I love versatile props! If I could carry around one thing to use as a prop for planned or spontaneous team building (with a reasonably sized group) it would have to be a single tennis ball.
Here is a list of activities I have lead with a single tennis ball (in a relatively loose progression of challenge - less to more challenging). For some of these activities I have noted a useful resource so you can find out more about the activity. Activities I (sort of) made up, or could not put my hands on a source, I included a short description - open for adaptation and interpretation. So, here you go:
Toss-a-Name Game (Rohnke, Silver Bullets first edition, pg. 17, second edition, pg. 55). Simply toss the tennis ball around (nicely) calling out a persons names BEFORE you toss it to her/him. (Fun variations are included in both publications - I had fun revisiting the classic!!)
Touch My Tennis Ball (variation of Touch My Can, Rohnke, Silver Bullets ed. 1, pg. 108). How many people can touch the tennis ball without touching each other?
Around the Circle How fast can the tennis ball go around the circle - clockwise or counter-clockwise. The process involves handing-off the tennis ball in sequence - no tosses or throws involved. Each person in the group is required to receive and hand-off the tennis ball one time, and one time only.
Don't Touch Me!! (Rohnke, Quicksilver pg. 156. Sikes, Feeding the Zircon Gorilla, pg. 28). Circle up the group - hands on hips and move in to touch elbow-to-elbow. Place the tennis ball in the center of the circle. Challenge: Everyone moves to cross the circle, each person touching the tennis ball (careful movements) and then reform the elbow-to-elbow circle with everyone standing in a new place. Super-Challenge: Cross the circle without touching anyone else.
Group Juggle to Warp Speed (Rohnke, Silver Bullets, ed. 1, pg. 112, ed. 2 pg. 77. Variations in Rohnke's, FUNN 'N Games, pg. 159 & Quicksilver, pg. 201.) Basically, the group creates a "tossing order" where each person in the group tosses and catches the tennis ball one time (not tossing to the people right next to you). Then, the group is challenged to get the tennis ball through the "order" as fast as possible.
Index Movement Establish a starting and ending point for the activity - the longer it is, the longer it will take (resilience??). Place the tennis ball down at the starting point. Challenge the group to move the tennis ball to the ending point. Each player is only allowed to use one index finger to touch the tennis ball. If a player is touching the tennis ball, s/he is not allowed to move her/his feet. If the tennis ball drops, it is brought back for a re-start.
Frontloading & Processing Questions (ask and then hand the tennis ball around for responses):
I've also played SPUD with a tennis ball ("the right group at the right time"). The ball, from an underhanded toss, must bounce off the floor (or hit the ground) before it touches another player on the leg or foot. I've used this game as a nice warm-up to team building. I watch how people play and treat each other during competitive situations. And, of course, stop the game if it is not well played!! (Google SPUD if you're not sure about how to play.)
Do you have another idea for using one tennis ball? Please share in the comments!!
All the best,
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Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.
This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.