By: Blonde Two
That indeed will have been the question in the heads of all Ten Tors team managers as they looked at wet and windy Dartmoor weather forecasts during the week. As it turned out, some managers cancelled training and some didn’t. I completely agreed with the decision of our manager, and don’t envy him his job. All managers will have thought very carefully about their decision and all will have had some tricky considerations to make. Some, sadly will have faced criticism for their decision whichever way it fell (definitely not from me). The trick when you are a leader is to have the courage of your convictions, the trick when you are on the leadership team is to support your leader.
If you have ever thought to criticise in this (or similar) situations, here are a few of the considerations that must be made before making a decision about taking a group of youngsters onto the hills in poor weather:
Do they need the training? Undoubtedly, for Ten Tors, the answer to this questions is, ‘Yes!’ Dartmoor is wet and wild more than once a year and could well be so on Ten Tors weekend in May. Youngsters need as much training as they can get.
What level of experience do your youngsters have? Makes sense, an older group who have already succeeded in the 35 and 45 miles challenges will have learnt how to keep themselves warm, how to cheer their group and how to pitch a tent in the wind. A group who are only on their second trip to Dartmoor may not, and may also not have the experience to tell you when things start to go wrong.
How many leaders do you have? All adult volunteers have a useful role to play; but how many of your leaders can you, without any hint of a doubt, rely on to navigate a group off the moor in poor visibility, to make decisions under pressure or to change plans to suit unexpected circumstances?
What standard is your equipment? Do you have tents that you know will survive a gale? Do your youngsters have waterproofs that might keep the rain out at least for a couple of hours? Do you have enough stoves to go round to ensure a quick and purposeful hot breakfast? How warm are sleeping bags?
How well do you know the area in which you are planning to walk or camp? Have you ever seen the waterways you will cross in a state of flood? Do you know where to find a sheltered camp site? Is it possible to plan a route with quick escape possibilities should the weather become even worse?
These are by no means the only considerations, but I am sure that you will agree, they are enough to keep even the most experienced of managers awake at night. To some extent, you have to develop a thick skin when you are the person deciding; it is a fair bet that someone will think (and probably tell you) that you have got it wrong.
I decided a while ago that there are no such thing as ‘wrong’ and ‘right’ decisions in these situations; there are only the decisions that we take, and these are the ones that we have to live with.
So, to all Ten Tors managers out there; whether you kept your troops at home or took them this last weekend; well done to you! And an even bigger ‘well done’ for being the person who is willing to stand up and take the responsibility in the first place!