Sport Psychology (Video): Broken Pipe Relay Icebreaker and Cooperative Game

Sport Psychology (Video): Broken Pipe Relay Icebreaker and Cooperative Game

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

The "Broken Pipe Relay" is an excellent icebreaker and cooperative activity. It forces students to communicate and work together in order to move a ball-bearing through a number of sections of PVC conduit.

Divide your class into groups of 6-12 students. Provide each student with a two-foot piece of plastic PVC conduit, available at any home building center or hardware store. Each group gets a small ball bearing or marble that will fit into the tubing.

How to Play
The members of each team put their sections of conduit together to form one long tube (or "pipe"). The goal of the game is to move the ball bearing through a total distance of 30-50 feet, or two-to-three times the length of the pipe.

The groups accomplish this by having students at the front of the pipe move to the back after the ball has rolled through their section of conduit. They place their segment of conduit at the back of the pipe, which shifts the entire pipe closer to the finish line.

The first team to reach the finish line wins the game.

Need for Communication and Cooperation
Students must communicate because of several factors:

  • The segments of conduit must be aligned perfectly in order for the ball to roll through them.
  • The ball will only roll downhill. As a result, students must work together to change the height and angle of the pipe whenever the ball stops moving.
  • A section of conduit cannot be moved until the ball has rolled through it. So students must be able to hear the ball moving through the tube and communicate that to their teammates.

To see a demonstration of the
Broken Pipe Relay, watch the video below:

Reference: Idea from Liam Wilson and Kris Lewis, sport psychology students at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario. From the Laurentian cross-country running team's training camp, September 2009.

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© 2010, Physical Education,

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