Ask a volunteer to move at least 25 metres away from the rest of the group.
Rest of your group forms a line of ‘spotters’ facing the volunteer, side-by-side about arm’s length apart.
Upon issuing a series of agreed ‘Are-you-ready?’ commands, ask the volunteer to close their eyes, place their hands in front of their face, and run at three-quarter pace directly towards the line of spotters.
Runner should aim to maintain a constant pace and only stop when the spotters make contact with their hands.
Spotters aim to stop the runner from passing through their line, by meeting the runner’s hands with their own.
Repeat with several volunteers.
Video Transcript for I Trust You, But…
presented by Mark Collard
We’re going to use an exercise now where, one person at a time if they choose, is going to move or travel towards a line of spotters.
In the books this is referred to as ‘I Trust You, But…’ because we’ll have a line of spotters very wide, we’ll have someone probably twenty, twenty-five metres away who after we’ve gone through the appropriate safety calls of ‘Are you ready, Yes we’re ready, Spotters ready, Okay I’m about to run’ will then at three-quarter pace run with their eyes closed towards the rest of the spotters.
If you are a spotter, that is we have a line of spotters, your object is to keep obviously your eyes on the person running towards you, remember they’ve got their eyes closed, and meet your hands with their hands, because they’ll be running with Bumpers Up, as best you can.
Ideally you’ll have two or three people perhaps meeting hands with that person. As soon as you, the person who’s running, comes into contact with the spotters, we ask you to stop. Don’t keep going, you’ll only mow over more people.
So to repeat in a moment we’re going to have a line of spotters who’ll be effectively really only no more than a probably a metre apart from each other in terms of where your feet are, so there’s no big gaps. If, though, the person doesn’t run in a straight line we can clearly move a little bit.
Our object is to be able to meet that person and often what I find is if you run back a couple of steps with them it’ll help decelerate their pace as well.
The person who will be choosing to run towards that group, your object is to keep a steady pace as possible. You won’t know when you’ve hit the line until you’ve actually come in contact with the line.
Watch what happens as we go and we’ll go through it several times.
So you’re going up a little bit of a hill here.
Now, keep that in mind, but in a moment you’ll have your eyes closed and you’ll have your Bumpers Up, so it’ll look a little bit like this.
The idea is to keep your pace as consistent as possible. Okay? Don’t start until we’ve gone through a series of calls.
So we’ll go through the calls. The calls and the words used aren’t very important so much as the exchange of the calls to make sure everyone is ready.
So on this occasion, I’ll just simply say you’re going to ask if your spotters are ready, we’ll just say ‘Spotters are ready’ at which point you may choose to move.
Could I ask you to go back a little bit further for me Jack? Do you want to move a little bit more to your right mate, just so you are somewhere in the middle?
Remembering group, if he happens to veer, we’re able to move. You’re not stationary little statues. Have you got the idea?
Alright, so we got your spotters ready. When you’re ready Jack, nice big voice, we’ll use the same over here.
(Jack runs to the spotters as part of I Trust You, but…)
Alright, good play. Well played. Excellent spotting, good running as well.
Now I‘m going to suggest we do it again, we’ll do it several more times, as much as is possible I would ask that the group keep silent. Is it possible Jack you could hear the line getting closer to you?
(A little bit.)
A little bit, okay. Not wrong or right it’s just going to give you a few clues you’re getting close.
The object is as much as possible it should come as a surprise when you actually meet your spotters. We’ve got time for quite a few more people. Who would like to go next now that we have an idea of what that looks like?
Got it, Nellie, off you go. Remember you’re always, you’re going uphill on the way we’ve placed ourselves here so just be sure you start in the centre.
Start with the calls.
(Nellie runs to the spotters.)
(Here I come.)
(Nellie runs to the spotters as part of I Trust You, but…)
(And that was called I Trust You, But?)
I Trust You, But…
So where do you think that name comes from? You know often most of the very inventive names aren’t particularly inventive they actually reflect the name of the game. So why do you think it’s called I Trust You, But…?
(Because we doubt you.)
(I’m not sure.)
I’m not sure. Yup. Did we see any of that?
(Oh yeah. At the end. It’s like I’m trusting you and then oh I don’t know if I trust you.)
And not for wrong or right it’s just that’s a really natural thing. That’s baked into us as human beings is to survive, is to look after ourselves and there’s that sense of. So if you were running and there was a half a dozen more of you who did have a go at running, what did you notice? What, why, what happened for you as you were running? What was some of the thoughts that went through your mind?
(I felt as though I should have hit the line a lot sooner than I did. That what made me… I wasn’t worried that you weren’t going to catch me. It was about more like I’m in that field over there.)
(It’s perception of expectations and when you sort of, those expectations are sort of exceeded then it’s sort of like you’re in this…)
(No man’s land.)
(…like I wanted to control and figure it out again and have new expectations. You know and that’s kind of cool I was so far off. I was just like I should have hit them and you’re about thirty yards away from me.)
Yeah, and then there’s a surprise where abouts along the line you’ve also been caught. If you thought you went for the centre, but a number of us were actually left or right of that, yeah.
(I found it very freeing because I could let go and run and know that I was going to be okay. And that was a very freeing feeling, I trusted, I let go.)
Great, and yet we know for certain within our own group, but for the groups that you’re maybe you’re working with that’s not going to come as easily. That’s a really big thing, particularly for a group that you’ve only just met and don’t know perhaps particularly well. So it’s a big step forward.
How To Play Narrative
Ask for a volunteer to be the first ‘runner,’ and while they tramp up to one end of your space about 25 metres (80′) away, align the rest of your group into one long line of spotters about arms-length apart from one another at the opposite end.
