Activity: Transformers and Blindfolds / by James Leath

I always start my leadership class with an activity. I do this because I find it breaks the monotony of school, practice, games, repeat. The range of activities we do is anywhere from improvisational games you see on Who's Line is it Anyway to childhood games most kids played on the playground. Sometimes the game has a take away that can be woven into the lesson that day, other times it is just a way to let teammates get silly with one another- something I believe leads to a great culture. Here is how I set it up, as well as two games I have played recently. First, when they enter the classroom, I shake their hand. I stand in front of them and won't let go until they make eye contact with me. I stand in the doorway so they have no where to go except through me. I say hello and use their name. I've said this before, kids love to hear you say their name when you have a smile on your face.

There is music playing in the background. That helps with setting the mood that this is going to be a positive experience. Prince, Michael Jackson, and Pharrell are likely to be coming through the speakers.

"Two minutes, everyone." I give them a warning that we are starting in two minutes. This lets them know to finish up that SnapChat or text message and to put their phone on the table by the door. They know to do this because I expect it of them. We as coaches can tell them all day to get off social media, but it will be in vain. Two minutes later, this:

This is an expectation. I have a fundamental belief that kids are not intentionally disrespectful, they just don't see any other way to behave modeled by people close to them. When I suggest to them it is a sign of respect to put their phones on silent then place them on the table before we get started, they willingly oblige. However, its all in the delivery. Yell at them, demand from them, and they will respond the way you think a teenager will respond: with disrespect.

I turn off the music and begin class. Here are two activities I did just this past week.

Transformers: I separated the football team into groups of 7 athletes which gave my 5 groups. I gave them 30 seconds to come up with a scene (frozen in time) that I yelled out. First, I yelled "King's Throne!" They then had 30 seconds to use everyone in their group to create something that resembled a king's throne. Myself and a few coaches judge each group and come up with a winner. Then I yelled, "Dominoes!" (Having them hold that while we judged was hilarious.) Last one I used was a two-parter: transformer. They had to start as one thing and transform into another when I got to their group and yelled "Transform!" A winner is declared and we started leadership class.

Take Away: Notice who in the groups takes over. You will see leaders take charge and team work together. Since there is a time limit, there is no time to argue or the group will be unsuccessful. Make sure to recognize a few people that stepped up who usually do not, and to notice a few athletes who had to hold a "tough" job in one of the poses.

This photo is the first part of one of the transformers.

Blind Freeze Tag: The second activity I want to share is Freeze Tag, but with a slight twist. I paired up the athletes and put blindfolds on one of them. It is important to do this on grass and to instruct the athletes to always walk, being careful not to swing their arms like a crazy person. I had two taggers. When someone is tagged, they must freeze and put their hand up. To unfreeze them, a blindfolded teammate must give them a high five.

Take Away: Communication and trust are big take aways from this activity. We talked about how must confidence a blindfolded athlete had in his or her partner and what was it like to have to help an athlete who could not see navigate the game.

Bottom line: Activities like this are a great way to break up the monotony of being a student athlete. I hope you found value in me sharing some of the ways I get student athletes to look forward to my class. Please try them and let me know how it worked out for you!