Extend a skipping rope between you and a volunteer.
With your group standing to one side of the rope, start rotating the rope.
Challenge your group to pass to the other side of the rope, one person at a time, without touching the rope.
Next, repeat the task, but this time, each person must jump the rope as they pass.
One new person must jump each consecutive rotation of the rope.
With each successful, consecutive jump, the group scores a point.
If the rope rotates fully without a new person jumping it, the count returns to zero.
Set your group a target to achieve, or invite them to set one for themselves.
Allow ample time for your group to plan, discuss and problem-solve the exercise.
Invite your group to reflect on their process at the end.
How To Play Narrative
There are many metaphors wrapped up in this simple, yet challenging team-building exercise. Or enjoy it for the sheer joy and energy it will raise in your group.
Find a wide, flat and open space. Ask for a volunteer to take one end of your long rope and stand away from you as if they were going to start turning the rope, aka skipping rope style.
At first, you’ll want to prepare your group for the ultimate task. With your group standing to one side of the rope, start by gently turning the rope.
Initially, your group’s task is to pass to the other side of the rope, one person at a time, without touching the rope. They can do this however they want. Walk, run, skip, but at this stage, discourage any jumping. It will mostly look like people running fast under the rope.
Once successfully attained, ramp up the challenge. Now ask your group to pass to the other side, one person at a time, jumping the rope as they pass.
But here’s the kicker – one new person must have jumped the rope with each consecutive rotation of the rope. With each successful, consecutive jump, the group scores a point. Therefore, if the rope rotates fully without a new person jumping it, the count returns to zero.
Set your group a target to reach, or invite them to set one for themselves. In the beginning, expect a lot of misses, and gradually, their performance will improve.
In addition to many opportunities for communication, collaboration and creativity, the exercise focuses on systems-thinking, continuous improvement and rhythm.
Practical Leadership Tips
Clearly this turnstyles exercise involves extended periods of physical activity and jumping. These are two activities which do not come easy to some people, so consider your sequence carefully before presenting this exercise.
The length of rope you require will depend on the number of people in your group, eg 10-15 metres is good for up to 20-25 people.
If you have the time, and the inclination, progress through the preparatory variations first, and then finish with the most challenging, whole-of-group task (see Variations tab.)
Apparently, there is a correct rotation of the rope to assist people to jump it. For most people, it requires the rope to rotate front the top of the arc towards them. If you’re not sure, just ask your group.
As one of the two rope-turners, you have a deep responsibility to rotate the rope consistently and evenly. This is very hard to do, especially when you want your group to be successful and it’s pretty easy to manipulate the rope as your turn it, eg drop the rope a little lower when someone is struggling to jump high enough, or swing the rope out a little wider when the jump does not occur directly under the arc.
At first the parameters appear to suggest that one new jumper joins all existing jumpers inside the rope, but this is not necessary nor true. Ordinarily, an individual will jump once, and then exit immediately as the new person enters the rope. However, that said, there is no reason why one or more people may choose to remain inside the rope – provided a new person jumps the rope with each successive rotation, the count will continue to increase no matter how many people are inside it.
Easy Start: Keeping most of the rope on the ground at all times, wiggle the rope left and right so that it appears like a slithering snake. Invite your group to move from one side of the rope to the other, again, without touching it. A fun, yet simple introduction to the exercise.
Partners: Start with passing the rope as individuals, and then as pairs, fours, eights, etc until the whole group can pass together in one large movement. Invite the groups to be physically connected as they pass, or not.
Two In A Row: Start with the whole group standing within 30cm of one side of the rope (laying on the ground.) When ready, challenge your group to jump the turning rope together once, twice or even three times in a row. It’s not as simple as it sounds.
Take a look at Skipping Rope for a simple, no-prop, skipping warm-up to this exercise.
Useful Framing Ideas
How many of you learned to skip rope when you were at school? Was it something you enjoyed or were good at? It is highly likely that looking at this rope now brings back many of these memories. The difference today is that we’re working as a group…
The world’s record for the number of jumps of a rope in one minute is 332 times. Hard to believe isn’t it, but it’s true. The rope turns so fast, they have to reply the video to count the number of turns. Thankfully, this will not be necessary in this next exercise, but there will be counting involved.
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 exciting and active team-building exercise:
What did you say to yourself when you first realised this exercise would involve a skipping rope?
What was the most difficult part of this exercise? Why?
What did your group do to solve problems?
On what basis did your group make decisions?
Can you give me examples of how your group accommodated the needs of everyone?
What were the most critical skills involved to be successful in this task?
What elements of continuous improvement could we apply to other areas of our lives?
The inspiration for Turnstyles was sourced from one of my early mentors who shared this terrific team-building exercise during my internship with Project Adventure.