Dan recently joined GRA as an apprentice and we’ve asked him to share with you his experience in the first few weeks of his Level 2 Apprenticeship in Activity Leadership with GRA.
I’m based at GRA’s Outdoor Leadership Centre located in the grounds of the 330-acre St. George’s Park National Football Centre. The first thing we did on day one was take a tour of the site to get acclimatised. Turning right out of our gate takes you to the David Beckham Community pitch and then a short walk up the hill brings the National Football Centre building and Hilton hotel into full view. The tour concluded back at our centre, where I began to learn about the different experiential activities GRA offers.
After the tour, Andy Norton, Operations Manager at the Outdoor Leadership Centre, took me through safety procedures, health and safety equipment and how to perform fire checks to ensure I was operating safely on site.
Over the next few days the focus turned to archery. Firstly, Andy taught me the correct technique and how to instruct others; although I must admit I struggled at first to hit a consistent shot! Once I’d got the hang of it, I learnt all about archery maintenance which is a time-consuming but important task; including string care, fitting sights, attaching nocks and fletching arrows. It’s important to keep all of the outdoor equipment properly maintained ready for client events taking place on site.
At the start of my second week, there was a company ‘comms session’ which Andy and I joined remotely. It was my first experience meeting the rest of the team, albeit virtually, and everyone seemed very nice and approachable which eased my nerves ahead of my first visit to the head office. The session provided key business updates and a look ahead to the coming months.
Later that day, I was back in the outdoors learning how to set up the climbing walls properly ahead of a client event taking place the next day. It’s a bit of a tricky process at first, but I soon got to grips with it.
Wednesday morning saw the start of my first client event with GRA. Even though I was just shadowing Andy, I was nervous as I wanted to make a good impression and be part of a great event. Within the first 20 minutes, my nerves had calmed and I started to really enjoy myself; immersed in the event. My focus was on the indoor ‘Structures’ challenge. Teams are given 15 planks and have to recreate a specific plan in the fastest time possible – all the time focusing on continuous improvement.
Once the event had finished, Brian, GRA’s Director of Outdoor Learning, reviewed my setups and gave me some really helpful feedback. He then took me back to the climbing walls to learn how to belay and support delegates on our linear high ropes course. To begin with I observed Andy and Brian and then it was my turn to belay for Brian while he was 40ft up in the air on the high ropes course! As my confidence grew, we began to go through scenarios such as what to do if someone gets scared while climbing, so I was aware of different challenges that outdoor trainers face and how to respond effectively.
The next day I spent the morning outside weeding around the ground-based leadership challenges and in the afternoon I was learning about Belbin Team Profiles; so that was a very varied day! Belbin is a personality profiling tool that highlights your preferred working styles, strengths and weaknesses, so it was really interesting to learn how GRA applies that to outdoor challenges.
That same day, we had another client event starting at 4pm which included a variety of indoor and outdoor challenges that were fairly easy to setup but difficult for the delegates to master! I was shadowing Andy again to see how he facilitated the session and learn techniques for supporting future client programmes.
I’ve learnt a lot in a very short space of time and the programmes I’ve helped to run have been very different which has provided me with valuable experiences. I look forward to putting my Archery knowledge into practice with a group and learning more in the coming weeks about outdoor instruction and site maintenance.