It was all I could do to keep up with the counting how many hits. The circle of players cracked and reformed from second to second as ball fired back and fourth. By the end we were all soaked with sweat and satisfied with a game well played. "Playing ball" in the BATS Improv community has been raised to an art form by some, a religion worthy of debate by others, and the cause of eye-rolling by others. I fall somewhere between the first two.
Ball is a simple game with a several variations of rules, but the basics to the game are as follows:
- You keep the ball in the air, counting the number hits out loud in unison
- You can not hit the ball twice in a row yourself
- You can use any body part (hands, feet, head) to hit the ball
I play and teach ball all the time to brand new students, corporate clients, and experienced improvisers. Each game is different, and like many improv games, the secrets of teamwork, ensemble, and improv lie within if you want to look for them.
This particular match was no different. The game itself is simple and is quickly mastered by most people. This group of avid ball players quickly fell into several rounds in a row where the group moved with incredible flow. When the ball flew far outside the circle the whole group reacted together to compensate, and then back to form the circle, without a word.
Flow is the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity. Wikipedia
This same teamwork and "group flow" is a key ingredient for good improv groups and good organizational teams - with common goals, good communication, and opportunities to bond. Having a sense of play carries over and makes it easier for the group to deal with change in business, mission work, departments, customers or partners.
Try a game of ball, or any other game, with one of the groups or teams in your life. It only takes a few minutes - if you can stop yourselfs. Post a comment and let me know what happens.