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Introductory Team Building Challenges: Riverboat Challenge

This is an excerpt from Team Building Through Physical Challenges-2nd Edition With Web Resource by Leigh Anderson,Daniel Midura & Donald Glover.

Riverboat is an introductory challenge that requires a group to transport itself across a large, open space. This task generally has one basic solution, but groups usually use the better part of a class period to complete the challenge.

Group members transfer themselves from one end of a basketball-court-sized area to the other end without touching the floor with their bodies.

The group uses two tumbling mats (folded) to create a riverboat. The group must move the mats so that they do not come unfolded. The group must also prevent the mats from crashing to the floor.


  • Two standard-size tumbling mats
  • Two small tires (preferably boat trailer tires)
  • Two long jump ropes (or sash cord)


You need a long, open space the length of a standard basketball court. A wide hallway would also provide adequate work space.


Using mats as a riverboat, the team must transfer themselves from one end of the court to the other without touching the floor.

Rules and Sacrifices

  1. If a group member touches the floor with any part of his or her body, the entire group must go back to the starting position.
  2. The group must take all the equipment across the river.
  3. The mats must remain folded. If the mats (riverboat) fall apart, the entire group returns to the starting position.
  4. If a mat crashes to the floor (explodes), the group must start again.
  5. Group members cannot use last names or put-downs.

Possible Solutions

Generally, the group places one mat on the floor and then passes the other mat to the front. Group members move to the front mat and then lift, pass, or slide the other mat to the front and transfer themselves to the new front mat in a leapfrog manner.

Often, they use the tires as tugboats to assist in the passing of the tumbling mats. As lifeboats, the tires also offer a less crowded situation on the riverboat. Groups usually tie the jump ropes to the tires to move them more efficiently.

Conclusion of the Task

The group completes the challenge when it has successfully crossed the river with all the equipment.

Additions and Variations

  • Make this task more difficult by creating obstacles in the river or requiring the group to perform a portage.
  • Create a storm story whereby the group must reach certain points within time limits or risk taking on more baggage (such as additional equipment).

Safety Considerations

Students should be aware that lifting a heavy tumbling mat awkwardly or incorrectly could result in back muscle pain. Students sometimes put their feet in the tires to hop while moving the equipment; in doing so, they could fall forward and injure themselves if they are not prepared to catch themselves.

More Excerpts From Team Building Through Physical Challenges 2nd Edition With Web Resource