Although the origin is unknown, the passing game “Five Passes” has been in the Dynamic Physical Education for Elementary School Children textbook and lesson plans since 1972. In other words, it’s an “oldie but a goodie”. One beauty of this game is that it offers a plethora of variations to integrate many skills, concepts, and sports. Further, it allows for various curriculum and instructional models. As a qualifier, as with most things in life, Five Passes is not inherently good or bad. It has to be taught using effective teaching practices. Thus, simply using the information presented below alone for an entire lesson without the use of progression, skill instruction, questioning, scaffolding, differentiation, and/or an instructional model is not advocated. If you want to learn more about these, I encourage you to look into them as this blog does not allow space to delve into them in detail.
The basic purpose of the passing game is for a team (preferably small-sided) to get five passes in a row to score a point. Typically, the game is played with a 5” dia coated-foam ball with throwing, passing, and catching as the primary manipulative skills used to achieve five passes. Using this as the foundation is where the fun starts. The remainder of this blog will outline various modifications to rules, scoring, and equipment that allow one game to turn into infinite possibilities for learning experiences.
Typically when taught, the first “challenge” is simply for the offensive team to get five passes in a row without the ball being knocked away or dropped. The defense works to prevent five passes. From there rules and tactics can be added one or two at a time. Adding them all at once is not advised as this takes extended time for instruction, and students are not able to absorb and apply all of the rules/tactics. Additional basic rules are provided below. Keep in mind, depending on the variation, other rules may be necessary.
- The player with the ball can hold the ball for only three seconds.
- The player with the ball can take only three steps.
- The player with the ball can dribble three times.
- The defense has to be arm’s length away from the player with the ball. The ball can be contacted/caught only by the defense while it’s in the air.
- No pass backs for 4 vs 4 or greater.
- At least three team members must catch one of the five passes if greater than 4 vs 4.
- If the ball goes to the ground, that last team to possess the ball must give the ball to the other team. This prevents diving and scrums on the floor for the ball.
- The first time teaching this game it is advantageous to do so in scattered formation. That is, one team is not going in one direction or the other. This allows students to get the hang of the concepts and strategy without confounding the process with directions.
- Once the rules have been added and students are grasping the concepts, then directions can be added. This can be accomplished with a rule such as “if the blue team catches their fifth pass in the coned off area on the north side of the gym, they get two points. Red team, your coned off area is on the south side.”
- One final step for a basic game designed to lead-up to a game such as Team Handball is to add a scoring mechanism. For instance, after the fifth pass, if a team can throw the ball into their goal, they receive two points. The variations discussed below have countless modifications that may require unique progressions.
The obvious variations for the basic Five Passes game are for any invasion game such as basketball, soccer, hockey, tchoukball, and ultimate. The most prominent change will be the equipment used, the skills needed, and scoring. However, the foundational information provided above remains.
- This version is played 2 v 2 and final pass must be hit (slammed) into the goal. The goal can be a cone, a cone with a ball on top, a clothes basket, Saucer Slam goal etc.
- Next, four teams of 3 play on four small courts in a grid like space. One player from each team guards their goal in their grid. Teams can score on any of the other three goals and 2 to 3 balls are used.
- Finally, to add an element of volleying in the game, the fifth pass must be set to a teammate who then spikes into the goal. This version may require a larger goal.
This adaptation was created by 3rd grade students of mine while teaching at the Episcopal School of Dallas. The small twist on the kick-off added an element of excitement and energy for them. This change also prevented the “losers walk” and game stoppage of a traditional kick off.
- The game is played with a Fun Gripper Football rather than a traditional ball.
- No steps are allowed and no dribbling. Older students may be able to dribble the football with their feet or hands but the elementary students could not.
- Once a team scores, the person who catches the pass immediately throws the ball to the other end of the field. This serves as the kick-off and the ball has to go beyond the center line.
- The team who catches the kick-off is immediately on offense. The only rule I added is a team could not score more than two touchdowns in a row.
This game is another oldie but goodie created by Marjorie Larsen in the 50’s. It combines soccer, football, team handball, and many other skills. It is included here because teachers can build on Five Passes to teach this game. Below are some additional rules.
- Players wear flags. If a player in possession of the ball has his/her flag pulled, the ball changes possession.
- The ball can be advanced either by dribbling with hands, running (no more than three steps before a hand dribble), or dribbling with the feet.
- If the ball is on the ground and in play, it cannot be picked up with the hands. It has to be transferred from the feet to the hands. Players can do this by lifting it to themselves, or a teammate can lift it to another teammate. Advanced students may be able to pass with their foot, ala a soccer pass, to a teammate down field.
- Running the ball into the endzone is worth one point. Throwing to a teammate in the endzone is two points. Kicking to a teammate in the endzone is worth three points.
- As with most games, rules, such as how many players must touch the ball, how many touchdowns a player can have, etc. should be added as needed to avoid one or two players dominating a game.
I will force myself to stop here. I am sure most of you kept thinking, “or you could do this” to each of the ideas presented above. And there are so many more variations that could be taught, all building on the foundational concept taught with Five Passes. I encourage you to try some of these or variations or your own ideas. Change things up. It might work or it might not. That’s okay. Ask students how to improve the game. Have them add rules or suggest equipment changes. Empower students to make the game their own. THRIVE!