Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tag! You're Not It

I remember that recess was one of my favorite times of day in elementary school. For six years there was that half hour respite from the daily grind of sitting and learning. For half an hour we could be kids and we could go out and do what we wanted. Within reason of course. Some of my favorite activities were dodgeball and kickball. I used to play these two games all the time. Despite not being the biggest kid or the strongest, I always used to take part in the game. I was never singled out for my lack of skills or my size but I tried to be as competitive as I could. And believe me, being one of the small kids in school, I was often the target of bullies or others who thought my smaller stature was a ticket to torment. Not so. I was quite the aggressive guy and I would go after those who thought that they could get away with bothering me.

Some of these lessons were learned on the dodgeball courts but the main lesson learned was to have fun. After I went to middle school and high school, recess became a thing of the past and the only activity that we had was if we took gym class. Gym wasn't quite the same as recess as it was for a grade. It was still fun but there was that little voice in the back of your head that told you that this was for a grade, so goofing off wasn't an option. But it was all in fun. These days it seems that there is no happy median for kids. I've seen the schedules for some of my cousins and their kids, basically schools are so full or so intent on getting as much into the day in terms of academics and there are so many kids in the school that first lunch is often held as early at 10:30 or 11:00. Recess has therefore been cut down to only 15 minute or not even that much. In some schools it's been eliminated completely.

As it is we're complaining about kids becoming obese at a young age; this whole reduction of recess thing is not helping matters any. Neither are some of the latest moves being made in places like Attleboro, Massachusetts. It seems that the principle at one school has decided to eliminate the game of tag from the school on the grounds that it forces confrontation and can cause rivalries and division. In this same school district a couple of years ago, dodgeball was eliminated due to similar concerns. Now this seems a bit silly to me. Sure we dont' want to foster feelings of defeat in young kids, it's not good for them. But this whole system of trying to shield kids from physical contact, physical sports or anything remotely physical seems to be helping create a generation of wusses.

Competitive sports are important to kids. I have seen so many kids lately who think that winning is the only way. They have been groomed to think that no matter what happens, they will come in first or nothing else will matter. Forget schools, even kids who play sports as extracurricular activities are being pigeonholed into thinking that winning is the only answer. As a result, so many of them don't know what to do or how to feel if they don't come in first place. It's frustrating for them, it's an alien concept and it's not good. I know that there are probably some people out there who think that I never got any higher than second place, that I never won anything or that I wasn't a sportsman. That would be a logical assumption given my previous statements but it's not true. I have won competitions, and I have won in sports. I have lost just as often. But each experience has taught me how to deal with that adversity and I feel it's made me a better person.

If we constantly seek to shield our kids from even the spectre of defeat, we are going to have tougher times ahead. These kids are going to be the leaders of our nation someday. If all they know is 'win win win' then what will happen when they don't? And believe me, it could happen. Encourage competition, keep it friendly and help kids deal with trying their best. I've been to many martial arts tournaments over the years and it's frustrating to see parents exhort their kids to win at all costs; and when they don't, grudgingly attempt to console their kids. By eliminating tag and dodgeball we help keep kids from hurting one another, creating bullying situations or making some feel left out. But we also ensure that any form of physical contact becomes something bad too.



At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with what you have said. Growing up, I have not participated in some activities or games, thinking what would happen if I don't win. My parents didnt instill that idea of 'winning always' in me, but the fear of losing made me stay away from having fun. I guess I was a sore loser and am trying to overcome that fear.


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