Posted On April 14, 2010 by Print This Post

Wayne Wednesday: On the Ropes with the Men

Today, Wayne Levine reveals how a ropes course can help guys become better men. I’ve never participated in a teams and ropes course before, but I’ve seen them in action. They’re an amazing and effective way to build communication and trust amongst a group. Let’s hear how Wayne used this amazing device to help his guys.

Here’s Wayne!

BetterMen recently held a ropes course event for men at a retreat site in the mountains near Santa Barbara, CA. For those of you who have never participated in a ropes course, I’ll quickly fill you in.

In a typical ropes experience, your group—whether it’s a corporate team, youth group, couples, father/sons, service organization, etc.—will do “low” ropes in the morning and “high ropes” in the afternoon.

The low ropes work consists of fun ice breakers and team building activities either on the ground or requiring some balancing and team effort just slightly off the ground. These exercises warm you up, begin the bonding process and prepare you for the heights ahead.

The high ropes work will take you up about 30 feet. Though you’re harnessed in and connected to a rope, completely safe and secure, and supported by trained professionals and the members of your group, one can still face great fears when climbing a telephone pole and leaping for a trapeze bar (the “leap of faith”), leaping from a 40-ft. tower on a zip line, or making your way along a 30-ft wire with a partner…and a prayer.

The experience is intended to teach you about you, about your fears and doubt, when and where you quit, how to overcome barriers, and what you are capable of achieving. The ropes are a metaphor for life. It’s exhilarating and often a transformational experience. I recommend it.

But our men’s ropes event turned out to be far more than just the ropes…by design. We had a group of men, some who have participated in our events, some friends of our graduates. Some were familiar with my somewhat confrontational approach to becoming the man you want to be, some were in for a surprise.

We arrived Saturday afternoon. Our plan was to play, eat, and then gather around the fire for a little “men’s work.” The next day we’d attack the ropes. What ultimately occurred at that fire, was, for some, far more challenging, uncomfortable but equally as valuable as Sunday’s main event.

Though I won’t reveal specifics—honoring confidentiality—I can tell you that we asked a lot of questions, challenged initial responses, confronted “good little boy” behaviors, and ripped away the masks that keep men from connecting with each other, from complete honesty, from true authenticity.

Though these situations can create moments of defensiveness, extreme discomfort, sadness, anger and grief, when facilitated properly and supported by courageous men, these moments ultimately produce tremendous opportunities for emotional breakthroughs, for relationships to strengthen, and for critical lessons to be learned.

And that’s exactly what happened. Though it was a bit messy that night (as it often is), the next morning we worked through the leftover and unresolved feelings to arrive at a place where the men experienced what’s possible when we are committed to the truth about ourselves and others, working through issues until resolved, and trusting the wisdom of the men to shepherd us through the process.

From reports I received following the weekend, it was clear that our time together was a leaping off point for many of the men to further learn about what keeps them from being the men, fathers and husbands they really want to be. My hope is that the conversations, introspection, relationships, and progress will continue.

This is one of the many things we men do to try to show up better and more successfully in our lives. My belief is that it doesn’t really matter what you do, just that you engage in the process and make a life-long commitment to being a better man, more in balance, compassionate and understanding.

RU Crew, have any of you ever participated in a ropes and teams course? What did you get out of it? Do you think your husband/significant other would benefit from such a program?

Be sure to join us Friday when Managing Editor Theresa Stevens begins her five part lecture series on writing effective sentences. Come learn grammar techniques from the best!

Wayne’s Bio:

Wayne M. Levine, M.A. is the director of the West Coast Men’s Center in Agoura Hills, CA, where he coaches and mentors men, and facilitates men’s groups. He also created the BetterMen Retreats for men, and for fathers and sons. In addition, Wayne is the founder of, a life coaching and mentoring resource for men.

Wayne’s interest in men’s issues began in the early ‘90s with his participation in men’s work activities. His experiences with men’s groups, as a participant, leader and program developer, taught Wayne to “father” men and to support them in making difficult and important changes in their lives.

He earned his Master’s in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University/Los Angeles. Wayne also received his BA in journalism and graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Southern California.

Wayne’s been married to his first and only wife, Ria, for over 25 years and is the proud daddy of Emma, Austin and the family’s menagerie of animals.  Wayne strives to be a better man, husband and father each day in Oak Park, CA.

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14 Responses to “Wayne Wednesday: On the Ropes with the Men”

  1. Hi Wayne,

    Thanks for another great post. I’m curious how you take care of yourself after one of your weekend retreats. The whole process of challenging, encouraging and supporting each guy must be mentally exhausting. How do you care for and protect yourself?


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | April 14, 2010, 5:36 am
  2. Hi Wayne. I have always found the ropes course fascinating. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for someone who is afraid of heights. With this in mind, what if a person refuses to do the event? How is that handled?

