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Building the Team

Posted: August 30, 2013

Frank kicks off the new school year learning how to build a strong team at the Ag Advocates retreat.
Dr. Richard Rateau, Coordinator for Experiential Learning and Career Services, teaches the Ag Advocates about finding their strengths.

Dr. Richard Rateau, Coordinator for Experiential Learning and Career Services, teaches the Ag Advocates about finding their strengths.

If only the “endless summer” actually existed… It’s hard to believe I’m already back at school, starting my last year at Penn State. I’m excited for it, but I can’t really imagine leaving this place after four short years! My classes and organizations are beginning again, so I’m going to dive in and hope my new experiences can make this year at least a little longer.

Taking full advantage of the warm days we have left, Ag Advocates kicked off the semester for me with a two-day retreat. It was a lot of fun. Immersing myself for two straight days in the group, for training and bonding with the newest Advocates was no walk in the park though. Speaking of parks, we did go to Shaver’s Creek, the University’s nature center. There, we engaged in team-building exercises that were intended to help us connect and function as a group, and provide us with lessons on tackling problems together. And with the huge size of our undertakings, like Ag Day in the spring semester for example, the obstacles we face are impossible to handle alone.

Most of the activities we did were new to me, and my group had a lot of fun with them. This included “Moon Ball,” where we had to try bouncing a beach ball to each other as many times as possible without any repeats until the whole team had touched it. Attempting to make this as easy and effective as possible, we decided to form a tight circle and roll it to each other. Was it still Moon Ball at that point? Maybe not. But it sure was innovative.

We also played a game called “Neighborhood,” sometimes referenced as “Train Wreck,” in which all but one had a “house,” a plastic mat to stand on. The person without a mat had the hot seat, and would describe a quality or experience she had and the others who shared this would run to a different house, with one unlucky player ending up on the hot seat again.

These two activities just scratch the surface. We also, played what was basically a team-supported pinball maze, a blindfolded orientation test, a difficult game of balancing a ball in a ring, pool noodle races (don’t ask), and secret handshake battles—you get the idea. However anyone felt about these games, no one would disagree that we grew tighter as a group. By the end of the day, I felt significantly closer to the other advocates, and when we were all sitting around the bonfire before bed, we didn’t feel like a group of students with common interests, but a group of friends. And when you feel genuinely bonded to your group, I think you can finally call yourself a team.

Whenever I leave here in just a matter of months, it’s likely whatever career path I take will require working in groups. Ag Advocates, among many other things, has shown me not only how to form a successful group, but also one that works for a cause. If I hold onto the necessity of connection and purpose in whatever groups I’ll be a part of, my future will surely be a bright one.

--Frank