Sports Without Opponents
By Dr. Reeve Brenner
Ball-playing sports facilities and play spaces, including community fields, courts and courses, often receive the greatest funding, attention, promotional support and real estate in our communities. But these "mainstream" play spaces do not mainstream. They exclude the differently abled, the physically and cognitively challenged, the mobility-impaired and even mixed age and gender families.
Imagine this scenario: Stevie, age 12, uses a wheelchair, and his 10-year-old brother Andy does not, and with their 7-year-old sister they'd like to go out and play ball together at a community playfield or playcourt on a nice Sunday at a nearby park facility like other kids, without waiting for a program and adult supervision. They cannot.
There are no inclusive mainstream sports that address the needs of the physically challenged. Nor their families. There are no drop-in, walk-on, wheelchair-accommodating ball-playing sports in most communities. But there should be.
We should recognize the facility shortages and the missing venues that bring about exclusion. Our community sports are composed of competing teams; most require physical contact, strength, size or stamina; they require comparable age participation and alignment, and are often gender-exclusionary. The three siblings in our example have no play-together opportunity participating at mainstream sports and games in the community.
Programs, however excellently conducted, cannot replace facilities that are always walk-on, drop-in-available and inclusive, not merely accessible. Other youngsters do not have to wait until next Thursday for an activity or program that provides inclusive play.
A fundamental requirement is that communities offer ball-playing sports fields and play spaces for the inclusion of the differently abled, of the physically and cognitively challenged and all individuals with disabilities, and that the sport be self-competitive—not played against others but like bowling, golf and Bankshot, designed for the purpose of energizing and uniting a community by providing alongside play.
Inclusive means alongside-play—equality achieved not by requiring rivals to defeat, but rather by providing a venue that unites and socializes the entire community at play. And that starts with the understanding that diversity is accomplished together side-by-side and by friendship, not face-to-face rivalry.
Companionable participation also attracts and brings about diversity. No opponents are necessary; certainly not in every one of our mainstream sports venues communities provide today. A sport requiring no offense or defense permits full participation; one takes on the challenge of the court, not one another. Stevie and his family have just what they're looking for when provided with inclusive participation particularly at a sports facility that needs no aggression and no need to defeat opponents. Self-competitive mainstreaming should be the first order of business when we plan our parks and their amenities.
Bankshot, inspired by universal design, was developed for the express purpose of alongside non-exclusionary play based upon achieving total mix diversity.