PATHFINDER Horizon | Team Roles

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This week PATHFINDER Horizon is digging into the team specifics you need to consider for your upcoming Star Course Event. Read the first post, “Team Dynamics,” here. Stay tuned for the third post in the series, “Being a Good Teammate.”

In the first post, we discussed general Team Dynamics, and hopefully, you’ve found your crew. Once you’ve agreed to team up and conquer the Star Course together, the next step is to determine how responsibilities will be divided up. It would be overwhelming for one person to take on all of the responsibilities that we’re about to cover, so this first exercise in teamwork gets everyone’s buy-in. 

Ideally, each person will focus on executing a key task. Hopefully, it’s one that they’re naturally inclined towards, and/or have mastered through practice. Roles are also nice because they give each team member purpose, and something other than tired feet to focus on through the miles.

As a team, decide how responsibilities should be approached. While each individual may have a primary role, it’s important to have trained back-ups ready just in case. Another option would be for your team to rotate roles so that each member spends time in different tasks. Whatever you decide, make sure everyone clearly understands their job description and is prepared for the task.

To help you and your team think through different options for how to divide responsibilities, here are some ideas and descriptions for each role:

Team Leader

Team leaders bond the team together and create an optimistic and resilient team, (even if they don't always feel like a strong, confident leader on the inside). They lead communications, listen to ideas and are the final vote in decision making. When you’re considering who will be responsible for this job, or if you have been selected for it, these are some good traits and tasks: 

Be a Proactive Communicator: 

In the weeks and months leading up to the event, be proactive about communicating with your team. Set up Messenger chats or conference calls to keep the conversation going. This keeps everyone motivated in their training. It’s also necessary for making all of the plans for goal setting, pacing and break strategies, support crews, travel logistics, team gear, etc. Don’t feel like you need to handle everything, though. Delegating tasks can make your job easier, and your teammates want to help.

Listen to your teammates:

Consider ideas and feedback from all team members. Make them all feel included in the decision-making process. Create an environment where it’s OK for people to bring up concerns and alternative ideas. Be transparent, so teammates feel comfortable with sharing concerns (their own training, their physical condition, etc). If you don’t know about potential risks or issues, you can’t put plans in place to mitigate them.

Be Chief Motivator:

Your team will need motivation - and it's your main job to provide it. Find out during planning whether your teammates prefer positive or negative motivation. Preferences can vary widely, and one tactic might grate on one teammate, while another may thrive on it. Be considerate of preferences, but be goal-oriented. Positive attitudes encourage your teammates to stay engaged, focused and motivated. Cultivate a sense of humor when things go wrong, focus on the good things that come your way, and actively look for the silver lining when needed.

Safety First:

Look out for everyone’s safety. Keep an eye on peoples’ physical and mental states. Is everyone regularly drinking, eating, and staying mobile? Remind everyone to do so periodically.

Be Solution Oriented:

When your team encounters challenges, think of solutions. Know during planning how to team would like to deal with difficult decisions. This means either getting consensus or having the Lead make an executive decision on how to proceed. Be decisive, clear and occasionally, “the bad guy,” if it comes to that.

Contingency Plans:

Make sure that there are redundancies in your roles and back-up plans. If your Navigator has to drop out, who’s prepared to immediately step in? There won’t be time for knowledge transfer mid-event, so decide on these contingency plans, and make sure that everyone is familiar with how to do both their primary and backup roles ahead of time. If someone isn’t fulfilling their role to the desired extent, feel free to suggest that they work with their back-up, or swap for a while, for cross-training purposes.

Lead by Example:

Be the best teammate. Lead by example. It’s your job to smile when no one else is, to encourage and motivate when everyone’s energy has flagged and put others before yourself. What can you give your teammates? The answer may change mile to mile, but there will always be something you can give everyone - a word of encouragement, a growl of determination, a reminder not to be too hard on themselves if things haven’t gone the way they planned.

Being an Effective Instagrammer

During the event, you’ll use Instagram hashtags to post each waypoint you arrive at. (ex: #ArtMuseum @teammatename) In this role, it's best to select the team member with the most social media experience. If the lead in this role is not familiar with Instagram, it’s recommended they start practicing prior to the event, and playing around with the app to get acquainted with it.


When you’re on the course, type up the list of hashtags you’ll need while you’re still fresh. You can do this while the navigators plot the course if they don’t need your help looking anything up. You can also cut-and-paste the hashtags from Notepad into Instagram, to help avoid typos and to make the process faster, especially if you’re Instagramming while rucking. (This list can also be a way to double-check your progress on the waypoints against what the Navigators are doing and make sure that you haven’t missed any.)

If you’re unsure of where your team should be taking the selfie, search for that hashtag on Instagram (by “Most Recent”) for pictures that other teams have posted. You can do this while walking to the next waypoint, to save time. (But be safe! Appoint someone to be your eyes while you’re looking down at your phone.) This can also help you confirm that you took the team picture correctly. Make sure that the picture is taken as soon as you get to the waypoint and post the picture immediately.

Keep an eye out for incoming Instagram messages and post comments, in case Star Course HQ tries to contact you. Why would they want to contact you? 

  • They may do so if they notice that you’re not following instructions for posting with the appropriate hashtags and @ tags.
  • After they see that you’ve hit your last waypoint, you may also get a message confirming that you’ve done so, and telling you to make your way to the Endex.

Being a Good Support Crew Comms Controller

This individual's job is to communicate with the support crew to ensure everyone on the team has what they need when they need it. They should have a general plan of when the team will meet the Support Crew, and communicate those needs to the crew in the weeks before the event. Asking friends and family to "sherpa" your team is a big ask, so be sure to let them know what they're getting themselves into. There will be an upcoming “Support Crew” post for more specific details that you will want to share with your support person.

In this role, the Controller will give your support crew a list of gear to bring so that they know what kind of space they need to plan for. Refer to the upcoming “Gear List” post for more details. 

During the event, it’s considerate to give the Support Crew a heads-up of when and where you’d plan to meet them next, an hour or more in advance. Along the way, and when you get within a mile, give them updates so that they’ll be ready for you. If you have special requests for them, like breakfast orders, or a need to pick up specific items from a store that you may have forgotten, this would be a good time to let them know.

Being a Good Pace and Break Setter

This role entails keeping the team disciplined in sticking to the agreed-upon pace. Especially at the start, it will be tempting to charge out at full speed because many other teams will be doing so in an overabundance of excitement and adrenaline. Stick with the plan for long-term success and to avoid burning out everyone’s muscles.

If this is your role, you will want to:

  • Keep track of your approximate “live” pace.
  • Keep track of how you’re doing against your overall plan, and communicate this with the rest of your team. Know what kind of buffer or deficit you’re running, so that the team can adjust as needed.
  • A good idea for a break setting would be to start a timer for 2 minutes less than your intended break time. This will be a 2-min warning that you give everyone, so that at the end of the 2 minutes, everyone has rucks and shoes on, and are able to start rucking immediately.

Being a Good Navigator

If your team has the flexibility, try to designate more than one team member as a Navigator, as this is the most error-prone job. It demands a lot of focus, and with 50+ miles to cover in 20 hours, there is only a small margin for error. Even one mile in the wrong direction can cost you 40 minutes between the initial error, the realization that it’s happening, figuring out how to course-correct, and then getting back on track.

Some tips to make this job a little easier:

  • Download the route optimization app that you plan to use for the event, upgrade to the PRO version, and PRACTICE plotting waypoints and using it on real rucks PRIOR TO your event. The apps are not the most intuitive, so take the time to get familiar with them. Refer to the upcoming “Navigation” post for more details.
  • Have both of your team’s navigators plot the waypoints so that you can cross-reference.
  • Cross-check your sequence against that of another team (you can arrange this ahead of time). Don’t rely on the cadre “verification,” because they don’t check in detail, and the smallest missed detail can derail your whole event.
  • Consider pairing the route optimization app with a standard point-to-point navigation app (like Google Maps). Your route optimization app gives you the optimal sequence of stops, while the point-to-point navigation app tells you the best way to get from point A to point B.