Form two lines, standing shoulder to shoulder, facing each other about 1.5 metres apart.
Stand at the opening of one end of the two lines, facing your group.
Group assumes the agreed ‘spotting’ skills position.
Upon issuing a series of agreed ‘Are-you-ready?’ commands, walk slowly between the two lines.
Adopting an unsteady manner, attempt to walk to the end of the two lines, falling randomly at any time.
Group aims to protect you from falling to the ground, and when you do, returns you to equilibrium, each time.
Repeat with several volunteers.
How To Play Narrative
This activity is designed specifically to reinforce effective an spotting skills sequence, but is also a wonderful tactile exercise to sharpen your group’s safety awareness, focus and have a little fun in the process.
Split your group into two smaller groups – see Getting Into Teams for ideas – and ask each of them to stand in a straight line facing the other about 1 to 1.5 metres (3-5′) apart.
There should be a lovely straight corridor between the two lines of ‘spotters.’ Ideally, ask people to stand shoulder to shoulder with their neighbours to close any large gaps in the line.
This is one of those activities which I believe is useful for you, as the facilitator, to demonstrate first what can happen.
Standing at one end of the corridor, issue a series of agreed commands (for example, “ARE MY SPOTTERS READY? – READY – I’M READY TO WALK – WALK AWAY”) back and forth to prepare and focus your group, and then walk slowly through the middle of the spotters. Notice I used the word ‘slowly.’
Your object, as the walker, is to appear as if everything is ‘cool,’ and then without warning, suddenly lean or fall to any one of the 360 degrees around you. Your group’s object is to catch your fall, and then prop you upright to resume your journey.
Explain to your group that it is not their job as spotters to keep you (the walker) upright at all times, rather it is to simply to be there when they fall (in any direction,) and return you to equilibrium. So there is always ample moving space between you and your spotter’s hands.
The reason you should go first is to ‘test’ the reaction of your group when you choose to fall backwards or forwards – the two most likely directions your group may not be prepared for.
One of two results will occur:
One, you will be effectively spotted, which is good news for everyone, or…
Two, you fall flat on your butt, which is not so good, but – because you are prepared for this possibility – you will be ready to break your fall. This second consequence will rapidly focus your group, and is why I recommend you do not invite a participant to go first, for the just-in-case they are not caught.
As soon as the walker exits, the exercise is over, ie no smartie-pants should attempt to feign a fall beyond this point.
Repeat this exercise with several volunteers as often as you feel necessary.
Practical Leadership Tips
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 break someone’s fall, and keep everyone – the faller and spotter – safe is critical. Take a look at the article How To Teach Effective Spotting Skills for a useful spotting skills sequence.
Emphasise that the gauntlet should be approached slowly – without pace – to allow the spotters ample time to respond.
Honouring Challenge by Choice, I would recommend that you simply invite a small number of volunteers to walk the gauntlet. It is not necessary, nor useful, to ask everyone to complete this task.
Just as a ‘walker’ is asked not to fall forward at the exit of the two lines, impress that they should not fall backwards at the start of the lines either.
Even though it may get tedious, always, always, always insist that your group commit to the series of ‘Are-you-ready?’ commands BEFORE someone walks the gauntlet. This routine not only sharpens people’s attention, but it will pay dividends later in your program, especially if you plan on embarking on higher-level adventures.
Running the gauntlet is an excellent energiser for any group or setting, even if you’re not practicing or reinforcing spotting skills. But, ignore my advice shared in the above points at your peril.
For the record – and in case anyone should ask – the term to run the gauntlet should not be confused with this exercise. By definition, it means to take part in a form of corporal punishment in which the guilty party is forced to run between two rows of soldiers who attack them. Ouch!
Age Appropriate Context: With young people, suggest that they are very tired and wonky on their feet, and for adults, they are walking home from the pub after a big night of drinking! Observe the fun index sky-rocket.
Vision Impaired: Do it blindfolded (the walker, not the spotters.)
Imagine a world in which it was never possible to hurt yourself because there was an army of people – or spotters – always stationed around you prepared to protect you at all times. Although you may fell quite claustrophobic or smothered, you would be very safe. This next exercise imagines a world just like that…
A rock-solid principle of effective learning is to always reinforce what has just been learned. Sometime ago, we practiced the skills associated with ‘spotting’ in which we focused on the movements of another with a view to protect them from harm. It’s time to revisit these skills, but in a fun, imaginative way…
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. So, as we move into an exercise in which you may be invited to ‘trust’ everyone around you, we will explore exactly what this means and how trust manifests itself within a group context…
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 game:
What did you notice as you walked through the two lines of spotters?
What did you notice as a spotter?
What feelings did you experience, as a spotter and/or walker?
Which role felt like it was the most vulnerable? Why?
Did it matter having a line of spotters around the walker?
The inspiration for The Gauntlet, and many more simple trust-building exercises, was sourced from the following publication: