Selection processes in groups of adventurers

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Pablo Edronkin

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Despite the fact that it is indeed interesting to have more people taking part in any club or group dedicated to any sort of outdoor activities, some sort of candidate selection is necessary.

We as individuals will never get to know ourselves completely; thus, we will never be able to predict how we will behave and perform under completely new circumstances or situations that are dangerous, hazardous or extreme. In other words, how will we perform in a survival situation? It is impossible to answer this question in all cases, and this represents a problem for any leader of any group or team related to outdoor activities because he will not know for sure how will the people under his command react in the event of a problem. In some cases, this is just an occupational hazard because it would be quite impractical to take any sort of measure: tour guides, mountain guides and other who make a living by taking customers into the wild will not be able to act selectively in most cases. They depend on the influx of customers to their shops and it is unlikely that they will reject prospects. In some cases - mostly because of existing regulations - they will just accept to do the work. In other cases, however, it is possible to take some measures.

An extreme example of this is what happens with the people that want to go into space: government agencies such as those in charge of space exploration invest a lot of their resources selecting adequate personnel and have developed quite extensive selection systems and patterns. Armed forces around the world also tend to act selectively when they recruit individuals for special units, albeit their requirements are indeed different than those proper of space travel.

What these two examples indicate is that professional organizations dedicated in any way to any sort of outdoor activities or anything related to that have recognized and assume as part of their own inner workings that candidates must be selected in order to act safely and efficiently, and if something works for pros, it should also work for amateurs: Despite the fact that sports clubs and outdoor organizations generally exist to promote certain activities, it would be a great mistake to assume that it is a good way to promote fishing, hunting, climbing, etc. to accept just any candidate that comes by. The problem lies in the fact that enthusiasm within such groups often lead to bypass or overlook certain things that otherwise would require close examination for safety reasons.

An increasing number of accidents among aviation enthusiast during the fist years of the twentieth century led governments and later international organizations to impose certain restrictions, rules and limitations to both enthusiast who whished to become pilots and licensed aviators as well. It was recognized that flight clubs and flight schools are unable to realistically cope with unchecked, new student pilots and thus, a system that consists in selection tests performed before any actual flying lesson can take place, and final exams administered by government-appointed inspectors was put in place and evolved until the present.

The selection of candidates is part of the whole plethora of issues that the leaders of any group will face sooner or later; good leadership requires pragmatism, and all the evidence regarding the real possibilities of candidates point to the fact that as regrettable as it might seem, no group can or should admit just about anybody.

Tests that will determine the aptitude - or the lack of it - of candidates need not be complicated, but they should be in place.
The inability to cope with certain situations could become immediately apparent.

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