Youth & Teen Development

Four Ways Outdoor Adventures Teach Leadership

Courtney Aber, YMCA of Greater Seattle
Four Ways Outdoor Adventures Teach Leadership

Four Ways Outdoor Adventures Teach Leadership

Trading in a regular routine for an outdoor adventure can help us see the world (and ourselves) in a whole new light. This opportunity is incredibly important for young people, whether college- or career-bound.

Four children with arms around each other sitting on a dock

Experiencing an outdoor leadership trip in a small group setting without cell phones, social media or other distractions allows participants to embrace vulnerability, develop new strengths and ultimately form strong new relationships that cross social divides.

Here are four ways youth gain leadership skills through outdoor adventures:
  • COURAGE: By trying new things and facing fears, teens are proving to themselves that they can overcome obstacles.
  • CONFIDENCE: When teens conquer fears and learn new skills, they begin to see themselves as powerful and successful. Many young people don’t have a lot of tangible ways to realize success beyond reaching a new level of a video game. The outdoors provides opportunities for reaching new levels of physical, cognitive and emotional challenges.
  • EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE: Being in a small group setting with structured sharing and feedback activities provides participants a safe space to open up, gain communication skills and practice empathy. The teen years are a critical time for youth to develop emotional intelligence and expand their awareness.
  • APPRECIATION: It’s hard not to feel in awe when you are surrounded by mountains or see a deer walk silently down a trail. This sense of wonder has increasingly been shown to have positive mental and physical benefits.

When young people are empowered to face their fears, learn new skills and connect with others and the world around them, they are better equipped to reach their full potential in life


Learn more by watching this video on outdoor leadership development trips that are inclusive of youth from many backgrounds.

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