Monday January 26, 2015

Becoming a Leader Trainer

Current Leader Trainers will be hosting a 'drop in any time' Open House for those interested in becoming Leader Trainers.

  • Tuesday, September 23, 8:30 - 9:30 PM in the Frist 1952 Room (small private dining room next to the food court).

Written Applications are due by email on Friday, September 26 by midnight. Complete the Application and email it to OA (at) princeton.

Applicants: If you apply you must be available to lead a Leader Training Trip overDead Week. If you know now that you will not be able to lead a Leader Training Trip this year, then you should wait until next year to apply.


If you have questions feel free to contact any of the current Leader Trainers or Caroline Stone the OA Program Coordinator:

  • Katie Baumann '15
  • Joe Bolling '15
  • Nicki Byl '15
  • Ben Denzer '15
  • Anjalie Field '15
  • Avery Forrow '15
  • Brad Gorsline '15
  • Katie Horvath '15
  • Peter Johnsen '15
  • Cody Kitchen '15
  • Theresa Meyer '15
  • Brian Reed 15
  • Ross Smith '15
  • Thaddeus Weigel '15

Leader Trainer Application Process

If you are interested in becoming an OA Leader Trainer, please read this page carefully so you understand the application process and our expectations for all applicants.

Leader trainers carry the tremendous responsibility of training Princeton students to lead groups in a wilderness setting. As a result, we take the qualities and qualifications of a leader trainer applicant very seriously. A leader trainer applicant should be entirely comfortable in an outdoor leadership role and ready to take on the next level of leadership: teaching others how to lead.

Application Criteria

In addition to completing all of the standard leader training requirements, applicants must have at least two primary multi-day outdoor leadership experiences, at least one of which must be through OA. Primary leadership experiences are those where you are soley responsible, or equally share of responsibility with co-leaders, for the emotional and physical safety of a group. If your second trip leadership experience is not with OA it must be clearly documented and must be the equivalent of leading a Frosh Trip (being completely responsible for a group of less experienced participants). Experiences like leading multi-day backcountry trips with 14-year olds in a summer camp program would be an equivalent experience while going on a family backpacking trip would not.

To provide a clearer sense of the qualifications we are seeking in applicants, we have identified four major skill sets which someone applying to be a leader trainer should possess:

1. Technical Skills

Technical wilderness skills (or hard skills) are fundamental to all aspects of OA trips.  Technical skills include tarping and bear bagging; stove use and repair; first aid; pack care, fitting and repair; etc. Because we expect all OA leaders to possess baseline technical competency, we expect leader trainers to display expertise in all OA related hard skills to the point that they can can effectively teach these skills to trainees with comfort and ease, even in challenging wilderness conditions.

2. Teaching Ability

Excellent teaching skills are necessary in order to teach Leader Training Classes and to help LTT participants grow as leaders. Leader trainers are expected to take their teaching commitments seriously and should demonstrate the following qualities: proficiency in subject matter (knots, stoves, LNT, etc.), competence in assessing trainees' comprehension, the ability to recognize and capitalize upon teachable moments, creativity in teaching style, and patience.

3. Ability to Evaluate & Give Feedback

We expect leader trainers to have the capacity to evaluate and provide feedback to their trainees. To this end, applicants must be comfortable evaluating their peers, and possess excellent observational and debriefing skills. We expect leader trainers to identify strengths and weaknesses in their trainees, provide a tailored environment for trainees to work on these identified areas, and effectively communicate feedback to them. We also expect a willingness to work closely with co-leader trainers to accomplish these goals. 

4. Leadership & Debriefing Skills

Leader Trainers must be able to role model effective leadership both through their own style and by demonstrating collaborative leadership with co-leaders. Debriefing is a primary tool that leader trainers employ to help trainees reflect and develop their own leadership styles, particularly on the LTT. Leader trainers are expected to have solid debriefing skills, among which are active listening, an ability to ask probing questions, moderating skills, thoughtfulness, and an ability to identify and utilize teachable moments. A strong candidate possesses the necessary qualities to debrief well and an eagerness to consciously improve upon them.

Leader Trainer Application Process

Applying to be an OA leader trainer is a multi-stage process designed to comprehensively evaluate leader training candidates. Please be aware that each step, including the written application, is a selective process.

Stage 1 - Written Application

The first step is a written application which consists of questions about outdoor experience and training, a self-evaluation portion, and an essay section. It can be found on the OA website on the OA Leader Homepage. The application will be reviewed to determine whether an applicant has the requisite experience to become a leader trainer. If the application is accepted, leader trainer candidates will be invited to participate in the second step—an evaluation of teaching skills.

What we expect: We expect a thorough and thoughtful application that is both an assessment of your skills and which demonstrates thoughtful self-reflection on your previous leadership experiences (both within and outside of OA) and expresses your leadership style. This is an opportunity for you to share with the committee important aspects of your experience and philosophy. Please provide specific examples drawn from your primary leadership experiences and use them to reflect on your leadership philosophy.

Stage 2 - Teaching Lesson

During this portion of the process, a candidate will be asked to prepare and teach a lesson to a small group of leader trainers. This ten minute lesson should cover a subject that is well-known and comfortable to the applicant. The lesson does not have to be outdoor-related. After this, the candidate will be asked to teach how to light a stove. Upon a satisfactory evaluation of requisite teaching skills, an applicant will be invited to the interview process.

What we expect: You should come prepared to teach an interactive class on a topic of your choice for approximately 10 minutes. You should assume that your 'trainees' have no previous experience in this activity so you should focus on solid teaching progression, good assessment of their learning and presenting the material in a way that encourages their involvement and learning. You will also be asked to teach how to light an MSR Whisperlite Stove. You should assume that the people you are teaching are freshmen who know nothing and you want them to be able to safely light the stove after your lesson.Ā  You should cover how to put it together properly, lighting, safety issues and stove protocols, etc. You should actively assess the understanding and skills of the people you are teaching. Here are the specific things that we will be looking for in your teaching sessions:

  • Assessing audience about their experience with the subject matter to be presented
  • Proficiency with skill/subject matter taught
  • Patience
  • Ability to assess the traineeā€™s level of understanding
  • Creativity
  • Organization/class flow
  • Time awareness
  • Engages audience
  • Language and physical presence


Stage 3 - Leader Training Committee Interview

The leader trainer interview is a short but comprehensive interview designed to solicit more information about outdoor skills and experience, technical and interpersonal skills, debriefing and evaluating abilities, as well as other qualifications necessary in becoming a leader trainer.

What we expect: The interview is a chance to learn more about your specific leadership style, how you have handled different interpersonal situations and your debriefing skills. While there is nothing to prepare per se, we expect that you will be thoughtful and reflective about your leadership.

Stage 4 - OA Director Interview & Review

Candidates will have a final interview with OA Director Rick Curtis. After completion of the interview, Rick Curtis will review all of the information on each candidate and make selections.

Questions and Contact Information

If you have any questions concerning requisite criteria or qualifications, the application process, or any facet of being or becoming a leader trainer, please contact the Leader Trainer Committee.

Requirements of Leader Trainers

Leader Trainers play an essential role in the organizational structure of the Outdoor Action Program. Those who are accepted to become Leader Trainers are role models for all leaders within Outdoor Action and students at large on the campus. That means that the role and responsibilities of a Leader Trainer extend beyond activities within the OA Program.

Regular Responsibilities

Weekly Meetings: Leader Trainers meet weekly 1-2 hours per week.

Technical Skills Classes & Leadership Workshops: Leader Trainers help to teach Technical Skills classes and facilitate Leadership Workshops.

Leader Training Trip: Leader Trainers are required to lead at least one Leader Training Trip each year (either Intersession or after final exams in May)

Leader Trainer Retreat: There are 1-2 Leader Trainer Retreats each semester which are required. These are typically 3-5 hour events aimed and expanding teaching and other skills.

Leader Trainer Interviews: Leader Trainers are involved in the interview and selection process for new Leader Trainers. This is in addition to weekly meetings and includes reviewing written applications. running hour-long teaching sessions of candidates, hour-long interviews with candidates, and meetings to review and discuss applicants.

Other Responsibilities: Leader Trainers are periodically called upon for other duties that support the growth of the OA Program.