In advance, write numbers 1 to 16 on tennis balls.
Place four hula-hoops on the ground to represent the four points of a baseball diamond.
Form two even teams.
Nominate one team as the batting side, the other team as the fielding side.
Instruct the batting team to stand in a straight line behind the first hula-hoop (base.)
Equipped with all 16 balls, instruct the first batter to throw all of the balls anywhere into the field.
The batter then runs around the outside of their team as many times as possible until the fielding team calls “STOP.”
The batting team earns one point for every complete rotation.
While the batter is running circles, the fielding team aims to retrieve all of the balls and place them in pre-determined hoops as quickly as possible, ie numbers 1-4 in the first hoop, 5-8 in the second hoop, 9-12 in the third hoop and 13-16 in the fourth hoop.
As soon as every ball has been placed in its correct hoop, the fielding team may call “STOP.”
Gather all 16 balls and give them to the second batter to have their turn.
As each batter completes their turn, they move to the end of their team’s line.
Continue this process until every member of the batting team has had their turn, and then each team swaps roles.
Play one, two or three innings each.
The team with the most runs wins.
How To Play Narrative
Does your group tire quickly of traditional sports? This game is a terrific adaptation of baseball.
In advance, write the numbers 1 to 16 on sixteen tennis balls (or equivalent,) ie each ball has one number clearly displayed on it. For simplicity, gather all of the balls inside a box or bucket.
Divide your group into two, roughly even teams. If you want to achieve a random distribution of skills and abilities, take a look at Getting Into Teams for some fun ways to do this.
The set-up is similar to a regular game of baseball. Place a series of hula-hoops as the four points of the (baseball) diamond spaced roughly 5 to 10 metres apart. Naturally, the further apart the bases, the harder it is to score points.
To begin, nominate one of the teams as the ‘batting’ side and the other as the ‘fielding’ side. For each innings, members of the batting side line-up in a straight line behind the ‘home’ base, while the fielding team spread themselves as far and wide as they choose across the field.
When ready, equip the first batter with all 16 balls. Standing just behind the first base (hula-hoop,) instruct this batter to toss all 16 balls anywhere within the allocated open space in front of them. As soon as every ball has been tossed, instruct them to run around the rest of their team as many times as possible.
For each complete rotation, the batter scores one point for their team. The batter keeps running until the fielding team call “STOP.”
The fielding team’s objective is to retrieve all 16 balls and then place them inside one of the four hula-hoops – but, importantly, in a pre-determined order. Balls numbered 1 to 4 are placed in the first hula-hoop, balls 5 to 8 inside the second hula-hoop, balls 9 to 12 inside the third hula-hoop and balls 13 to 16 inside the fourth hula-hoop.
As soon as this task is complete, anyone (or all) of the fielding team may call “STOP.”
So, in effect, while the batter is exercising their legs, the fielding team are exercising their legs and brains.
At this point, all of the balls are gathered together again to permit the second batter to have their turn. Meanwhile, the first batter moves to the end of their team’s line.
The process of tossing and running in circles and retrieving and placing of balls continues until every person on the batting team has had their turn. Then it’s time to ask each team to swap roles.
Play as many innings as your time or group’s energy allows.
Practical Leadership Tips
Naturally, there is no magic in the number 16. Feel free to use 10, 12 or 40 balls. The game is the same.
Encourage everyone on a team to have a go at ‘batting’ lest only the most athletic will be involved.
I don’t work with fractions, so I only award points for each full rotation of one’s team. It’s simpler this way.
On occasions, you may want to check the veracity of the batting team’s runs tally and the fielding team’s ball-placement integrity.
For the record, if it is discovered that one or more balls have been placed in the wrong hoop, the batting team earns an extra 3 runs for every incorrectly placed ball.
Sometimes, I allow the batting team to huddle to make it easier to score runs. Straight line or huddle, it’s up to you. Certainly, there’s more exercise for the batter if they have to run around their teammates if they are standing in a straight line.
You could integrate Think Ball as part of a well-designed SEL program to promote and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse people.
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
This simple, yet fun group initiative will invite your group to interact and engage with each other in a manner that would necessarily speak to the benefits of having developed a set of supportive and healthy behavioural norms in advance. Or, if not, you could focus on any less-than-desired interactions or outcomes to explore what sorts of behaviours your group would prefer to see and commit to in the future.
For example, in addition to those described in the Reflection Tips tab, you could invite your group to reflect on the following questions to explore a variety of full value behaviours such as:
How did the group demonstrate its ability to care for self and others?
Generally speaking, how did the group make decisions? How were all members involved?
What types of leadership were demonstrated during the exercise? Were they effective?
Were there moments of accountability that concerned you? Why?
Given the unpredictable nature of this activity in regards to where the batting team could toss their 16 balls, the fielding team would need to exercise a degree of adaptability when it comes to collecting them, ie agreeing on just one approach is unlikely to work in all situations. Consider exploring themes of goal-setting and contingency, too.
Run The Bases: Instruct each batter to run on the outside of the four bases (instead of their team.) For each complete rotation, they score one run. Beware, it is possible for the batter and members of the fielding team to obstruct one another in pursuit of their team’s goals. To this end, add or subtract runs for patent obstruction.
Colour Balls: Using a collection of four different coloured balls, instruct the fielding team to place all balls of the same colour in one hoop, or one of each colour in each hoop, before they call “STOP.”
Math Elements: Identify four (or more) different types of mathematical factors to each hula-hoop. For example, one hoop contains all prime numbers, another contains all those divisible by two, all those ending with a 5 or 7, etc.
Sum Ball: Use a bucket of balls representing multiples of 1, 2, 3, and 4. In advance of each round (batter) announce, for example, that the value of all of the balls inside each hoop must equal seven. Then, for the next round, change it to five, etc.
Baseball Innings: Permit three batters to have their turn and then swap roles. Do this as often as you would like there to be innings.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Baseball is considered to be America’s number one favourite sport or pastime. Most of us have played it as some point in our lives, yet only very few get to play at an elite level. Today, I’m excited to introduce a version of baseball that is pretty much accessible to everyone…
Some of the best activities I can think of involve both the head and body of the participant. This next exercise is one such example because it will have you thinking at the same time as you’re madly running about…
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 highly energetic game:
What were some of the challenges you encountered?
When batting, what were some of your team’s best strategies to score as many runs as possible?
As the fielding team, what were some of your most successful strategies?
What did you learn during the exercise?
The inspiration for Think Ball was sourced from The PE Geek, Jarrod Robinson, with thanks. If you’re interested to learn more about the intersection between physical activity and technology, then Jarrod is your man.