    Have you ever had a person walk out on the event?

    Thanks for a great post!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | April 14, 2010, 7:24 am
    • We’ve had men leave our events, but not many. No one has left a ropes event. Too much fun. There were men who opted out of a particular activity because they just couldn’t overcome their fear. First they’re encouraged, then they’re embraced, not shamed. There’s always a next time.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | April 14, 2010, 11:20 am
  3. Morning Wayne!

    Thanks for the great post!

    Do the men get their feelings all resolved by the end of the ropes work? or is it all resolved before you let them on the ropes?

    I did my own version of ropes some years ago, but my leap of faith was done with a bungee cord strapped to my ankles. lol… about facing your fears! =)

    Thanks again Wayne! I hadn’t heard of the ropes work before!


    Posted by Carrie | April 14, 2010, 8:18 am
    • I’m not sure when the feelings are ever completely resolved. We worked out the messy stuff, for the most part, before we got into the ropes. The ropes are a great distraction. By the end of the experience, the men have a completely new perspective. Though there’s still work to do on the initial feelings, we’ve got a lifetime to deal with those.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | April 14, 2010, 11:22 am
  4. Wayne –

    As always, your work with men is interesting. How did you find that those confrontational conversations the night before impacted how the guys handled the ropes course and each other? And have you had a group go straight into the course? If so, how were the two ropes experiences different?

    I know you have to keep specifics confidential, but I would love to know about some of those campfire conversations! 😉


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | April 14, 2010, 9:09 am
    • I tried posting a response to you twice. Not sure what happened. Of course, my lips are sealed. I think the work at night, and the follow up in the morning, helped to make the ropes expereience together more intense with greater connection. In essence, we prepared for battle, got clear, and then charged in together.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | April 14, 2010, 1:36 pm
  5. My lips are sealed. i think the work we did the night before increased the intensity of the ropes experience. Having worked through the shit the night before and the following morning, we were “prepared for battle.”

    Posted by Wayne Levine | April 14, 2010, 11:26 am
  6. Hi Wayne!
    I enjoyed your post….and actually look forward to Wayne Wednesdays! I wish all men were as forward thinking as you. Do you ever do work in New York?

    Posted by Wendy Marcus | April 14, 2010, 12:04 pm
    • Thanks, Wendy. Haven’t worked in my hometown, yet. I was born in the Bronx and love the City. I could see a show every night. I’m beginning a new phase that may eventually bring me back east. I’m facilitating retreats for Christian men. I’ve been battling to build an audience of men in my area for about 10 years. Though we have a great community of men, it’s small. I’ve decided to go where the men are. Churches, not so much temples, are already bringing men together trying to be better. I recently did a retreat for a church in the San Jose area. Great success. Churches help men build faith, but they’re not equipped to help men build relationships with each other so that they can get the support they need to be better at home and elsewhere. The pastor and elders agreed. We’re allowing this to grow organically, for the time being. Once we get a few more under our belt, we’ll probably produce a Christian version of my book (the same book with scripture to support the text, and maybe a title that’s easier to market) and start putting out the word a bit more aggressively. Could sure use everyone’s help in brining this news to your local houses of worship.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | April 14, 2010, 1:34 pm
  7. Sorry, Wayne–a couple of your messages got caught in the Spam filter. They should show up now.


    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | April 14, 2010, 1:57 pm
  8. Wayne,
    Very interesting. I kept coming back to the phrase ‘good little boy’ behaviors, because I’ve never heard it in relation to a man. As a woman, I’ve certainly discussed the ‘good little girl’ phenomena with women before, both overtly and implicitly, but I’d never heard ‘good little boy.’

    By that, do you mean self-emasculating things men do in their relationships with wives/ bosses/ daughters, maybe even sons? Can you talk a bit about how you frame that phenomena, in a general way?


    Posted by Kris Kennedy | April 15, 2010, 2:16 pm
    • I think you’re on the right track. Here are some examples from my book. You can find a more thorough discussion there.
      • The moody one who refuses to love or make love to his wife because she hurt his feelings.
      • The one who expects his wife to read his mind and understand what he needs, even though he’s done a terrible job of communicating those needs to her.
      • The one who goes to battle with his wife every time he hears her complain—or thinks she’s complaining—because he hears his mommy reprimanding him.
      • The little boy who wants what he wants when he wants it and refuses to understand that choices have to be made, and that sometimes it doesn’t work out the way he’d like.
      • The one who expects his wife to satisfy all of his needs.
      • The one who often leads the man to a quick fix, to seemingly more nurturing arms, or to divorce.
      • The one who hasn’t yet been initiated into manhood. He doesn’t know how to be a man. He’s stuck, as a little boy.

      Posted by Wayne Levine | April 15, 2010, 3:27 pm

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