability to develop new strategies on-the-go. After some expected trial and error, the group successfully completed the challenge.

The second group also demonstrated excellent teamwork and balance on the low ropes; completing the challenge in a record time at the Outdoor Leadership Centre. 

Spider’s Web was the next task presented to the team with the objective to successfully pass each player’s full body through a different section of the “web” without touching the rope structure. The web has sections of differing sizes and with the players being all sorts of heights; this meant they needed to think carefully how they were going to execute the challenge. Some strategic thinking and strong muscles were demanded here!

Next, it was time to take on the 40ft Climbing Wall, enabling the players to push themselves to try new things and potentially face their fears head on and increase their self-resilience; particularly when our instincts may initially tell us to decline the option. The players also learnt a new skill on the day as Andy coached players on a one-to-one basis on how to abseil down the tower.

Finally, the entire Nike Academy came back together to attempt to break another Outdoor Leadership Centre record on the crate stack challenge. Working together to pass crates to two teammates on top of an ever-increasing tower, the group achieved a stack of 20; just short of the record.

The Nike Academy is an elite performance academy for unsigned players under the age of 20, funded by Nike, Inc. and based at St. George’s Park, Burton-upon-Trent. The aim of the academy is to provide young players the opportunity to train and compete at the highest level, with the hope of being signed by professional clubs across the UK, Europe and beyond.

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