In advance, tie several loops of 5 metre webbing with a knot.
Distribute one loop of webbing to every small team of approx 5 to 8 people.
Standing in a circle, ask each person to hold the webbing with both hands in front of them.
Explain that their task is to toss the webbing loop into the air and then achieve two goals:
– All hands must catch the webbing at the same time; and
– The webbing should retain the shape of a circle as much as possible at all times.
Allow ample time for each team to make as many attempts as possible to complete the task.
Encourage patience and focus to help each team achieve success.
So… but it’s the lucky one. So each person in your group at the moment should be holding with both of their hands of the loop. There’s actually a ton of activities and many of them you’ll be familiar with that involve rope or tubular webbing. Here’s one that we’re only going to focus on for now.
The challenge for your group is to take the tubular webbing which is in a loop and to perform this next task. Listen carefully. The loop must start in a circle, it must end in a circle, and at all times during the activity it stays in a circle.
However, during that time between the beginning and the end while it stays in a circle you need to toss your webbing into the air above your head but short of the ceiling, so it’s going to go up and down and you’re going to catch it with all of your hands. So if there was six of you in the group all twelve hands need to catch it.
So it starts in all hands, it goes up, it’s a circle, comes down in a circle and it’s caught as a circle and as many hands as possible catch it. When all hands have caught it and it maintains its perfect circle all the way, give yourselves a pat on the back.
So let’s just get a sense of what that looks like. To repeat, it’s going to start in a circle as it is. In a moment we’re about to toss it in the air. It’s going to stay as a circle, and as it comes back down we all grab it keeping it in a circle. Are you ready?
(I like your enthusiasm.)
On three. One. Two. Three.
(people giving Pizza Toss a go)
No one’s saying anything because they’re feeling pretty good, that’s why. Exactly, Steven. Nicely played. Alright. You have several minutes to perfect this highly refined skill. Go.
(people playing Pizza Toss)
But note where right now in each of your groups where the knot in the webbing is. It’s exactly the same but different. This time it starts in a circle, goes up in a circle, comes down in a circle, and before it comes back down that knot needs to have turned 360 degrees around the circle. So clearly you’re having to spin it in the air before it gets caught at the end. Start when ready.
(people playing Pizza Toss)
Yeah, the knot turns. So wherever it starts it goes all the way around and comes back.
(people attempting a Pizza Toss)
That looked very nice.
How To Play Narrative
Pizza Toss is one of those exercises which looks relatively simple on paper, but the solution can be quite difficult to achieve.
Start by sourcing several 5 metre (16′) lengths of tubular webbing, and tying a knot in each to form a loop.
Ask your group to form smaller teams of 5 to 8 people and distribute one loop of webbing to each team. To achieve a random distribution, take a look at Getting Into Teams for ideas.
Standing in a circle, ask each person to grab the webbing with both of their hands in front of them, preferably palm-up (this is not critical, it just tends to be easier.)
Explain that each team, over the course of several minutes, will attempt to toss the webbing loop into the air and then achieve two important goals:
All hands must catch the webbing at the same time; and
The webbing should retain the shape of a circle as much as possible at all times (toss, flight and catch.)
Encourage your teams to toss the webbing at least a metre (3′) over their heads to provide a decent challenge. After several attempts, suggest that each team pause and discuss a more comprehensive plan to solve the problem, if necessary.
Generally speaking, a good pizza tossing team can toss and catch a loop of webbing 2 to 3 times in a row, before the integrity of the circle seriously diminishes.
This is a tough challenge, so consider allocating some time at the conclusion of the activity to reflect on your group’s success or otherwise. There is much to learn about teamwork, focus and coordination.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you can’t source any tubular webbing (most adventure gear retailers stock it,) then any old piece of rope will do the trick. But, tubular webbing works best because it is far more pliable than most rope which is exactly the quality you need in this exercise.
This is one of those activities which you could choose to simply have FUNN, or take more seriously by giving your group a challenging task to complete. Just keep in mind, the challenge in its purest form is very difficult to achieve, but very worthy as a team-building exercise.
Have your camera close by, because there are always good shots to be had while the loop is in the air.
Lead-Foot: The feet of all group members must never move during the tossing and catching of the loop.
Straight Arms: The arms of all team members must remain as straight as possible (no bent elbows) at all times during the tossing and catching phase.
Full Circle: The loop must rotate a full 360 degrees around the circle during flight. That is, the webbing should spin in the air so that the knot in the loop returns to the same person it departed from when it was tossed. In many cases, the centrifugal action of the spin can help the loop retain its circle shape, making the task easier to achieve. Sometimes.
Advanced Toss: Take a look at Helium Stick to explore an equally difficult team-building exercise, featuring very similar attributes.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever seen an Italian pizza maker flatten his pizza dough and at some point spin it above his head? I’ve always wanted to do that. Now, here’s your chance, although without the messy dough…
This next task is extremely difficult to achieve a perfect result. It will take extra-ordinary levels of focus, coordination and teamwork to make it happen. Are you up for the task?…
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 difficult problem-solving exercise:
What did you notice during the exercise?
What were the most difficult/challenging aspects of this exercise?
How would you describe the process your group took to complete the task?
What would you do differently next time?
Would you describe your efforts/results as successful? Why or why not?
The inspiration for Pizza Toss, and many more fun team-building activities involving rope, was sourced from the following publication: