In advance, collect a large number of balls, or soft tossable items.
Give one ball to your group.
Instruct your group that every time you say “GO,” whoever is holding a ball must toss it in the air at least 30cm above the head of the tallest person.
All balls must be caught by a person other than the one who tossed it.
For every successful round (every ball tossed is caught,) give your group one new ball.
Whenever one or more balls are dropped during an attempt, the task will resume from one ball again.
Challenge your group to perform the task with as many balls as possible.
Encourage your group to plan, collaborate and focus.
Process your group’s experience at the end, as appropriate.
How To Play Narrative
This is one of those, why-didn’t-I-think-of-this activities. It seems so obvious, its beauty is found in its simplicity.
Your first, and possibly hardest task is to get your hands on a large number of balls, or soft tossable items. Balloons or nerf-balls won’t work because they must have toss-ability.
Distribute one ball, at first, to your group. Instruct your group that every time you say “GO” whoever is holding a ball, must toss it into the air – at least 30 cm (1′) above the head of the tallest person in the group – inviting someone else to catch it.
Announce that every time the group succeeds at this task (toss and catch all of the balls they are holding,) they will be rewarded with one more ball to use in the next round.
You can probably work out the rest, right?
The initial rounds are always very quick and simply performed. But, as soon as the group possesses more than one ball for every two people, things start to get more interesting.
Explain that on any occasion when a ball is dropped, the task will resume from one ball again. Yep, a tough penalty. This parameter quickly galvanises the group to focus carefully, and avoid ‘risky’ solutions.
As your group begins to be challenged to ‘juggle’ more and more balls, you may need to remind them that:
Every ball (held by the group) must be tossed simultaneously when you say “GO;”
The balls must travel at least 30cm above the head of the tallest person in the group; and
Every ball must be caught by someone other than the person who tossed it.
The next milestone for a group often occurs when every person starts with one ball. From this point on, some people will begin with two balls, a typically tough ask either on the tosser or catcher.
At some point, instruct the group to set itself a challenging, yet realistic target to achieve (in terms of the number of balls successfully deployed.)
Or, depending on the abilities of your group and time available, challenge your group to record the highest score possible.
Expect a range of issues to be tackled, including collaboration, planning, coordination and goal-setting.
Practical Leadership Tips
Prepare to have more balls than you expect to need. Work on the basis of about 2 per person, but this will vary according to the skill level of your group.
Expect a discussion about exactly what constitutes a ‘toss’ and a ‘catch.’ For example, would you allow a ball to be caught in the cradle of an extended garment of clothing? Or, is it kosher to launch a ball from a metre above the head of the tallest person? If you’re playing by the spirit of the game, then no. But, you choose what works for you and is consistent with the goals of your program, eg if creativity is an important goal of your program, say “Yes.”
To be honest, it’s very hard for a group that just failed at an attempt of 25 balls, to start over at one. So, in these circumstances, I typically return them to an agreed challenging mid-point in the activity.
Got a really high-performance group? Start with half as many balls as there are members in the group.
You could integrate All Catch into a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to solve problems, work collaboratively and demonstrate care and respect for others, ie catching is not a universal skill.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Taking Initiative – ability to step up & get stuff done
Use Planning & Organisational Skills
Taking Other’s Perspectives
Recognising Strengths In Others
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Seeking and/or Offering Support
Resolving Conflict Constructively
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Making Reasoned Judgements
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
For some groups and individuals, successfully completing this task will test their patience and resilience to bounce from multiple failed attempts. When sequenced and framed appropriately, look for opportunities to explore the following questions:
How many attempts did it take your group to complete the task?
How did it feel to keep trying?
Did you want to give up? Why or why not?
What helped you to persevere? Was this easy?
As with all group team-building group initiatives, All Catch is an excellent vehicle for exploring Full Value behavioural norms. Consider framing your group’s experience in advance to help them reflect on topics such as goal-setting, collaboration, leadership, and accountability at the conclusion of the task. For example, not everyone will feel comfortable with the task of being relied upon to catch something while others are watching. This element alone may open a conversation to discuss the sort of environment that would support all team members to have a go even in the face of failure.
Multiple Work Stations: If you’ve got a large group, divide into smaller groups of 8 to 12 people. Challenge each small group (workstations) to develop a strategy that can successfully catch the most number of balls.
Long Distance All Catch: Increase the distance over which the balls must travel before being caught.
Hands-On Challenge: For a greater challenge, suggest that only people’s hands (as distinct from any other part of their body) are allowed to touch the balls (this will prevent the creative use of clothing, legs, etc.)
Soft Tossables: Substitute balls with a variety of soft tossable items, eg rubber chickens, koosh-balls, beachballs, beanie-babies, ping-pong balls, etc. The challenge will be equal to the level of diversity you introduce with these items.
Limited Time: Place a time limit on the group, but remove the need to return to the start (one ball) with each unsuccessful attempt.
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Useful Framing Ideas
For some people, catching a ball can be an intimidating task, especially if they have to perform it in front of others. Well, this task will involve a lot of catching in front of others, but this will not be your group’s focus…
Two hands with two balls – could you successfully toss both in the air and catch both of them? How many times in a row. This next initiative will challenge your group to find an answer, quickly…
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 challenging group initiative:
At what point did the task become challenging for you? The group?
Did your skills improve with practice, or other assistance?
Did your group decide something that was critical to your success?
What else contributed to your success?
How did your group establish its goal? Was it realistic? Too challenging?
How might the manner in which your group worked together apply elsewhere?
The inspiration for All Catch was sourced from one of my fellow experiential educators many years ago (sorry, I can’t recall who.)