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25 Gym Class Games for High School

kids standing in gymIncorporating games into high school gym class won’t elicit groans if you can develop legitimate sports skills and have fun at the same time. These physical education games will add variety to basic sports knowledge and are easy to integrate into most curriculums. So, add some skill-building fun to your next high school gym class by incorporating one of these 25 ideas.

Warm-Up 

  1. Yoga Cards - Teach students basic yoga poses then ask them to grab a yoga mat and make three full rows so everyone has room to spread out. Then ask each student to take a card off the deck. Cards contain a moderate to advanced version of a basic yoga pose. The student will need to demonstrate that pose to the class (or just do the basic one). Have students go down the lines and hold the pose for the number of seconds corresponding to the number on their card and then on to the next student — or have them all try their poses at the same time.
  2. Basketball Circuit - Each student will need a basketball to take with them through the circuits. Create as many stations as you need and divide your class into groups of five. Create a poster on each wall instructing students what is required for each station or a large banner. Ideas include: laying on the floor holding the ball extended overhead and crunching while trying to touch basketball to the ankles, dribbling around a series of cones, ten modified plank push-ups with basketball under alternating hands, five chest passes to a target, make a layup, or make baskets from the free-throw line.
  3. Tootsie Transfer - This is a good warm-up for the legs. Have students lay along the long length of the gym wall on their backs with legs up the wall. Have a large exercise ball that you put onto the feet of the first student. The challenge is to pass the ball using their feet and the wall. The ball must travel down the line and back, maybe two or three times. For added action have students, once they have passed the ball, get up and run to the end of the line to keep it moving around the gym.
  4. Ball Haul - Four to eight teams are spaced around the gym with one hula hoop per team. In the middle of the play area is a pile of balls (soccer, volleyball, basketballs and footballs). On go, one player from each team runs to the middle and gets a ball back to their hula hoop in the required fashion. Footballs can be thrown back to the team, basketballs must be dribbled, soccer balls must be dribbled along the ground, volleyballs bumped back to self, etc. After a designated amount of time, the team with the most balls is the winner.
  5. Trash Clash - This is a totally goofy warm-up that high schoolers might enjoy as a stress reliever! Scatter equal amounts of “trash” around the playing space that can be thrown without hurting their opponent: sports socks, empty milk cartons, koosh balls, paper wads, plastic animals, even some inflated balloons for fun. When the whistle is blown or music starts, the two teams try to get as much trash off their side of the playing space and onto the opponent's side. For an added challenge, have them only move around the space by a crabwalk or bear crawl.

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Basketball Games

  1. C-Pass B-Pass - Once students know the difference between a bounce pass and a chest pass, set up an obstacle course around the gym with targets on the wall, higher for chest and lower for bounce (tape a line they have to be behind before they attempt the pass). Challenge students to hit the targets with their basketballs and complete the course the fastest. Up the challenge by assigning students to try to block the shots, either with hands or with another basketball from behind the passing line. You can also put a second line further away from the wall where they can take seconds off their time for hitting the target.
  2. Basketball Mini Golf - Set up nine spots or “tees” where the players will shoot the ball from. Make an obstacle for each of the nine spots (these can be easy like wearing sunglasses or harder like shooting with one arm). If they don’t make it on the first try (hole in one!), then they have to shoot from where they grab the rebound (there are no obstacles for the subsequent shots). The goal is to make the basket in the fewest number of shots. Students can be given a scorecard and golf pencil for keeping score.
  3. Musical Hoops - If you have four baskets, then make four circles of balls near the baskets, one ball for each student. When the music starts, the students walk around the outside of the circle of basketballs and when the music stops, they must grab a ball and make a shot, continuing until they make the basket and then they must sit down immediately. The last person standing is “out” and the game continues until a winner is determined.
  4. Dribble Limbo - Players try to see how low they can go while dribbling the ball. You will need a long stick and two students to hold the pole. The rest of the players will line up single file.  Start the pole at shoulder height and have a point where the players have to start dribbling and must continue until they make it under the pole. If a player can’t control the ball and complete the limbo, they are out. The player who is able to go the lowest wins.
 
 

Soccer Games

  1. Backwards Soccer - All the rules of soccer apply, and your class is divided into two teams, each with a goalie. However, the goals set up at both ends of the playing area are turned backwards. And instead of using feet, hands-only may be used; the exception is the goalie, who can only use feet to keep the ball out of the goal.
  2. Soccer Mini Golf - Create your own course with five-gallon buckets turned on their side and secured to the ground. The object is to get your ball kicked into the bucket in as few kicks as possible, but the challenge is to get it over such obstacles as pool noodle rivers, up and through a ramp created with gym mats or other creative ideas.
  3. Soccer Bowling - Gather donations of empty two-liter bottles (24-48 depending on your play space) and create triangles of six for each group playing. Have members of each group “bowl” by kicking their soccer ball at the bottles to see how many they can knock down. You can use pool noodles as the gutter bumpers if your groups are not having much success at aiming their shots. Have students record how many bottles they knock down and the highest number after a predetermined number of rounds is the winner.

