Three-Legged Knot-Tying Relay Race


An activity at the Skills Showdown was the three-legged knot-tying relay race. Scouts work by patrol to complete a knot-tying race with a twist. This is a three-legged relay about teamwork: the Scout on the left can only use his left hand, and the Scout on the right can only use his right hand. They must work together to tie the knot.

How We Played

Scouts need to tie themselves together and run down the field to their patrol’s station. They’ll find a bag with slips of paper naming eight knots (overhand, taut-line, timber hitch, clove hitch, bowline, two half hitches, square, and sheet bend). Scouts blindly draw a paper and try to tie the knot named. If they can’t tie it, they put the paper back in the bag, run back, switch partners and try again. If the Scouts can tie the knot correctly, that knot is completed and they can leave the slip of paper out of the bag. The first patrol to tie all eight knots wins.

When the same knot is selected a second time, if they still can’t tie the knot they can use the “cheat sheet.” Remember, this game is more about teamwork than their knowledge of knots. The first patrol to correctly tie all of the knots wins!

After completing an attempt, the left-hand Scout will move to the back of the line, the right hand Scout will become the left hand, and the Scout at the front of the line will become the new right hand. This forces each Scout to use both their left and right hand, as well as team up with a Scout he might not know as well.

Adults are needed to check that knots are tied correctly, and to help young Scouts who may not have learned knots yet. Adults shouldn’t jump in to help too quickly, however--this is an opportunity for Scouts to work together and learn from each other.

How the Game Went

First, I decided to give out oldest-Scout patrol a handicap by not allowing them to use the cheat-sheets. I think this really fueled that patrol to work and prove that they knew their knots, as well as making the younger patrols feel like they really were in a serious competition--they weren't going to lose just because they didn't have as much experience and knowledge.

The field our Scouts had to run across was about 100 feet, and that seemed a pretty good distance: they needed to develop a rhythm to run the three-legged part of the race. As I expected, tying the knots was a huge challenge. Most of the Scouts recognized just how important it was that they work together and communicate well to tie the knots quickly but they still struggled quite a bit, pulling the end of the rope, then holding their arms outstretched to continue with the knot. The tip I threw out that really helped was to think about how they use their hands when they tie a knot: keep your hands close together to work right at the knot. That made a big difference and each patrol was able to tie several of the knots.

In general, it took three or four teams of three-legged racers to tie one knot. After each Scout participated a few times one patrol really found a groove and banged out the remaining knots with little trouble. Having clipboards or cardboard to tack the cheat sheets onto would have helped quite a bit.

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Great Idea! What a great way for the boys to review their skills while learning teamwork.


Wow, this is a cool idea. My guys are only Bears, but I'm putting this idea in my file for use next year or the year after (allowing the cheat sheets, of course!). Thanks!

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