Whenever I get a Venturing crew to a low ropes course (COPE), I lead them in a game of Warp Speed. It’s both fun and frustrating to play, but it’s worth the reflection that occurs at the end of the game. It’s great because it builds team communication skills quickly.

Activity:  Warp Speed—The Message Toss Game

MATERIALS:

One tennis ball, orange, or other throw-able item (ball) per patrol member.

PROCEDURE:

Each team forms a circle. The leader tosses (sends) one ball to Participant B, who receives it and then tosses (sends) it to Participant C, etc., until the ball has been touched once by every individual. The last to touch it sends it back to the leader. Toss the ball around the circuit several more times until everyone is accustomed to receiving from and sending to the same individuals every time.

Then, the leader tosses the ball to Participant B again to start it on another trip around the circle. When that ball is halfway through the circle, add a second ball to the mix which he or she then tosses to Participant B, Participant B to Participant C, and so on. There are now two balls being sent and received around the circle. As long as everyone receives from the same person and sends to the same participant each time, the balls will continue to move smoothly through the system.

As the group gets better, the leader gradually adds more balls to the system, timing their introduction into the circle to keep the balls moving until all the balls are in play. As more balls are added, collisions and misses are inevitable. Ask the group how they can get more balls into the system. Let them try various solutions

Communication Lesson:

What was the message? (The ball.) „
Who was the sender? (The person tossing the ball.) „
Who was the receiver? (The person catching it.) „

What happened when more balls were introduced? „ When did you start dropping balls? „

What does a dropped ball represent in regards to it being a symbol of communication? (It represents an incomplete message.) „ What are the causes of dropped balls or missed/distorted communication?

Among answers that can be explored:
– Too many balls represents too much information.
– If delivery is too fast, receiver may not be ready to catch/listen.
– Sender watching incoming balls/messages rather than concentrating on the message he or she is sending.
– Ball tossed too high or low misses the target. In other words, inappropriate communication for the receiver’s level of experience or expertise may cause a message to be missed.

Ask: How is that like communications in our crew (team or troop)? What can we do about it?

Comment below on how you used this game to teach your crew, team or troop better communication skills.

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Darryl Alder
Darryl is a full time professional Scouter for Utah National Parks Council, Boy Scouts of America, serving as Director of Strategic Initiatives. But his pride in Scouting is his service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative and Commissioner.

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