2 x 100x100mm boards approx 2 to 3 metres in length with 1.5m hand ropes inserted through drilled holes in the boards at 300mm intervals
Trolleys can be fabricated from a variety of materials including wood, high-density foam and plastic. Typically, they will accommodate 8 to 12 people. Owing to their size, trolleys are sometimes constructed of shorter sections and connected together with sturdy metal links.
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 communicate before moving as a group.
Agree to let go of the hand ropes and step off the boards if a fall is imminent.
Practical Leadership Tips
Like no other activity, trolleys do not tolerate sloppy teamwork. It demands a coordinated effort and anything less will result in a stumble or other penalty. To this end, this initiative is ideal for teaching anything related to teamwork.
Caution your group that, like dominoes, when one person falls forward (or backward) it is highly likely that this will cause a knock-on effect that will impact others.
Depending on the design of your trolleys, there is typically very little room between each participant. This can be too close for some people so keep this in mind when contemplating the suitability of this exercise for your group.
You need a wide flat space for the trolleys to travel lest you cause the weight of your group to snap the long boards as they traverse over a small hill.
If you’re feeling generous, invite your group to use the area behind the starting line to practice the highly-refined skill of moving with the trolleys. This way, they can practise their coordination skills and any falls are not penalised.
When a person falls off the trolleys, you have a range of ‘penalties’ at your disposal:
Simply count the number of touches on the ground in an effort to keep them to a minimum;
Those who touch the ground are required to resume their position on the board but without holding the hand ropes, ie they are given to one of their neighbours;
Those who touched the ground will get back on the boards facing the opposite direction;
The person who touches the ground moves to the front of the trolleys to lead the march; or
The whole group starts over from the beginning.
Note, some groups adopt the strategy of standing only on one board (both feet) and then using the hand ropes to shift the other board forward, before swapping boards and repeating the process. This is a particularly creative idea (requiring a lot less coordination) and may suit your programmatic purposes. If not, you may need to frame the task as requiring one foot on one board at all times.
If you have a large group, split them into two groups and challenge them to use the trolleys to travel safely to the other side (one team at a time.)
Round The Bend: Plot a course that requires the trolleys to turn around corners or curves.
Reverse Walk: Challenge your group to complete the task facing backwards.
Non-Verbal: Complete the entire task without verbal forms of communication.
Trio Trolleys: Introduce a third board with hand ropes and align it with the other two. Instruct one half of your group to stand on the 1st and 2nd boards, and the other half of your group to stand on the 2nd and 3rd boards, ie everyone has one foot on the 2nd board. Challenge your group to co-ordinate their efforts to traverse the nominated space using the three boards.
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Useful Framing Ideas
This next activity will absolutely challenge your group to coordinate your efforts because anything less will cause you to fail in your attempts to travel from here to there…
Have you ever stacked a line of dominoes in a pattern so that when you push one of them, the whole lot of them fall over over one at a time? Now while this may be a lot of fun when you play with dominoes, this same knock-on effect will probably frustrate you in your next group initiative…
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 leading this fun group initiative:
What did you notice during the execution stage of the activity?
What frustrated you? Why?
Which skills are absolutely critical to be successful in this exercise?
Did you ever think you could not complete this task? When and why?
At what point did your group realise you could complete this task?
How might this exercise reflect on how we work as a group/team?
What lessons can we learn from the trolleys?
The inspiration for Trolleys is generally unknown but was popularised during the development of Project Adventure‘s adventure-based curriculum in the early 1970s.