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Trail Life CEO: ‘We need to inspire our boys with real life challenges and provide opportunities for them to challenge themselves in the real world’

January 31, 2022

GREENVILLE, S.C.— Parents and teachers everywhere have been noticing the rise of participation trophies in children’s activities. With children being rewarded for just showing up, parents and educators find their boys less interested in participating in activities when there’s no risk or competition.

Pediatric neuropsychologist Timothy Gunn argued for the benefits of challenging children with competition, stating, “Competition helps kids learn that it is not always the best or the brightest who are successful, but rather those that work hard and stick with it.” Gunn also claimed that children who compete “earn critical social skills through interacting with other children, while also learning the value of hard work and developing self-esteem and self-efficacy.”

Trail Life USA (TrailLifeUSA.com), the largest Christ-centered, boy-focused scout-type organization in the country, believes that boys need the element of competition in order to feel inspired. Trail Life CEO Mark Hancock stated, “The way boys are built, something must be at stake or they quickly lose interest. If there’s no risk, if nobody keeps score, if everyone wins, boys are left to wonder why they should compete or even try at all.”

Hancock continued, “Boys have a built in gyroscope that leads them to find environments that provide a challenge. This is why boys are so enthralled with video games. Keeping score, achieving higher levels, failing and succeeding—this is what boys were built for! We need to inspire our boys with real life challenges and provide opportunities for them to challenge themselves in the real world.”

In order to provide challenging opportunities that let boys both fail—thus learning from their failures—and succeed, Trail Life USA provides a robust awards program and challenging physical, mental, and spiritual objectives that let boys experience victory. By promoting healthy competition, Trail Life encourages boys to try their best in competition while allowing room to fail and learn from their mistakes. This “Proven Process” provides a model to inspire boys to challenge themselves through competition and risk.

One Troop exemplified Trail Life’s dedication to providing a space for boys to compete. In the summer of 2021, Troop AK-1001 leaders created the “Trailman Games.” Designed to test the Troop’s skills in the wilderness, the games engaged problem solving abilities, Biblical knowledge, teamwork, physical fitness, and other backcountry skills learned in Trail Life. After the games, Troop AK-1001 had the distinct honor of naming a hill near a local church on Kodiak Island that the boys conquered over the summer. After careful consideration, the Troop named the hill “Trailman Hill” in honor of the recent “Trailman Games.”

Experiences like these are what boys need to become godly men—activities that bolster a boys’ confidence, leadership skills, and relationship with Christ and others. “Trail Life USA supplies the place, the programs, and the outdoor adventures to connect boys to other boys, to adult mentors, and to their God-given purpose to become godly men,” said Hancock.

Trail Life USA is the premier national character development organization for young men, producing godly and responsible husbands, fathers, and citizens. Trail Life’s mission is to guide generations of courageous young men to honor God, lead with integrity, serve others, and experience outdoor adventure. Troops exist in all 50 states and are growing as Trail Life USA expands around the country. Find a Troop today, or Start a Troop in your community. Find out more at TrailLifeUSA.com.  

Trail Life USA’s K-12 program centers on outdoor experiences that build a young man’s skills. A robust awards program motivates young men to grow on a personal level to become role models and leaders among their peers. Living the Trail Life USA is a journey established on timeless values derived from the Bible.    

Discover more about Trail Life USA atTrailLifeUSA.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, or Vimeo.