Lay a long rope in a straight line on the ground/floor.
Ask your group to stand directly on the rope with both feet.
Challenge your group to re-arrange their positions on the rope according to a particular sequence, eg date of birth (not including the year.)
All movements must be made with at least one foot always touching the rope.
Also, no other part of a person’s body (eg hands) is permitted to touch the floor.
Apply an appropriate penalty if a rule is infringed.
Challenge the group to complete the task with as few penalties as possible.
Video Transcript for TP Shuffle on Rope
presented by Mark Collard
In front of you is just a regular, old skipping rope for however many number of metres as it is. I’ll ask you now to stand on the rope, anywhere you like.
Terrific. And so everyone’s got a spot. In fact, we could actually have a very large group and there would be plenty of room but we’re still going to use this space.
Here’s your objective, and we’re going to integrate some of the skills you’ve already learned from other experiences where you’re kind of looking after each other but naturally you are still principally responsible for your own safety.
Your objective is at all times any movement that you make must be with your feet on the rope. That is to say you can’t step off the rope. Some part of your feet, clearly the rope is a lot thinner than your shoe, but your shoe must at all times be on the rope as you’re experiencing this activity.
It could be in the air and that’s okay, but it can’t be on the grass or anywhere else. It can’t be resting on a piece of wood or whatever. It’s either on the rope or it’s in the air, nowhere else.
And it’s the task of simply rearranging yourselves, okay? The penny just dropped. Here’s the way in which I would like you to rearrange yourself. From the 1st of January to the 31st of December, and let’s just go for your birthdays because that’s a pretty simple place to start.
You have all faculty about you. The issue you will need to deal with is the fact that you’re all pretty much standing in a straight line. That’s hard to communicate. So consider that as part of your solution as a group.
The activity is complete when everyone is standing on the rope in the correct sequence according to the date of birth not including your year. So it’s the 1st of January through the 31 days of January all the way through to the 31 days of December.
If for any reason any part of your body actually touches on to the ground, for example you might lose your balance and touch with your hand or you put your foot down or something of that nature, count it. Make sure the group is aware, but as a group you’re going to count the number of times you spill.
(Rather than starting over?)
You’re not going to start over, but you’ll just simply count the number of times you spill. Go.
(people moving across the rope as part of TP Shuffle on a Rope)
Are you all there?
(We’re all there.)
Give yourselves a little hand. Well done. Congratulations.
For some of those experienced particularly ropes course or initiative practitioners, what does that activity look like or reflect? Is there a particular activity…?
(people moving in TP Shuffle on a rope.)
TP standing for Telephone Pole, TP Shuffle, or I’ve also known as the Total People Shuffle, but either way. Telephone Pole Shuffle. However, how far off the ground were you?
It’s not even necessary to have done spotting skills for that purpose. And it’s accessible. You can do this in your corporate training room as well you can do it in your classroom or outdoors as well.
How To Play Narrative
The original TP Shuffle is a wonderful group initiative, but as it required a long 5 to 8 metre pole laying on its side, it was not always readily accessible. Until now…
Lay a long rope in a straight line on the floor (or relatively even ground) and ask your group to stand directly onto it with both feet.
Next, explain that you would like them to now re-arrange their current positions according to a particular sequence, for example, the month and date of their birth.
So, at one end of the rope it is possible that someone may be standing with a birth date of 1 January, and next to them, 2nd of January, and so on, through the days and months to 31 December at the opposite end of the rope (see Variations tab for more ideas.)
However – here’s the kicker – all movements must be made with at least one foot (of each person) always touching the rope. If at any time, one or more people involved in a move should discover that both of their feet are not touching the rope, they will incur a penalty.
Penalties will also be incurred if any other part of a person’s body (such as their hand or butt) should touch the ground – often because they were used to break a fall.
Typically, penalties vary from simply counting the number of infractions, to requiring the offender to move to the end of the rope opposite to the direction they were travelling.
For example, if a person with a birth date of September should incur a penalty, they must start over from the January end of the rope. Yeah, tough, I know!
While clearly this version of the task is not performed while balancing on a telephone pole, it does offer many of the benefits of the original group initiative, including the development of creativity, support and communication skills.
Practical Leadership Tips
For trivia buffs, you may be interested to know that the ‘TP” stands for telephone pole because the original initiative was made from a telephone pole laying on its side, slightly elevated off the ground. I have also heard it could mean ‘total people.’
Naturally, people’s feet will overlap the rope and be touching the floor. So, the key to ensuring quality control is that at least one foot of every person is touching the rope at all times. The overlapping is not an issue.
You’re permitted to be ruthless in this exercise. If you see someone use their foot to touch into the forbidden area to quickly regain their balance, issue a penalty no matter how quick the move was. A sure sign a ‘rule’ has been infringed is that one or more people who saw it occur will immediately look to you (to check if you saw it happen.) Even when I have missed the infraction, their guilty looks are normally enough for someone to fess up.
Observe your group’s willingness or reluctance to touch one another to physically assist a person who is negotiating a pass. Note that a team, as distinct from a group of individuals, will commit whatever actions to ensure success, for example, by offering to help someone, rather than assume that they can manage a particular move on their own. If this observation appears significant, consider processing this topic at the end of the activity.
Further to the point above, encourage your group to offer physical assistance to maintain safety, ie a person standing on just one foot and passing another is less likely to fall if they are being held by their neighbours.
The original TP Shuffle challenge course activity appeared in Cowstails & Cobras, by Karl Rohnke.
Sequence Alternatives: Announce one of many criteria to form the desired sequence, eg the last two digits of their mobile phone number, street number, height, shoe size, length of hair, etc.
Blind Shuffles: Complete the task with several members of the group blindfolded.
U-Shape Shuffle: Fold or curve the rope so that it conforms to a U shape, allowing for most people to see each other.
Dynamic team-building exercise, ideal for small groups.
Useful Framing Ideas
Have you ever noticed that when you are standing at one end of a line or queue, it is almost impossible to know what the people at the other end are saying or doing? Even if you can hear the people at the other end of the line, the biggest problem is that you can’t see them. So, generally speaking, one of the most effective ways to manage a conversation in a group setting is to form a circle. Forming a circle will not be possible with this next exercise, however, your success as a group will still rely heavily on your ability to communicate effectively…
An exercise we will be undertaking later [in the day, the course, the program, life, etc] will require a significant commitment from your group to offer one another lots of support. And when I say support, what do you think I mean? [invite comments] That’s right, it involves all levels of support, physically, emotionally and mentally. This next activity will prepare you as a group to step up to this challenge in a small way…
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 fun problem-solving exercise:
What observations did you make at the start of the activity?
What processes did your group adopt during the exercise? How effective were they?
What types of feelings were experienced during the task? How many of these were observed or acknowledged? What does this say?
What types of support were offered? How did this assist your group to be successful?
If you were to attempt this task again, what would you do differently?
The inspiration for TP Shuffle on a Rope came to me on a day when I discovered that the outdoor wooden TP Shuffle was too wet and slippery to use.