Top 10 Reasons to Become a Trip Leader for COP - by Sharon Hsu
Okay, Okay . . . you keep hearing about COP needing leaders, COP offering leadership training, articles in the newsletter about how to lead trips, meetings about paperwork, risk management, etc. But, none of these articles or meetings may answer the fundamental question you have: WHY should I become a leader?? Although there are many, many answers to this question, here are just a few:
10- You get to go where YOU want to go. Have you ever been on a trip (recently, or even when you were a kid with the family), and you thought, "Why can't we hike that trail?", "Why can't we paddle this river?", "Why can't we go there? I wanna go THERE!!!". Well, when you lead your own trip, you can decide where to go. Ever want to paddle a beautiful, quiet river in Minnesota? Lead a trip there! Ever want to backpack a dramatic ridge on the Appalachian Trail that you read in Outside Magazine? Lead a trip there!
9 - You get to go when YOU want to go. So you love biking by the farms of Madison County and eating at the Dutch Kitchen, but have to work on Saturdays. Well, you can lead your own trip anytime you want - go on Wednesday! Think those boaters are crazy for scheduling local boating trips in March (when the water is still icy)?? Then lead a trip when it's warmer. When you lead your own trip, you don't have to worry about juggling your schedule to fit another's (unless you want to, of course). You can go when you want.
8 - You get to do what YOU want to do. Do you enjoy many activities, but find that many trips only focus on one? For instance, if you're paddling down a river that's right next to a bike trail, you can lead a "pedal & paddle" trip! Do you like to hike with your kids, but all the trips you find are too long or strenuous for them to keep up? Then you can lead a kid-friendly hiking trip. You can do what you want (as long as it's legal, of course) when you lead your own trip -- one activity or many activities, cook or eat out, bike hills or bike flat, Class I rapids or Class V rapids, kids or no kids - it's up to you!
7 - You have company to go with you. Hey, just because your husband and all your friends think you're crazy for crawling around a dark, muddy hole in the ground doesn't mean that you have to cave alone. Actually, for many of our activities, it's better that you don't participate in them alone. Also, certain areas (e.g., Okefenokee Swamp) require a minimum party size for various permits. Furthermore, it's often helpful (very helpful) logistically if you have several people and/or multiple vehicles Ð for instance, boating or hiking shuttles!
6 - You get to meet new people who are interested in the same activities. One of the best benefits of leading a trip, versus just going on a personal trip, is that you get a wonderful opportunity to meet new people who are interested in the same activities. You can meet people who like to ride lots of miles on their bikes at really high speeds. You can meet people who enjoy a walk in the woods as much as you do. You can also meet people who find as much contentment sharing stories by a campfire as they do paddling through a Class IV rapid.
5 - You can go to places and/or experience activities that you normally wouldn't or couldn't. So you keep reading about this great river down south and want to go, but the difficulty of the river is just at your limit, and you know that you wouldn't be able to safely handle a group and don't want to go alone. Many times, if you are willing assume the administrative skills of leading a trip, a more experienced tripper will help out with the more technical aspects of the trip. This can allow you to explore more remote areas of the Smoky Mountains or even allow you to take a longer sea kayaking trip.
4 - You can get a free trip. That's right - you could get a free trip! According to COP rules, trip leaders can charge each participant up to 10% more than the cost of each person's share of the trip expenses to cover the leader's share. Basically, if you have 10 trippers and charge each of them 10% above the trip expenses (e.g., transportation, camping fees, food, etc.), you can get your trip for free! Realize, however, you can not make money on trips (e.g., you can't charge the extra 10% for 20 trippers and wind up with more money than you would have spent on the trip. In this case, you can only charge up to 5% extra for each tripper to cover your expenses). This one of COP's way of encouraging leadership. It's also a way of going to places and participating in activities that you could not otherwise afford.
3 - You can help develop skills in yourself and others. By becoming a trip leader, you develop your own leadership skills. For instance, you can learn about group dynamics, decision-making, and trip planning. You also have the opportunity to develop skills in others. You can help guide someone's decision to spend the money on a GOOD tent, instead of a tempting $30 tent. You can help someone understand the dynamics of surfing a wave hole. You can help someone ride longer by showing them how to draft safely.
2 - You help support the spirit of volunteerism. Have you been on a COP trip? Or taken a COP school? Someone took the time and energy to lead that trip or direct/instruct at that school. COP is a volunteer, participatory organization that runs upon the strength and energy of all its outdoor family members. When you lead a trip, you help make our family stronger by providing more outdoor opportunities for more people. Furthermore, you help reward the people who lead the trips you went on before by giving them a trip to go on that they don't have to lead.
1 - and the number one reason: WITHOUT TRIP LEADERS, THERE ARE NO TRIPS! It doesn't get much simpler than that.