Group’s goal is to keep the beachball aloft for as long as possible by hitting it.
Success is measured by counting the number of hits used to keep the ball aloft.
Announce an initial target, of say, 34 for the group to attain.
To govern fair play, and to record a valid score:
– An individual cannot hit the beachball twice in succession;
– A point is scored each time someone hits it with their open palm; and
– As soon as the ball touches the ground, the count goes back to zero.
Your group may have as many attempts as you have allotted time for this task.
Once your group achieves your target, ask them to set a new, more challenging target.
Here is your task. Your objective is to be able to use this effective beachball. It’s actually a beachball with the different constellations of the stars. My son Devon has allowed us to borrow this just for today, so long as I brought it back, he said.
(In one piece.)
In one piece, said it’ll be fine.
So this ball is your focus and your objective. Here’s your plan. In a moment I’m about to tap it with an open palm only, and only ever an open palm can be used to take contact with this ball.
And your objective is to keep it off the ground for as long as possible. You can never grasp it, you can’t hold it. At all times you are actually working with you just simply need to tap it with an open palm.
And every time you tap it or hit it, we score a point. Overall objective is to be able to earn as many points as possible. Every time it’s either held or drops to the ground for whatever reason, the score just goes back to zero. Okay?
I’m going to set you a target after a few moments of you just simply playing with this. As I say move to wherever or whatever space is going to work for you, but appreciate there is a little bit of wind and we also have some fairly high trees, but these are like magnets in trees and they will get caught, so be aware of that as well.
So we hit it up in the air. Every time you hit it as a group count it. I won’t need to do that counting because I’m sure you can. So it’s one… two, three… four… five, six… whatever, and if it hits the ground, great, you will have achieved a particular record, I encourage you to do better than that.
After a few moments I will then set you a target, a target by which I encourage you to try and achieve. Okay, any questions? Alright. This is the basic setup. I’m going to add more to this shortly, but for now… one.
(people playing Moonball, and counting…)
Alright. So what was your number?
Eighteen is pretty cool for a first record.
The object now is I’m going to give you a target of just two. However, in order to score even one point each person in your group needs to have hit the ball once and once only before you can hit it a second time.
Let me just say that again because often that can be confusing for people. In order to get to one point if there was twenty of you in the group, every one of you needed to have hit the ball once and once only before you could hit it a second time at which point hit it a second time before you could hit it a third time.
I’m giving you a target of two but by all means blow me out of the water and go for four if you want. Got the idea?
(So we go around in a circle.)
Over to you as a group. Obviously you might want to think about how you’re going to solve that problem now that I’ve changed the parameters. So Hayden, I’ll pass the ball to you but I’m not saying you need to start.
(people discussing, playing Moonball)
How To Play Narrative
You’ll need an outdoor area or an indoor space with a very high ceiling. Like, I’m talking, at least gymnasium height.
Gather your group and announce that you’d like to set a target for the group to achieve. Their mission, should they wish to accept, is to keep the beachball (you are holding) aloft for as long as possible.
However, the measure of success is not time. Each attempt will be measured in terms of how many times the ball is hit to keep it aloft. Suggest a target of, say, 34 just to get things started.
Explain that to govern fair play, there are just three guidelines:
An individual cannot hit the beachball twice in succession;
A point is scored each time someone hits it with their open palm; and
As soon as the ball touches the ground/floor, the count goes back to zero.
After a couple of attempts, suggest to your group (if they haven’t already worked this out,) that they may huddle up and discuss a few ways to solve this problem.
Soon, your group will achieve the target you set them. Now, ask them to set a realistic yet challenging target to attain, eg 70. Allow as many attempts as you have allocated time for this task.
It’s always interesting to observe the tussle between those folks who want to achieve the target efficiently (ie lots of little taps around the group,) and those more ambitious people who just want to whack the air out of the ball to keep it in the air. There’s no right answer of course – every group will find their truth somewhere between these two extremes.
If your group achieves the target, or their own, too quickly, consider ramping up the challenge by introducing one of the variations below (see Variations tab.)
Practical Leadership Tips
Do not use a volleyball, basketball or other traditional sporting balls because they typically evoke negative associations for many non-athletic people. A beachball is likely to attract greater participation because it is less intimidating and generally regarded as fun. A beachball’s flukey flight characteristics are also unpredictable which makes everybody a novice when it comes to hitting it in a straight line.