Once your spotters are in place and the ‘runner’ is blindfolded, ask for the runner to initiate a series of agreed calls to prepare everyone for their assault.
On “GO,” the runner will place their hands out in front of their face and run directly towards the line of spotters in front of them. Given that they are blind, it is recommended that you instruct your runners to travel at a three-quarter pace only. A walk would be pointless, but a full-out sprint could prove dangerous.
This is what’s supposed to happen…
The spotters will keep a vigilant eye on the runner, with their hands up in front of them ready to meet the hands (not the body) of the runner as soon as he/she arrives. Using their hands and arms as a spring will soften the halting process which is preferable to stopping the runner by colliding with their torso.
Instruct your group that a minimum of two spotters must make contact with the runner’s hands to slow them down.
Also, the spotters should keep as silent as possible, even when they have to adjust their position left or right, so the runner is not given any clues as to where the end of the space is.
Ideally, the runner should aim to keep moving at an even pace at all times, even when they think they have come to the end of the space. That is, the runner should only stop when the spotters stop him or her.
Typically, and in the interests of self-preservation, most runners will slow down a little, if not stop completely when they think they have approached or passed the end.
In a perfect world, they will not slow down or open their eyes until they have been stopped by their spotters.
There is always a ton of observations and insights to share at the end of this exercise, so allow ample time for a discussion between volunteer runners.
Debriefing topics may include what it means to trust, how it felt to be the runner, why did people slow down, etc. See the Reflection Tips tab for more.
Practical Leadership Tips
If you have a very small group of say 3 or 4 people, spread your group out but clearly instruct your group to move left or right so that the runner will always come into contact with at least two spotters, ie and not run through a gap in the line.
The potential for harm is very real in this exercise if your group is not adequately prepared – mentally, physically and emotionally – for the challenge. To this end, consider your sequence carefully.
You are strongly encouraged to have introduced the basic skills of spotting BEFORE you attempt this activity. Knowledge and practice of what it means to safely arrest the movement of another person, and keep everyone – the runner and spotters – safe are critical. Take a look at the article How To Teach Effective Spotting for a useful spotting skills sequence.
If you observe a runner choosing to run full-pelt towards their spotters, call “STOP” immediately, and ask them to re-start at a three-quarter pace.
It is rare, but keep an eye out for the runner who, once their eyes are closed, loses all sense of direction and runs in a circle, or at a right-angle to their spotters. If you see this, call “STOP” immediately.
If you happen to be running this exercise indoors, I’d suggest that your line of spotters step at least a few metres (margin of error) away from the wall towards which the runner is heading.
Honouring Challenge by Choice, I would recommend that you simply invite only those who volunteer to be runners. It may be nice, but certainly not necessary, to ask everyone to complete this task.
Even though it may get tedious, always, always, always insist that your group commit to the series of ‘Are-you-ready?’ commands BEFORE someone starts running. This routine not only sharpens people’s attention but will pay dividends later in your program, especially if you plan on embarking on higher-level adventures.
You could integrate I Trust You, But… as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
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
This is a dynamic group exercise that is rich in many health and wellness benefits, principal among them being the development of positive behavioural norms. In the context of full value, there are many core behavioural elements that can be explored in your design and processing of this activity. For example, you could invite your group to reflect on their readiness to successfully undertake this activity from a physical, emotional and mental safety point of view. There is no doubt that when all three realms of safety are at stake, the more time you commit (in advance) to building positive and supportive group norms, the more value you will squeeze from this activity.
In a practical demonstration, invite your group to reflect on how it would perceive one of their members running towards the group at only half-pace. Would this pace reflect the person’s concern for their safety because they don’t trust the group or something else? Generally speaking, the more trust there is among group members, the stronger the runner’s pace will be.
Adding to the above, you could present this exercise to explore many emotional competencies on the part of both the runner and the spotters in regards to how they cope with stress, unexpected outcomes, exposing vulnerable emotions, etc. For example, can your group achieve the goals of the activity and feel and show empathy for others at the same time, ie how does the group respond to one of their members choosing not to be a runner.
Self-Spotting: Runners are instructed to stop running just short of the end. This is bound to spark a lot of amusement as many people discover just how poor their sense of direction and distance is.
Walking Only: Walk the distance, without vision of course.
Double Trouble: Invite two people, holding hands (still with eyes closed) to be runners at the same time. Note the interplay between the couple as one reacts differently to the other, and the impact this has on the other.
Powerful trust-building exercise for small groups.
Blindfold group initiative to sharpen listening skills.
Fun blindfold task to sharpen communication skills.
Useful Framing Ideas
As human-beings, we are all born with critical survival instincts which are rarely called upon, but when necessary, are activated in the name of self-preservation. We can’t control these instincts. For example, we all experience a surge of adrenalin when we are suddenly frightened, which in primitive times, would have been used to feed our muscles the extra juice they required to react quickly or flee a predator. This next exercise will explore the fascinating impact of what happens when we think we are going to hit something with our eyes closed, even though we know we are 100% safe…
Even though you may have developed a very strong bond with another person, or a group, at the end of the day, we are all ultimately and personally responsible for our own safety. Only a fool would trust everyone and everything around them blindly, that is to say, without any preparation or forethought. You will see this fascinating phenomenon – of protecting ourselves, even though we know we are physically safe – in this next exercise…
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 dynamic, trust-building stunt:
As spotters, what did you notice as the runner approached you? What did you make this mean?
As a runner, what did you think or experience as you approached the spotters?
Why do you think the runners often slowed down towards the end? Is this a reasonable reaction?
Can you think of other examples in your life in which you or others pull back from participating fully?
The inspiration for I Trust You, But…, and many more fun, trust-building exercises, was sourced from the following publication: