Collect a bunch of poly spots (gym-spots,) one for every person in your group.
Lay two parallel lines of spots on the ground about 6 metres (20′) apart, with the spots on each line spaced about a metre (3′) apart.
Place a hula-hoop exactly in the centre of the two lines of spots.
Form two even teams, and ask the members of each team to stand directly on a spot.
Working together, the members of each team aim to switch sides, after passing through the hula-hoop, as fast as possible.
To record an official attempt, there can be no physical contact between any team members at any time.
Allow at least three official attempts to record the fastest time.
How To Play Narrative
In advance, gather a bunch of poly-spots (gym-spots), one for every person in your group. Create two parallel lines of spots on the ground about 6 metres (20′) apart, with the spots on each line spaced about a metre or two (3-6′) apart.
Finally, place a hula-hoop exactly in the centre of the two lines of spots.
Split your group into two equal teams, and ask the members of each team to stand directly on a spot, effectively facing the other team.
Starting on their own spots, explain that the two teams are working together to record the fastest possible time to switch sides. In the process, however, each person must touch some part of their body inside the hula-hoop as they pass through the centre.
It’s natural to imagine that the body part of choice is typically a foot, but, so as to not limit people’s creativity, I always broaden the options in my briefing.
Finally, and most importantly, in order to record an official world’s record, there can be absolutely no physical contact between team members at any point in the switching process.
Naturally, the greatest risk of this occurring is when people pass through the hula-hoop. Encourage people to issue a friendly “DON’T TOUCH ME” if necessary from time to time, to keep this parameter ever-present in their minds.
Within the first few minutes, require your group to make their first official attempt, which will serve as a benchmark of sorts. Then allow your group to take 5 to 10 minutes to discuss and rehearse an improved strategy, before recording a second attempt. Grant a third attempt, and more if deemed necessary.
While teamwork and problem-solving feature heavily in this task, the primary focus is on continuous improvement and quality control. Observe the manner in which decisions are made, how your group manages the balance between planning and action, and the ‘risks’ people will take to record a fast time.
Practical Leadership Tips
For this exercise, to ‘pass’ through a hula-hoop does not mean to pass one’s entire body through the hoop. A simple stepping in and out will suffice. So long as you don’t touch me!
Ordinarily, it is not necessary for the order of each team’s line-up to be the same after they have swapped sides. However, this would be a more challenging framework if you wish to adopt it.
It’s often quite difficult to determine if two or more people have touched in the process of swapping places, so I frequently turn this responsibility over to the group. It’s a quality control thing. It can be a powerful attribute for a group to measure its own quality (ie identifying touches,) rather than rely on the scrutiny of an authority figure (ie you!)
As there is a lot of movement in small spaces of time, I normally suggest that every team member must have at least one foot on their (new) spot before I stop the clock, ie it’s not enough to simply touch it as they whizz past it in their rush.
Got no poly-spots or hula-hoops? Orient your two teams behind two, parallel sports-court lines, draw chalk lines on the floor, or use chairs.
Carpet tiles or pieces of paper are not substitutes for rubber poly-spots or gym-spots because the former tend to slide out under people’s feet in their rush to arrive.
Health & Wellness Programming
Social-Emotional Learning & Behavioural Norms
The competitive and physical attributes of this activity may provide you with a valuable lens through which to view the ways in which group members look after one another during the exercise. For example, if their behaviours demonstrate no regard for other people’s safety in the way they attempt to pass through the hoops, this could be an indicator of other undesirable behaviours within the life of the group. Also, observe and monitor their default communication and decision-making abilities. Often, when time is of the essence, other desirable SEL skills such as listening, empathy and a range of subtle social cues get neglected. Refer to the Reflection Tips tab for some useful questions to help your group reflect on these behaviours.
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Introductory Challenge: Swap sides without the hula-hoop. The ‘no-touch’ rule still applies.
Multiple Lines: Create three or four lines of spots – aka, triangle, square, pentagon, etc – with one or more hula-hoops in the centre. Same deal, with each team required to move their whole team onto another line of spots.
Circle Challenge: If you have an odd number of people in your group, form a circle of spots for everyone to stand on, with a hula-hoop placed directly in the centre. Each person is entitled to move to any spot in the circle that is not one of the four spots closest to their starting spot.
Sequential Order: Require that each team re-position themselves (on the opposing line of spots) in the same order as the line of spots they started from.
Take a look at Commitment for a purely fun, swapping-places, community-building game.
Quick-movement energiser to teach safety consciousness.
Classic group initiative that inspires collaboration.
Useful Framing Ideas
It can often be very difficult to police or monitor one’s behaviours. So much of our daily activity relies on some authority figure catching us doing something wrong, such as speeding in our cars, or productively using our allotted time for homework. This next exercise invites you experience what it’s like to assume this responsibility…
Most activities can be broken down into a series of smaller actions, and the more efficient we become at performing these smaller actions, the more productive our activity becomes. This process, often referred to as ‘time and motion’ studies, is focussed unashamedly on continuous improvement, and is the primary aim of your next challenge…
The term ‘continuous improvement’ is used by many groups including large corporations and elite athletes as part of the process of edging ever-closer to optimal efficiency. It’s the process of continually exploring better ways or systems of doing things to achieve a particular aim. In this next exercise, your group will be challenged to find the most efficient system of swapping places…
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 terrific introductory team-building exercise:
What observations did you make about your group’s process to solve this problem?
What was most effective about your planning, communication and decision-making?
Did your group take any ‘risks?’ What were they? Were they worth it?
In what ways were compassion and empathy expressed or attended to?
How difficult was it to assume responsibility for quality control? Did you take any shortcuts?
What was necessary to help your group continuously improve its performance?
The inspiration for Don’t Touch Me, and many more simple, group team-building activities, was sourced from the following publications: