SecondaryHealth & Wellbeing

“Building rapport is vital for adventure”

Outward Bound Trust

How developing understanding with young people can help them achieve more than they ever thought possible…

Our Expert
Martin Cooper

Martin Cooper

Director of Learning and Adventure, The Outward Bound Trust

  • Area of expertise: Enabling young people to balance risk, reward and responsibility.
  • Best part of my job: Seeing young people thrive in new environments, in ways they may find difficult in traditional classrooms.

What fears do you encounter in young people these days?

Aside from the usual fear of heights, or making your bed in the morning, what we often see at Outward Bound are young people that are anxious about their futures – whether it’s pressure from their parents or employers, passing exams, getting the right grades or going to uni…

There can be a real frustration that we ‘adults’ don’t always understand where they’re coming from. That’s why we work especially hard in the mountains and out on the water to build rapport with them.

Did you face similar fears when you were growing up?

When I grew up, one of my fears was being judged as not good enough or failing to live up to others’ expectations, and I can see that in many young people today.

What changed that for me was discovering what I was good at – which just so happened to be hiking with the Scouts. That then turned into climbing and, sure enough, I discovered I had talents, which enabled me to grow personally and overcome those fears.

You mentioned rapport earlier, what role does that play?

To me, rapport is all about being interested, curious and understanding someone with a view to building a positive relationship.

At Outward Bound we might ask a young person all about where they live, what they enjoy or what school and home life is like. And then, as we get to know their hopes, fears and aspirations, we can begin to make them feel comfortable enough to express themselves freely, face their fears and thrive.

How does this work in practice?

When we succeed, we notice that young people suddenly feel really empowered and act differently to how they would in a normal classroom environment. A child that struggles with maths but can read a map; the shy one who finds their voice, or the loud one who learns to listen.

For some, this experience is so profound that we’ve seen young people not want to return home, because Outward Bound has given them such a sense of belonging, that they feel at home in the mountains.

“We’ve seen young people not want to return home, because Outward Bound has given them such a sense of belonging.”

What’s your advice for a young person today?

When I was younger, I was told that I’d never be a mountaineering instructor. It was a write-off. That was really difficult for me to hear, and yet here I am, with a whole career in that scene.

But Outward Bound isn’t about making future instructors – it’s about discovering your potential. So, my advice would be to follow positive roots in your life, as they can lead to real achievement.

Try not to internalise negative feedback. Instead, seek out what you enjoy or have a flare for, and challenge yourself to do more of that and get better at it.

Ask me about…
  • Adventure
    How we bring the best out of young people through learning and adventures in the wild.
  • Partnerships
    The way we tailor our Outward Bound courses to the specific needs of schools and employers.
  • Rapport-building
    Understanding what a quality world looks like for young people and empowering them to achieve it.

For more information, call 01931 740 000, email, or visit


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