The reference to ‘open palm’ is to prevent fists being used, raising the possibility that someone may inadvertently cop a fist in the face, ie remember, all eyes are generally on the ball.
Always have a spare beachball or two up your sleeve. At some point, one day, the ball will burst.
Why ‘moonball?’ Because when a group can successfully keep the ball aloft, it looks a bit like the moon sitting in the sky.
You could integrate Moonball 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:
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
Goal setting is an essential element of wellness. To be an effective goal-setter is to have control over your life. You can chart a direct and effective course from where you are to where you wish to go. Effective goal setting means defining personal and professional goals, creating a plan, figuring out what you need to commit, what help to ask for and to be clear on the benchmarks for success.
Here’s one way you could use Moonball as a goal-setting activity. Grab a beach and call it a Goal Sphere. Using a roll of masking tape, invite the group to suggest positive behaviours connected to successfully achieving goals, eg chose a goal I care about, stick to it, ask for help, name your strengths, and celebrate success. Challenge your group to protect these behaviours by keeping the ball from hitting the ground.
If you have offered your group planning time prior to beginning, this is a wonderful activity for the use of SMART Goals tool:
Specific: What is the group goal for Moonball and can it be stated clearly? Is your group aware that the goal can be changed depending on the experience and that it is essential to state the goal without equivocation (keep or out of the goal statement.)
Measurable: With Moonball this is easy. However, your group will need to make a commitment to honest reporting of double taps in order to adhere to the rules of the game.
Achievable: This connects back to specificity. For example, the group might set a goal of 100 consecutive taps but find after many attempts and reformulated plans that this number is unrealistic.
Relevant: This component has to do with insuring that the intention of any goal is to have a positive outcome and, further, that it has value to the person setting it.
Time-bound: In Moonball time can be an added element of the goal. Does the group want to complete 100 taps without time constraints or within ten minutes? The group’s decision will dramatically affect planning and pacing.
When the activity is complete, invite your group to reflect on their goal-setting experience by focusing on each SMART Goal element. For example, how realistic was the goal set by the group? Was the demonstrated commitment during the activity a reflection of the initially stated importance? Was there a need to reformulate any elements of the SMART Goal plan?
Present the activity as described and issue a challenging target for your group to achieve, eg 100 hits. Note the number of attempts your group makes to achieve its target. And when ready, invite your group to reflect on their experience by posing the following questions:
How many attempts do you think your group made to achieve its target?
Does this surprise you, or not? Why?
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most, how successful do you think you were? Share an example that backs up your assessment.
In the face of repeated failures, what kept you motivated?
What strategies helped you build resilience in this exercise?
How might these lessons be applied to other areas of your life?
– thanks to Richard Maizell for contributing some parts of the programming ideas above.
Multiple Moonball: For large groups (or not,) introduce two or more beachballs at the same time.
Hit Once Then Twice: Explain that every person in the group must hit the ball once before anyone can hit it a second time. In this case, challenge your group to attain a score of at least three, ie the ball is hit by everyone (according to this new rule) three times. It’s quite tough.
Hoopla Moonball: Introduce one or more hula-hoops and explain that every time the beachball travels through the middle of a hoop, the group scores two points (not one). Observe what happens next – invariably, the group gets so caught up in trying to score double points, and failing, it will often record lower scores. This variation is a wonderful metaphor for the introduction of new technology – it often takes time before productivity improves.
Macro-Moonball: -Every hit is required to involve as much energy as possible. Generally, while this is much more fun, the target needs to be lowered considerably.
Balloonball: Take a look at Frantic for another terrific keep-the-ball-aloft group initiative.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Setting realistic goals is one of the most important life skills one can develop. It is also said that without a goal, how will you know that you have achieved anything. This next exercise will certainly challenge you to set realistic goals…
Setting a goal in a particular activity without any prior experience is like shooting in the dark. Yet this is exactly what I’m going to ask you to do – how many times do you think as a group can you hit this beachball before it touches the ground…
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 active group initiative:
What did you quickly notice about the performance of the ball?
What was the most challenging part of your task? Why?
How did your group make decisions? What impact did this have on your group & your performance?
How did your group respond when the ball hit the ground?
Does your target say anything about you as a group?
If you were to undertake this task again, what would you do differently?
The inspiration for Moonball, and many more fun, introductory team-building exercises, was sourced from the following publications: