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Student Outdoor Leadership Expeditions (SOLE)

Spring 2018 SOLE course applications will open in the Fall 2017 semester.


Imagine this, that you’re camping during spring break 3 miles from mainland, on North Carolina’s remote coastal Bear island, responsible for 8 students and 2 other junior staff members. The weather has been perfect but tomorrow morning a huge storm with 25 mph winds and heavy lightening is expected to develop. And tomorrow is your last day; time to head home. What do you do?

Student Outdoor Leadership Expeditions is the most indepth, long term leadership development program on campus. And the most fun. It is unlike any other course or training program you ever had.

SOLE is a 25+ day training program in rock climbing, whitewater kayaking/rafting, mountain biking, paddleboarding, leadership and teaching. Each course ends with the 7-8 day Culmination Expedition. You will plan, organize and run Culmination, using everything you learned  in the course to get your group through miles of class III rapids, setup camp, and deal with ‘hangry’ peers.

During Culmination, you lead with a peer on at least 2 different days. On these days you’re responsible for your group, from when to wake up, what to cook, to tracking pace and location on the river, to handling any issues, real or planned that arise.

Upon successful completion of the SOLE course, you’ll have the skills to work for various public or private guide companies, including RecSports Outdoor Program.

To join SOLE, you should have some outdoor experience, like hiking or paddling with the family. You don’t need a lot of experience but if you have never hiked, or paddled, or biked, then you should wait to take this course.

If you are a really good climber, boater, backpacker, biker but haven’t formally taught or lead groups, you should take this course.

If you have guided before (at a summer camp or a private outfitter), talk with us about whether this course is needed, or if you can just apply to become RecSports Outdoor trip staff.

Questions? Email us at, call 865-974-8261, or drop us a line on Facebook

Course Includes:

  • NOLS/WMI Wilderness First Aid (WFA) 16 hour certification course *Note:  Discounted registration for the class.* (additional fee required)
  • Train in standup paddleboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, backpacking, navigation, & leadership
  • All equipment
  • Food during the 8 Day Culmination trip
  • Transportation to/from training sites
  • Instruction from professional staff with over 13+ years of experience each.

The cost for this 200+ hour training course.

  • Total Course Cost: $410

Where does SOLE take place?

SOLE happens on campus and in wilderness.

Weekly classroom sessions are on campus, inside the TRECS classroom and spaces around the building.

Weekend technical training trips are on the rivers, cliffs, and trails throughout Tennessee.

During one weekend learn to climb and teach at the Obed Wild & Scenic National Recreation Area; another weekend you’ll paddleboard the Tennessee River, or raft the class IV rapids of the Big South Fork river.

What type of trip is the 8 day Culmination?

The final 8 day Culmination trip has whitewater rafted and backpacked the Big South Fork; another year candidates backpacked the Foothills Trails; whitewater canoed the Chattooga River and backpacked Bartram Trail; and many other locations throughout the southeast.

Culmination is lead by you and your SOLE candidates, with RecSports Outdoor pro-staff coaching you. You’ll make decisions that will impact the entire group. You may get lost, hungry, frustrated; you’ll also be stoked, see stunning sun rises, and have the trip of your college career. Past candidates tell us it ain’t easy but is totally worth it.

The application requires your basic personal information and answers to the following questions in 300-500 words (except your resume):

  1. Resume
  2. Why do you want to learn how to teach and lead others?
  3. What talents, skills, or experiences do you bring to this course? These can be unrelated to the outdoors.
  4. How does SOLE fit into your life and academic goals? How do you see SOLE helping you?
  5. Describe an experience that demonstrates you take feedback well.

What if I already have guiding experience?
If you have guiding experience and a WFA or WFR, and you want to work lead trips for us, you may not need to take this entire course.  Contact us at and let us know your experience and send your resume.

What are the dates and times for the course?
The course will start in spring 2018, meeting weekly on Wednesdays from 4-6pm following the academic calendar. The exact dates for field sessions are still being finalized but you can expect at least 1 full weekend (8+ hours Saturday and Sunday each) each month during the semester and 8 days (24 hours each day) right after exams end in May.

I can’t make all the dates, can I still take this course?
Most likely not. There is no make up session and we don’t have time to get you caught up. You are welcome to apply still and let us know what date you can’t make.

How much credit will I get for the course?
Zero. We heard most candidates would prefer to not take the course for credit. No credit is given for this course.

I’ve never climbed, or mountain biked, or whitewater kayaked or ‘other outdoor activity’ before, how much experience do I need?
Zero to some experience. You need to be comfortable outside and regularly go for hikes on your own and willing to learn how to lead trips. We prefer candidates with some experience but if you are willing to do the work, then let’s chat. If you have little experience, join our trips for a semester or two and then apply!

What certifications must I have to apply?
Zero. Yup. Zero.  If you have some certs, cool! icing on the cake, but you don’t need any. Through SOLE, you’ll take a 16 hour WMI Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course so you’ll end up with at least one + rad first hand knowledge and experience.

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