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Guest Column - September 2011

Play

A Playground With a Ball

By Dr. Reeve Robert Brenner


Children who play this noncompetitive sport know they are playing on a playground. In nearly all other ball-playing facilities, the idea of a playground with a ball is an oxymoron because the essence of a playground is non-competition with no winners and losers, with playmates, not opponents. It is precisely that which defines a playground. Not defeating friends and acquaintances.

You might be inclined to think that a ball-playing playground is an oxymoron. After all, nearly every ball-playing facility—football, baseball, soccer, tennis, etc.—is based on competition. And as Alfie Kahn's research discloses, there's the start and the source of unhealthy conflict, intimidation, winners and losers, and opponents, not playmates. That's what makes ball-playing sports unsuitable and not age-appropriate for playground-age children from toddlers to preschool children. Games and sports with rules are civilizing, but the good derived is severely compromised when body contact is a part of the dynamic, and, in that case, they are not particularly civilizing, even for older children.

But ball-playing playgrounds are purposefully not competitive by design. One plays the court, not others. One plays alongside, not against anyone. That factor—no opposition, not the climbing, crawling and swinging—is what makes for a playground. That's what makes a playground with a ball. Pure play! No conflict with plenty of movement.

No conventional playground participants move around like ball players. The children on a ball-playing playcourt chase balls, throw balls, catch ball and rebound balls. It's not the ball that disqualifies a ball-playing court from being classified as a playground. The bouncing sphere is not the disqualifier. It is rather, rivalry.

Young children should not be losers or winners. They should be playmates, not rivals and opponents. They can play ball without aggression or competition. Children take on the court, not each other. They play to get better at the game—to improve their skills.

Learning rules of play when age-appropriate cultivates civility. Children under 3 begin to graduate from the climbing, crawling structures they eventually find repetitive to ball-playing. They play with balls of various sizes and shoot at the lower rims at which they soon learn to score.

Then they graduate to the higher-level rims, and eventually, as they grow older, begin banking the ball as though playing billiards with a basketball. The idea is this: think, master the angles, figure out the banks, shoot, rebound the ball and play—in harmony and friendship with other playmates even coaching and helping one another—to master the challenge.

A playground with a ball? This thesis can be compressed into one self-evident notion: that a ball playing "playcourt" will, for preschool and older children, provide greater movement, realize greater fitness potential, offer important physical skill challenge and self improvement opportunities than non-ball playing playground alternatives. And every child loves a ball.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Reeve Brenner founded Bankshot Sports as the first total-mix, non-exclusionary game that wheelchair athletes and the able-bodied can play together, with neither at a disadvantage. For more information, visit www.bankshot.com.