Lawn Olympics – Family Fun For Everyone

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Do you have a family gathering you are dreading coming up soon? Maybe a Labor Day get-together with those long-lost cousins you haven’t seen in years. Are you anxious about it like a chubby kid going to fat camp? Would you rather take the SAT’s again instead?

Fear not.

I have a solution that will ease the pain of seeing Uncle Marty in his ill-fitting tank top, slamming Bud Light Limes and falling asleep at the picnic table. It will put Aunt Dorothy’s knitting class stories on the back burner. Time will fly by, and this activity will make your day not only fun and exciting but downright thrilling. Nothing like a little family competition to get the blood flowing…right?

What am I talking about? I like to call it the Lawn Olympics.

Ok, so maybe you like your family, love getting together and enjoy each other’s company. Many of us do. But if you are looking for something different to do on a warm summer afternoon instead of just the regular barbecue and witty banter, the Lawn Olympics are for you.

My family and friends gather at our lake place in Montana every summer, and we make sure it involves some sort of competition. It’s the American thing to do..obviously!

Here is what we do. Feel free to make your own adjustments, or add events your family will love. Keep it friendly, and let everyone participate. Think about the games the reality show Survivor puts its players through—not American Ninja Warrior.

First off, count up the number of participants and decide how many teams you’ll have. Four teams are ideal, but any number will do. We like to pick team captains and have a draft to select the teams. Make sure to do it in private so cousin Sally with the jimmy-leg (Seinfeld reference) doesn’t carry the burden of being the last person picked. That never ends well.

Once the teams are in place, it is time to choose your events.

Remember, everyone should be encouraged to participate on a team, so your events need to be doable for all players. A 20-obstacle warrior race might be a little aggressive.

Seven or eight events are a good starting point. This year we chose the following:

Cornhole, horseshoes, ladder-ball, bocce, puzzle-guzzle, chipping (we like to golf), and volleyball. We always  end with volleyball, so each team has to play together. This makes team selection crucial.

But choose your events according to your needs/wants, and survey the crowd. You don’t want to add an event that maimed little Jimmy years ago or killed the family cat.

Team captains nominate two players per event. We like to have each team member be involved in at least two events. We found this keeps everyone engaged,

We set up brackets for each event, so the commissioner can keep the competition moving. Then we award three points for the winning team in each event and one point for the runner-up.

Most of our events are self-explanatory, but puzzle-guzzle was a new addition this year, and it turned out to be a fan favorite.

As with every event, each team picks two players to participate so each game is two-on-two. In puzzle-guzzle, two teammates must each drink two beers (or agreed upon beverages) WHILE they are putting together a kid’s puzzle. We just happened to have two of Disney’s Frozen, 40-piece puzzles lying around, so that worked.

It is a race against the other team with the winner moving on in the competition. If you think you are good at puzzles, try doing it for speed; plus, the drinking only adds to the difficulty. One word of advice: no help from the crowd. Everyone has an opinion where things should go. Shut it, Uncle Derek!

Posting the brackets for the overall Lawn Olympics somewhere visible is always smart, so everyone can see who is up next and follow the scoring.

When all the events (except volleyball) are completed, and there is a winner for each game, add up the scores and rank the teams 1 through 4 (as an example), depending on points. This is how the volleyball competition will be decided. Lowest seed plays highest seed. This should decide your overall champion.

No matter what events you choose or how many people you have playing, the Lawn Olympics are a great way to get the group together for some healthy competition, and I guarantee lots of laughs.

There are a ton of ways to do the Lawn Olympics. Make it your own, have fun, and remember: if you’re not first, you’re last.

Let the games begin!

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About Author

John D. Hunter is Montana native but grew up in the Tacoma/Seattle area and proudly attended Washington State University. He is a former morning show producer on KJR SportsRadio in Seattle. For 7 years he produced ‘Knight in the Morning’ with Michael Knight and New York Vinnie. From there he moved to ESPN.com where he spent another 7 years as an Interactive Editor and Soccer reporter/writer. He has covered 3 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, 1998 World Cup in France and many more sporting events.

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