Standing on a rubber spot to mark their spot, ask your group to form a large circle at least 8 metres in diameter.
Place a hula-hoop in the centre of the circle and put a pool noodle inside it.
Announce that the person in the middle (you) does not have a spot, and will use the noodle to invite someone standing in the circle to vacate their spot.
Using the noodle, tag a random person standing in the circle below their knee.
Any time a tag is made, a series of three events will be triggered rapidly:
– The tagger will place the noodle completely inside the hula-hoop;
– The tagee will move to the hula-hoop and attempt to pick up the noodle as quickly as possible; and
– The tagger will attempt to step on a vacant spot before they are tagged by the tagee with the noodle.
If the original tagger can step on the vacated spot with both feet without being tagged, they are safe, and the original tagee now becomes the new tagger.
If the tagee manages to tag the original tagger before the latter is safe, their roles reverse and the process continues as described above.
At all times, if any part of the noodle falls outside of the hula-hoop, the person who placed it there must pick it up, allowing the other person to claim the vacant spot.
Continue playing for several minutes.
Introduce one or more variations to increase the challenge and levels of participation.
Video Transcript for Swat Tag
presented by Nate Folan
This game is called Swat Tag, and what’s going to happen is I’m going to start in the centre with a boffer or half a pool noodle in this regard, and I’m going to invite essentially someone else in the group to play a game of tag, okay?
So the way this works is I’m going to tag someone in the tagging zone, and the tagging zone is below the knee. So anywhere below the knee is open to a tag. Other places it wouldn’t be legal to tag so to speak in the game.
If I tag Kevin here I tag him below the knee, my job, my responsibility as a tagger is to get the pool noodle back in the hoop and get back to Kevin’s spot as fast as I can without being tagged.
Kevin steps out and he’s going to try and grab the pool noodle and tag me below the knee, right?
If he tags me… let’s say I made it back here which I did, Kevin becomes the tagger. He’s going to invite someone else to play a game of tag just as I did. Okay?
So let’s switch it. Let’s say that Kevin now comes back to tag me. Kevin tags me. I go towards the hoop as well. Kevin drops the noodle down. I pick up the noodle. I tag Kevin. What’s my responsibility? My responsibility is to put it back into the hoop, make my way back here.
Kevin’s again going to try to tag me. We could go back and forth but I was too quick in that moment. We could go back and forth, but at this point Kevin might move on to tag someone else.
Is everyone clear with this base level of Swat Tag? Okay? So Kevin, if you’re up for it why don’t you go for it?
Nice. So pause here just for a minute, Brent. A couple of nice things that just happened here as teachable moments, and not so teachable… they’re like ‘Argh” but there was a moment, right?
In this game as we’re going down to put the pool noodle down, we want to be aware of the collision potential. We saw a bump there. Bumps generally are okay, collisions not so much. We want to eliminate those. And let’s leave it there.
And then also being aware that if you make that tag it does go back to the hoop. So Brent, when you’re ready, continue.
(people playing Swat Tag)
Great. So Frankie may have awareness of this game.
And notice this is a layer into this, right? It wasn’t right off the start. Sometimes too many rules is too much for a group, regardless of your age. It’s like can we just play tag. Some people say well, for younger people and it’s like you know what, how many of us as adults have been overwhelmed by you got to do this, this, and this?
What’s Step One?
Step One is invitation to tag.
Step Two… well probably Step One is be aware of safety-wise. Step Two, play tag.
Step Three, let’s be responsible here. And accountable. The pool noodle needs to go into the hoop.
So could you demonstrate a couple of what the pool noodle in the hoop looks like? Great, so not in the hoop. Entirely in the hoop. Now if there’s a moment where the group is seeing this, if it’s in the hoop, that’s good. Whoever got tagged will then pick up the noodle from there.
Let’s say the noodle was excitedly tossed like this. Is that in the hoop?
No, right? So in this case it’s clearly not in the hoop. Anyone in the group can say it’s not in the hoop or it’s not in its home. That tells me if I was the tagger to go get the noodle and put it back in the hoop. That’s my responsibility.
Help me with your name again.
So Caroline got so excited. I tagged her. I threw it there. I tried to make my way back to a spot. You picked up the noodle before I put it back. You could actually pick it up. Go ahead and do that. And this negates the ‘Not in its hoop’ call. So I as a tagger now no longer have the responsibility to put it back. Is that making sense?
Yeah. So this happens. Now one more time. Some people say that’s in the hoop, right? No. We want a high quality game of Swat Tag here. In the hoop is in the hoop. Anything outside the hoop, not in the hoop. Got it?
