Assume necessary spotting role when required, eg when a participant is attempting to pass another.
Be an active spotter at all times, ie this is generally regarded as a self-spotting exercise.
Offer support to all group members both physically (spotting) and emotionally (supporting and contributing.)
Agree to step off the pole if a fall is imminent.
Agree not to pile themselves on top of one another.
Practical Leadership Tips
The TP Shuffle is primarily a standing activity. However on occasions, some people may choose to crouch or sit down to assist their balance. To this end, ensure that the pole is free of splinters.
Some alternative penalties include:
Adding one to the tally of falls/touches on the ground;
The participant who has stepped off the pole must start over from the end opposite to where they were
travelling, ie this will likely be a worse position than when they first started;
The two people closest to the participant who stepped off the pole must also start again; and
Every person starts over from their original positions.
Are you wondering what the TP stands for? Telephone Pole, of course! Or, a rather inventive variation I once heard referred to this acronym as the Total People Shuffle.
Line-Up Sequence: There are dozens of ways to ask your group to re-arrange their position on the pole, including:
– Date of birth (not including year) from 1 January to 31 December;
– Last two digits of your mobile (cell) phone number from 00 to 99;
– Height from tallest to shortest;
– Shoe size (actual, not stated size) from smallest to biggest;
– Colour of tops from lightest to darkest; etc.
TP Shuffle Jam: Start with half of your team at each end of the pole. Challenge each smaller group to pass the other team to stand on the other side.
Accessible: Take a look at TP Shuffle on a Rope to present a more accessible version of this classic group initiative anywhere, inside or out using just a rope on the floor/ground.
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TP Shuffle On A Rope
Accessible & fun variation of popular group initiative.
Ground-based challenge to foster planning & creativity.
Simple initiative to focus on effective communication.
Useful Framing Ideas
Sometimes, when we think about support in the context of adventure programs, we often just focus on physical support, but this is only part of the picture. Emotional and mental support is just, if not more important. This next exercise will provide you and your group with an opportunity to explore the benefits of many types of support…
Okay, now that you are standing on the pole, without getting off it, make an effort to see and speak with others who are positioned at the other end of the pole [ allow time … ] As you experienced, it’s very difficult to communicate as a group when standing in a straight line, which is why circles are so useful in group discussions. Keep this experience in mind as you tackle this next exercise…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after undertaking this fun group initiative:
What was the first thing you said or did as soon as you discovered you would have to move your position on the pole? Why?
What processes (if any) did your group adopt during the exercise? How effective were they?
How easy or difficult was it for the group to communicate?
What types of feelings were experienced during the task? How many of these were observed or acknowledged? Does this mean anything?
What types of support were offered? Did these supports assist your group to be successful?
If you were to attempt this task again, what would you do differently?
The inspiration for the TP Shuffle is generally unknown but was popularised during the development of Project Adventure‘s adventure-based curriculum in the early 1970s.