As if standing on a line, each person stands facing their partner, placing their right foot on the line directly touching the toe of their partner.
Each person then places their left foot directly behind their right foot (on the line.)
Each pair engages in a quick game of Rock-Paper-Scissors.
The ‘winner’ moves their front foot to sit directly behind their other foot (on the line.)
The ‘loser’ slides their front foot until it touches the toe of their partner’s front foot.
Play continues with a series of Rock-Paper-Scissors games.
With each round, only the front foot of each person moves.
At any time, if someone touches the ground to prevent a fall, their partner shall be declared the winner.
Play two or more rounds, and/or swap partners.
How To Play Narrative
I frequently pull this exercise out after a series of other Rock-Paper-Scissor games, but it stands on its own very nicely too.
Ask your group to form into pairs, perhaps using a random matching technique as described in Getting Into Pairs.
Imagining a straight line on the ground, ask everyone to stand facing their partner, placing their right foot on the line directly touching the toe of their partner.
Then, the awkward part, ask everyone to place their left foot directly behind their own right foot, so that the front of their left foot touches the back of their right foot.
In effect, you have two people, facing each other precariously, as if standing on a tight-rope.
From this position, invite each pair to engage in a quick game of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Eventually, one person will be declared the winner. Necessarily, there is a consequence.
Now, what follows is very simple, but all-too-often not adhered to. The number one rule is that the front foot is the only foot that ever moves, for both people.
The winner always moves their front foot to sit directly behind their other foot. The person who is not as successful at winning, also only moves their front foot, but forward so that it touches the front of their opponent’s foot.
That is, the ‘loser’ just added some distance between his/her feet.
Naturally, all four feet continue to stand directly on the imaginary line.
Once settled, the pair engage in another round of Rock-Paper-Scissors, with the same results. The winner moves their front foot to sit directly behind their other foot, while their opponent slides their front foot ever further apart from their back foot.
Can you see what’s happening here? The splits, yep.
Now, losing the first two or three rounds is not so bad, but things get serious from the fourth round onwards. The gap between one’s feet increases to the point where it becomes increasingly difficult to remain upright.
Play continues, with a series of Rock-Paper-Scissors rounds until one person has moved their feet so far apart, they use their hands, or any other part of their body to prevent themselves from falling to the ground.
The first person to touch the ground with anything other than their feet, will crown their opponent the winner, and thus, cause the end of the game.
Play two or more rounds, and/or swap partners.
Practical Leadership Tips
Depending on your sequence, and the particular abilities of your group, you may find that forming partners who are similarly sized is useful, but it’s not overly critical. That said, if your group is new and they reflect a widely divergent set of physical skills, random pairs may produce a number of uneven matches.
A reasonable degree of balance and agility are required to enjoy this game, so consider your sequence before introducing the splits!
If your curriculum involves practicing or teaching the splits, this could be a fun exercise to integrate into your classes.
Note, after the third round, it is very difficult for the whole back foot to remain touching the floor. That’s okay, provided that the toes are still positioned on the line.
You could integrate The Splits as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively in different situations and to achieve goals.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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 enjoying a fun physical exercise.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus and effort required to successfully engage in this fun stretch may speak to the benefits of being adaptable because the comfort level of one’s balance can change very quickly – but this would not be the primary purpose of this partner game.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which The Splits could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
No Forward Motion: The only feet to ever move are those of the winner, ie the winner continues to move their front foot behind their other foot. Now, the gap between the front feet of the two opponents will get wider with each round, providing an equally-difficult balancing challenge for each person to manage.
Did your gym teacher teach you how to do the splits in school? Maybe you were a gymnast, or dancer? This was never really my forte, and so I often cringe when I see people drop to the floor doing some form of the splits. If this sounds like something you can do, then you’re in luck with this next exercise…
Being flexible is healthy in many situations. Not just physically, but in terms of personality, too. We all know people who are inflexible when it comes to beliefs. For example, we are told that there are still people, today, who believe that the earth is flat! We’ll explore this type of flexibility shortly, but for now, let’s consider physical flexibility…
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 fun physical education game:
Were you good at the splits? Why?
Did your balance and agility improve with each round?
In non-physical terms, what does it mean to be flexible? What are some examples?
Would you describe this group as flexible? What is your evidence?
With thanks to one of the many thousands of training workshop participants I have met over the years, who kindly shared this fun, partner-balance exercise to me. I wish I could remember your name.