Children, Teens, Adults
This team building activity helps teams learn how to work together through changes and difficult circumstances.
- 5 tennis balls per team
- Flipchart and a marker (optional)
Use the following script (or modify to suit your needs):
o (Divide the participants into groups of six, and give each group 5 tennis balls.)
o (Have each team select a “feeder” (the person who throws the balls into the group).)
o (Have remaining team members number off 1 to 5.)
o (Then ask all number 2s to step into the hallway, so that they don’t hear the instructions.)
o (Share the following directions with the feeder, and Members 1, 3, 4, and 5 from each group.)
o “The purpose of this activity is to work as a team and learn to work together even without the use of verbal communication.”
o “The goal of the activity is to get as many tennis balls in the air at one time as possible.”
o “Ultimately, the goal is to have all five tennis balls in the air at one time and to include Member 2 as a valuable team member without the use of verbal communication.”
o “Team members 1, 3, 4 and 5, please stand in a circle, and leave a space for Member 2.”
o “The feeder will stand outside the circle and toss the tennis balls into the circle.”
o “You will toss balls in the following sequence:
o The feeder will toss a tennis ball to Member 1.
o Member 1 will toss the ball to member 4.
o Member 4 will toss the ball to member 2.
o Member 2 will toss the ball to member 5.
o Member 5 will toss the ball to member 3.
o Member 3 will toss the ball to member 1.”
o “This will create a star pattern.”
o “When you get comfortable tossing one ball, the feeder should add the other tennis balls in, one-by-one, until the group can handle all five tennis balls at once.”
o “We will try this several times, and each time, you will have three minutes to pass the balls.”
o “Does anyone have any questions?” (Answer any questions.)
o “Remember, you can’t say anything to Member 2 when he/she comes back in the room.”
o “I’m going to invite the 2’s back in.” (Invite the 2’s back, and have them join the circles that their teams have made.)
o “Okay, feeders, begin.” (Have the feeders pass their first ball into the circles. After three minutes, call a time out, and ask these questions:
o “How many balls did you get in the air?” (Ask each team; you can record their responses on a flip chart if you wish.)
o “What obstacles are making it difficult for you to achieve your goal?”
o “What is the impact on your team’s ability to reach its goal if one member is not clear about his/her responsibility, or if one member is unaware of the team’s purpose or goals?”
o “Let’s do it again, but before we start, I’ll give you a few minutes to talk about how you can improve.”
o “You can now share information with your #2’s.” (Allow 3 minutes for strategy planning.)
o “Okay, let’s try again.” (Allow two minutes for the beginning of another round. After two minutes, stop the exercise and say the following. NOTE: If you are running this activity with teens or children, you may want to stop before this next part or make up different reasons for adding these new challenges.)
o “Your organization has experienced some turnover; number 3s, please move on to the team nearest you.” (After the groups have traded their number 3s allow 1 minute for them to continue the exercise. After the minute, say the following.)
o “Your organization has decided to decentralize and open a satellite office in another country; number 4s, please take 10 steps backward and continue to be part of the work process helping your team to meet its goals.” (Allow the groups to continue the exercise for two minutes. Then, say the following.)
o “In order to reduce overhead at corporate office, your organization needs to downsize. Number 1s, you have all been laid off. Please move over into the unemployment line (left side of the room).” (Allow the groups three minutes to continue the exercise. Then, stop the activity, and have all participants return to their seats. Debrief the activity using the following questions.)
o “How many tennis balls did you get in the air during the last challenge?”
o “For those who got closer to the goal, what contributed to your ability to improve your results?”
o “If passing on advice to new employees, what lessons that you learned from this activity would you share?”
o “What lessons are there in this exercise that you might take back to your organization’s teams?”