Tips for Trainers – The Versatility of the Bull Ring

Facilitator Tip: The Versatility of the Bull Ring

I still remember the first time I saw the Bull Ring activity. I was in grad school and attending my first AEE conference in Lake Geneva, WI, and I fell in love with the versatility of this tool. I thought I would share several different ways you can adapt this activity for my tip today. Hopefully this gets your creative juices flowing, and that you try one of them out!

The Bull Ring in it’s simplest form is a team activity that requires a group to work together to lift a ball off of a cone using a ring with strings as the system to transport the ball. The challenge is to carry a ball through a series of obstacles and place the ball onto the goal, the ball stand, using the bull ring. One of the things I love about this activity, is that you can incorporate as many limitations and obstacles as you want to make this activity more difficult. For example, only allow the participants to hold the very end of the strings. Or the only people who can touch the strings are blindfolded. Generally you want one string per participant, however, if you have more people than strings introduce blindfolds or other limitations to ensure that everyone is involved with the process. Create obstacles such as doorways, trees or a table. Get creative and have fun!

This activity can be hard or easy based on the parameters that you set up for the group. One suggestion is to let your participants choose the level of challenge they would prefer to have. This allows your participants to have more ownership of their experience. Give them an option to choose a desired level of difficulty ranging from 1-5. For example: Level 1 would be a very simple task, 3 would be a medium challenge, and 5 would be very difficult.

Level 1 challenge: Let the group get close to the ball in the center. Allow the group to drop the ball without starting over.

Level 5 challenge: Incorporate another initiative while doing bull ring. This group is traversing on the TP Shuffle ropes course initiative while doing Bull Ring.

Another common variation is the Bull Ring Candelabra, where multiple groups have to all place their ball on the same apparatus all at the same time.

Use PVC pipe to create a Candelabra as the ending point. Each ending point must be at a different height for this to work.

Another variation would be the Bull Ring Cup Stack activity. I like to use Dixie cups and let groups brainstorm what the essential elements of working together as a team are. Then I have them write these on the Dixie Cups. Then, instead of a metal ring I use a rubber band. The group must then build a pyramid with their cups, making the foundation the most important team elements are, then build up from there. This creates wonderful dialog during the activity.

You can also restrict movement by only allowing them the use their non-dominant hand on the strings. They may not touch the cups with their hands.

This also works well for large groups in a confined area.

The versatility of this activity makes it one of my favorites. I’d love to hear some of your variations as well!


Have fun out there,
Michelle Cummings
Owner/Trainer/Big Wheel
Training Wheels