Okay. Caroline, when you’re ready you can continue from where you are.
(people playing Swat Tag)
Level Two, we’re going to add something to this.
So Kevin will start in just a minute as the tagger and he’ll continue to invite others to play tag. And remember that there’s a lot of choices you can make. You may not be aware of them but as you watch others you’ll see choices that others make and you’ll determine if that’s a good choice for you or not as well.
Level Two simply works this way. Kevin’s tagging people to play the game of tag. Anyone else might be like I haven’t been tagged yet, I want to move a little bit.
In this case if you have a desire to move you can, however you need to make a commitment to switch. And the way you make that commitment to switch is by looking at someone and it can be really overt like… help me with your name again.
So Jason, let’s switch. And Kevin’s like “Hey, that’s great.” So now we’re switching, right? So if you go back, 05:30 back here . So we made our switch. And the good thing that Jason was fully committed. Once you leave your spot, you’re committed.
It can also be overt, or subtle… sort of… I mean semi-subtle with that one, right?
So in this case, Level Two, Kevin’s going to be tagging someone. We can commit to switch. The piece with this though is once you leave your spot, Kevin could tag you. So let’s say… help me with your name.
Sherry. So let’s say Sherry and I made a commitment to switch. We’re moving cross we become available for Kevin. Kevin tags me. What does he do? Puts it down and then I pick it up and so on. Is everyone following that?
(people playing Swat Tag)
So in Level Three you can challenge yourself. Any open spot, you don’t need to commit to anyone because it’s open. Go for it. That could be as subtle as a slide to the right or a slide to the left. It can also be going for it right across the circle. Got it?
Okay. Continue making some nice choices in terms of how we’re playing, keeping the fun up, safety in check and so on.
(people playing Swat Tag)
The last round we’ll call the ‘ultimate challenge’, and the ultimate challenge is simply to put any part of your anatomy, G-rated, within the hoop.
So as I come out here I can put my foot in here, I can put my elbow. I might even decide to put my head in here.
Now granted if I put my head down or anything like that, we won’t be aware of what’s going on with the rest of the group, and then we’re not leading with our heads because if we had two or three people doing that, not a good thing.
However it’s an ultimate challenge. You get that forehead down to the ground, and as you do you’re simply going to say “I love this game” three times really loud, “I love this game, I love this game, I love this game,” all the while trying to get out and back to a spot without being tagged.
So the hoop does not indicate a safe zone, so to speak. You can still be tagged as you get out here.
(But while you’re in it you’re safe.)
No. That’s what we’re saying, Jack. Right on. So as you’re making this you’re still available to be tagged the entire time. So it’s an ultimate challenge, no safe zone, trying to get back to a spot as you go.
We’ll give it a go. So when you’re ready all those options are available to you. Here we go. You look so inspired to move.
(people playing Swat Tag)
How To Play Narrative
This tag is possibly one of my all-time favourites. There are endless variations, and opportunities for bravery abound.
To start, ask your group to form a large circle, at least 8 to 10 metres (27-33′) in diameter. It is natural for people to edge in closer to the centre as the game progresses, so distribute rubber gym-spots for everyone in the circle to stand on to mark their (initial) starting spots.
Finally, place a hula-hoop in the centre of the circle, and drop a pool noodle inside it. Standing in the centre of the circle without a spot (or home,) you are now ready to describe the action.
By way of demonstration, pick up the pool noodle and explain that as the ‘tagger’ your primary goal is to find a spot to stand on. You may also announce that anytime someone is standing on a spot, they are ‘safe.’
Using the noodle, approach someone randomly in the circle and tag them (with the noodle) somewhere on their leg below the knee. Explain that this tagging action will trigger three events to happen as quickly as possible:
As the tagger, you will place the noodle completely inside the hula-hoop;
The person you tagged (the tagee) will be compelled to move to the hula-hoop and attempt to pick up the noodle; and
You will attempt to step on the spot vacated by the tagee before you are tagged back by the tagee with the noodle.
Continuing your demonstration, explain that one of two results will transpire:
If you can step on the vacant spot with both feet without being tagged, you are safe, and the person you tagged now becomes the new tagger; or
If the person you tagged manages to pick up the noodle and tag you in return before you can manage to step safely onto the spot, the roles reverse, ie they must return to the noodle to the hula-hoop and make a mad rush to the vacant spot without getting tagged.
Announce that in all of this frenetic activity, if the noodle should ever fall outside the hula-hoop – even a little bit – the person who placed it there must pick it up and the other person is entitled to walk calmly to their vacant spot and call it home.
To cement a solid understanding of these critical elements of the game, continue play for several minutes.
Then, introduce one or more variations (see Variations tab) to increase the challenge and levels of participation for your group.
Practical Leadership Tips
Naturally, the more people you have in your group, the larger your circle needs to be. This not only invites a great deal more activity, but also permits a lot more space for people to move about.
Incidentally, if the noodle falls outside of the hula-hoop, but the tagee happens to pick it up (in a moment of eagerness) – it’s too late for them to call ‘foul.’ Holding the noodle, they are now committed and the game continues as described.
The juxtaposition of the nose belonging to the person placing the noodle in the hula-hoop, and the knee of the person rushing in to pick it up can be a safety issue. At some point, make your group aware of this accidental possibility. Indeed, as the game progresses and more people join in the activity, the possibilities of this collision increase exponentially.
A little sneaky swipe of the leg as one passes quickly by can be a wonderfully fun way to surprise someone off their spot, perhaps offering a few precious extra centimetres of space for the tagger to drop off the noodle and steal a vacant spot. Just saying.
Ordinarily, I prefer to call two feet securely on a spot as ‘safe’ but you get to be the judge. If only one foot on is enough for you and the group to be considered safe, then that’s fine too. What I will say though, is that either way, the feet (or foot) needs to be securely affixed to the spot – simply touching the spot as one runs over and past it is not ‘safe’ in anyone’s books.
Observe the folly of those who attempt to throw the noodle inside the hula-hoop from a distance away, hoping to save a few precious milliseconds to get them home safely. It doesn’t always work out.
Double Trouble: For groups of 12 or more people, introduce a second pool noodle to involve more people and activity.
No Baulking: If a person standing on a spot should move or baulk in anticipation of being tagged by the noodle, but in fact do not get tagged, this person is compelled to take possession of the noodle and become the next tagger.
Time Out: Allow any person (tagger) who is holding a noodle to say “TIME OUT” to invite anyone standing on a spot to swap roles. This is a very useful adaptation of the game to allow the slower or less coordinated members of your group to escape a life sentence in the middle of the circle.
Swat Tag Stealth 1: Allow the two people left and right of any empty spot to surreptitiously steal the vacant spot directly adjacent to them, surprising the poor soul who believed it was vacant only moments ago when they looked.
Swat Tag Stealth 2: Allow anyone in the circle to steal an empty spot, ie across the other side of the circle. Naturally, to achieve this goal, one must leave the safety of their spot, which means they are entirely eligible to be tagged by someone holding a noodle.
Swat Tag Stealth 3: Invite anyone at any time to vacate their spot, and attempt to stand in the hula-hoop and say “I LOVE THIS GAME, I LOVE THIS GAME” and then return to any vacant spot without being tagged – to earn a nominal bravery award. Remember, all activity related to Stealth 1 and 2 continue in the background.
Count Coup: Invite anyone at any time to embrace the Stealth 3 routine but, instead, place their forehead inside the hula-hoop (causing their posterior to be very exposed) and say “COUNT COUP,” and then return to any vacant spot without being tagged. Do this, and one shall be awarded the highest of high bravery awards – the Count Coup Coup (pronounced Cuckoo) award.
You Might Also Like...
Playful & rapid movement name-game for small groups.
Very energetic, ever-expanding, co-operative tag game.
Flip Over Ten
Simple, fast-paced group initiative to test memory skills.
Useful Framing Ideas
Folklore tells us the the story of an ancient civilisation which invited their young men and women to participate a unique ritual when they turned 13 years of age, to mark their ‘coming of age’ and become adults in their community. Legend informs us that if a young person was able to tap the shoulder of one of their elders (often by surprise) and run away without getting caught (or tagged) within two minutes, they would be considered brave enough to participate in the coming of age ceremonies. However, if they got caught, they would have to wait another year before they could make another attempt. This next activity embodies both the spirit and the bravery of this ritual in a very playful way…
How quickly can you react when something happens? In sport, as in life, even milliseconds can mean the different between success and failure. This next exercise is going to test your reactions to the max…
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 fast-paced tag game:
How easy was it to not move when the noodle was swung in your general direction, but did not actually touch you? How well could you hold your nerve?
Was there any time when you were confused about what to do? Is confusion OK in a game, or not?
What compelled you, or stopped you, from performing acts of bravery?
Does bravery matter? Why?
The inspiration for Swat Tag was sourced from The Bottomless Baggie by Karl Rohnke.