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Kickball Games

  1. Matball - Place large gym mats around your play space as bases (because multiple players can be on a base at one time). There are two teams — one starts as the kicking team and the other in the outfield. Each kicking player advances to the first mat then decides as other teammates take a turn whether to advance to the next mat. A player is out if an outfielder catches the ball before it hits the ground or if they are tagged with the ball (only waist-down for it to be legal) while they are not on the mat. The team with the most runs wins. Teams can use strategy to run the bases in large groups or create distractions to get more players home.
  2. Blasterball - Class is divided into two teams and the play space is laid out with four bases like baseball. The fielding team spreads out in the field and the batting team takes a turn batting. Once the ball is kicked, the batter must run as fast as they can around all the bases while the fielding team successfully completes (and counts aloud) five successful throws among members of the fielding team. The runner must be on a base when the fifth throw is caught, or they are out. Once the batting team has scored a designated number of runs, teams switch roles and play continues. Genius Tip: One way from keeping all the competitive-types from grouping in the field is to put down game dots on the play area, spaced apart so that the throws are challenging but not impossible, and have a rule that players cannot go back to the same dot while on the fielding team and can only leave their dot to retrieve a hit or missed throw.

Volleyball Games

  1. Tennleyball or Vollnis - A combination of volleyball and tennis, teams play in teams of three, using a low net or line of cones, and are challenged to hit the ball three times before sending it over to the other group’s court. The ball may bounce between each hit and players may use serving, passing, setting or spiking skills to move the ball and hit it over the net to opponents.
  2. 3Bump - Using the bump pass, teams get into circles with a beach ball and use the bump pass to pass the ball to teammates in the circle. Each successful bump pass scores three points and subtracts one point if it hits the ground. The first team to thirty wins.
  3. Volley Hoops - Players get ten shots to volley a ball into a basketball basket. The players with the most successful volleys into the basket wins. To determine the winner in an alternative manner, players score points under the following scenarios: balls hitting the backboard (one point); balls hitting the rim (two points) and balls landing in the basket (three points).
  4. Royal Court Tournament - Teams play classic volleyball for a specified time (five or so minutes) and keep score. On stop, the team with the higher score moves up one court closer to the “Royal Court.” If they were behind, they move away, and if tied, the teams toss a coin or do a silly tie-breaker game like Rock - Paper - Scissors - Lizard - Spock (from the TV show The Big Bang Theory).

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Football Games

  1. Fitness Football - As a lead up to flag football, get students used to wearing flag belts with capture the flag plus a fitness element. Set up the traditional components of capture the flag — including a large space divided into two sides, a flag on each side placed on a cone and an area designated as “jail.” Give each student a flag belt or set of flags. The team must not only defend its flag, but each player also needs to defend their flags when they enter the opponent's side. If their flag gets pulled, they go to jail and must spend the time there jogging in place, doing jumping jacks or some other fitness activity. If the game seems to wane, send out a warning and then give a “lazy team” penalty by moving their cone closer to the middle of the playing area.
  2. Mat Zone Football - This will help your students work on their throwing skills and will be lots of fun! The game is simple: teams will try to throw as many footballs as they can onto their opponents’ end zone — a line of exercise mats at each end of the gym. Split the gym into two halves and make a line that players can’t cross. Decide if blocking will be allowed or not. Play four quarters of two to three minutes each. Count footballs in each mat area after every quarter to add points. Use foam footballs for indoor use.
  3. Flag Tag - In the four corners of your gym, make square holding areas for students. Give your two teams their flags or flag belts and have the teams split in half, going to the squares directly diagonal from their teammates. On go, players enter the center of the gym and try to get their opponents flags. If a player gets their flag pulled, they go to the very center circle of the gym and perform certain exercises like burpees or jumping jacks for a set number of times (or create a list of several and players work their way through the list). The game is over when only one player remains, then students collect their flags, get to their corner and start the game again.

Cooling Down

  1. Nod, Roll, Rotate, Touch - This simple series of stretches is a great cool-down. First start with ten repetitions of nodding head side, front, side, front and side. Then roll shoulders for ten counts, rotate arms front and then back for ten counts (five each direction), rotate at waist 10 times, and then hold a toe touch for ten counts. Repeat for the duration of a calming song.
  2. Stretching Circuit - Just like the basketball circuit was mentioned for warming up, you can laminate a set images of cool-down stretches and post around the gym towards the end of class and have students stretch in twenty-second increments at each of the stations.
  3. Ballet Cool Down - Put on some classical music and lead students through a tranquil series of stretches to end your time together. Simple plie, raising arms overhead and down, even doing simple slow turns is a fun and calming way to end your class. Use the yoga card method mentioned in warm-ups but have the suits correspond to ballet poses and the numbers represent reps.
  4. Slow Skate - Have students slowly “skate” around the gym, kicking legs out to the back and side and swinging arms in the same direction as the skating leg. Put on some winter-themed music for a fun cool down, even if snowflakes are far from flying. 
Gym class is a time that students look forward to in their day for getting active and taking a break from the desks and books. Encourage your high school students to have some fun while building sports skills with one of these creative gym class games. 

Julie David is married to a worship pastor and after 20 years in ministry together with three daughters, she is still developing the tender balance of thick skin and gracious heart.  She currently leads a small group of high school junior girls.