We’re facing one another, we’re almost like twins, with our feet actually together this time. So this is part of the intent, with your feet together again, challenge between your toes is the level of challenge, but this time I’m going to suggest start with maybe… in your case what’s it? Eight, ten inches.
With your hands up… this is the bumpers up position. It means that you are ready to go. You can’t play until you are in the bumpers up position.
Using the old hockey one, hockey two start to the game, we’re going to clap, hockey one, hockey two, hockey three, and on the last one is the go. So it’s hockey one, two, three, and go. The game has now started.
The object is for each of us to bring the partner off-balance. Notice I said the word off-balance. I did not say you had to push them over, because in fact in some cases you don’t even have to touch them in order to bring them off-balance.
How do we know if they’re off-balance? Their feet will have moved. So any part of their feet that moved will suggest that they’ve come off-balance.
So for a quick demonstration… Are you ready to go? Here we go. Hockey one, hockey two, hockey three… Go.
(demonstrating Palm Off)
Alright. But you can’t touch…
So the object is to be able to bring your partner off-balance. The only point of contact you have is with their hands. So no other part… That’s why I was blowing on you, trying to blow you over the back.
Alright. You got the idea. Give yourself a little bit of space. Do a let’s say best out of three, see how you go.
(people playing Palm Off)
Feet together, twelve inches apart.
(people playing Palm Off)
How To Play Narrative
Break your group into pairs. Ask each person to stand with their own feet together, facing their partner with a gap of approximately half-metre between the front of each other’s toes.
Each person then raises their hands to chest height and turns their palms forward to face their partner, ie the bumper’s up position.
The partners are now ready to start. You could go straight into what happens next, or do as I do, and introduce a little school-time fun to commence proceedings.
For example, invite your partnerships to initiate a series of calls and claps before they engage in mortal combat – such as “AND ONE AND TWO AND THREE AND GO,” where each “AND” is timed with a clap of your own hands, and each number is timed with a clap with your partner’s hands. Like I said, this is fun, but certainly not essential.
On “GO” the game starts, and each person will attempt to make contact (or not) with their partner to cause them to come off-balance. Stress that contact can only be made with a person’s hands (palms) – no other part of the body may be touched.
In many cases, a clever person will baulk a move (thereby not making contact at all) and cause the momentum of their partner (expecting they will need to counter the move) to initiate a fall. The thrill of avoiding a fall is infectious, so you should allow plenty of time to play several rounds.
After several short rounds, swap partners, or move onto whatever is next.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you are planning to introduce or practice spotting skills, initiate a short discussion after several rounds. For example, I have found this activity to be a wonderful precursor for teaching spotting skills, because it demonstrates an effective (balanced) stance with two feet apart, ie this is what people do to recover their balance. Also, the hands up position also indicates that a person is ready and alert, which is another essential attribute of a good spotter.
Note my use of language. I speak in terms of aiming to “bring one’s partner off-balance,” not to hit or knock them over.
Given that a substantial push of one’s hands can be enough to cause one’s partner to fall over, beware the over-zealous competitor. To this end, consider the level of safety consciousness held within your group before launching into this exercise.
In case someone should ask, no, an individual cannot hold onto the hand (or any other anatomical part) of their partner to assist them to come off balance.
Like most activities, look for a relatively flat area to play.
You could integrate Palm Off as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits to one’s wellbeing of engaging in a short burst of physical activity.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and (regulation of) effort required to interact physically with others may speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could use these less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see. To this end, you could invite your group to reflect on the level of safety consciousness that was demonstrated (or not) during the activity and relate this to a set of observed impacts on others. For example, it is not uncommon in this activity for one person to push really hard on the hands of their partner to cause them to fall backwards.
If nothing else, the use of Palm Off as part of a carefully sequenced series of activities to build spotting skills (and trust) does speak to particular wellness outcomes.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Palm Off could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Advanced Challenge: Reduce the distance between the toes of the two partners, so that they are almost touching.
Teetering: Invite each partner to squat down, balancing on the balls of their feet to play. Each person attempts to cause the other to fall forward onto their hands or backwards onto their heels to win. See Squat Thrust for more details.
Innovative stretch & balance exercise for individuals.
Fun partner exercise to teach the value of collaboration.
Challenging partner stretch that demands coordination.
Useful Framing Ideas
We’re going to move into a series of activities that will prepare our group to learn what is necessary to support one another in later, more physically demanding activities. On its own, this first exercise can be viewed as just a lot of fun, but you’ll shortly discover some very important attributes of effective spotting skills as well…
You may be aware of Sir Isaac Newton’s laws of motion that say ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.’ Well, this next exercise will prove that this law is not always true, insofar as you don’t always have to touch something to make it move…
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 playing this quick and fun partner energiser:
Would you describe this game as fun? Why?
What did you notice during the game?
Was it easy to lose your balance? Why?
Did you have to touch your partner in order to bring them off-balance?
What might this game teach us about effective spotting skills?
Short & Fun ‘Energiser’ Session
What You Need:
10+ people, 15 mins
Ro Sham Bo – fun, interactive ‘Rock-Paper-Scissors’ variation
Palm Off – introductory off-balance partner activity
Squat Thrust – more challenging off-balance partner activity
The inspiration for Palm Off, and many more quick and fun energisers, was sourced from the following publication: