Ahhh, the classic “Sharks and Minnows” game.
If you went to volleyball camps as a child, you probably played this game at least once.
But the hard thing about playing games as a kid, is that you don’t always remember them as an adult!
Let me give you a quick refresher on this classic warm-up game as you start to prepare for summer volleyball camps.
Have at least one court, though two is better. One full-size basketball court should be enough space for most youth and middle school camps.
Not everyone has the luxury of EXTRA court space, but if you have room where there isn’t a net setup, I prefer to use that (4th graders sometimes run into things when they’re avoiding getting tagged).
Have all players line up along the basketball end line.
Pick 3-4 of the most outgoing players (differing age groups) from this line. They will be the “sharks.” Send them to the middle of the court, spread out from one another.
Every player remaining is a “minnow.”
RUN THE DRILL
On your whistle, every minnow will leave the end line and try to make it safely across the court to the opposite end line without being tagged by a shark.
What happens if they’re tagged? They are frozen in place and become kelp!
Kelp sway in the water (but those feet are planted!) and they try to tag minnows who are running past them.
Once a player is tagged by either a shark or a piece of kelp, they become frozen in place as well.
After every minnow who is still in the running makes it across the gym, blow your whistle and it starts again! They must cross the “ocean” and get back to the safety of the opposing end line.
The goal of this warm-up is to be the final minnow remaining! This requires avoiding sharks and pieces of kelp. If no player makes it to the final side, the last player to be tagged is the winner.
NOTES ON RULES AND SAFETY
Players will try to run AROUND the court (think up on bleachers, through hallways, etc.) just to avoid being tagged by a shark. I appreciate the creative thinking, but that has potential to get dangerous! Let your minnows know they must stay within the boundary of the court lines you designate, for safety reasons, or else they become kelp automatically. Use counselors to enforce boundary rules.
Remove anything nearby which might cause injury if it’s ran into (chairs, bags, etc.) by at least 4-5 feet. Minnows will dive out of the way of getting tagged, and again, could injure themselves.
Some sharks might get a little too aggressive, so try to pick sharks who can control themselves and won’t start diving on other players or running into kelp in their pursuit!
This game may be too intimidating for younger players, and although I always encourage everyone to participate, young/shy players might cry if you force them into this drill (speaking from experience here).
It IS scary for smaller/younger players to be chased by older/more athletic players, so if you have a wide range of ages or a big difference in athletic ability, consider dividing the group into two courts so the game is more enjoyable for everyone.
My biggest concern with just about every camp (due to sheer numbers) is players running into each other or getting hurt. Encourage them to avoid running into each other (really, I say it out loud) and just be ready with bandaids and icepacks. You should have those anyway, but I’m still going to say it. :)
Final note: This game has one obvious CON to it… it’s a warm-up game, but a lot of the players are standing around as kelp for a good chunk of the game while a few sharks and minnows are doing most of the running.
I usually do a few rounds of this game (three seems about right) so that helps more people get their heart rate up.
But just realize that, especially with younger players, they don’t need as much of a warm-up/stretch as we old folks do! Even just a little bit of running should get them ready for camp. Still do progressions when you introduce the ball and don’t expect full serves, swings, or diving right away.
More than anything, this is just a fun game to play which gets your campers laughing and having a good time!
Line up players on basketball court end line.
Pick 3-4 players as “sharks” and send them to the middle of the court.
Remaining players are minnows.
Blow your whistle and minnows must run to the opposite side of the court without getting tagged by a shark.
Minnows who are tagged become kelp, who can also tag minnows running by, but they must stay “planted” in their spot where they were tagged.
Once all minnows are across, blow your whistle again to have them return to the opposite side, dodging kelp and sharks in the process.
The final minnow to make it, wins!
Play additional rounds for about 10-15 minutes total, picking new sharks each new game.