The whole thing struck me as absurd anyway. I went in thinking it was just a way for kids to have fun and blow off energy. Why would a three or four year old such formalized instruction to accomplish that? I told my friend, maybe rather than coaching a team, she should organize free play, which is what the team did at my place after the game; over hot dogs, some sugary drinks, and watermelons with seeds that they had to eat off the rind. I couldn't believe some of the kids had never eaten watermelon that way, they only had seedless ones cut tidily in small chunks for them. Boy, when they discovered the fun of watermelon seed spitting, things really began to take off.
As I sat with some of the parents, watching, I realized the parents were having nearly as much fun as the kids. Like one of the above pictures, I had a sprinkler going. No water toys, just a standard sprinkler. And brooms, and shovels, and plastic bats with whiffle balls, Frisbees they could quite get to fly, though a few had the hula hoops going as well as the jump ropes. Others, admittedly used the jumping ropes to try and rope the geese. They screamed too much, got drenched, dug a few holes to fill with water and made mud castles. I think some of the parents were a little concerned, but the kids were having too much fun to interfere with.
I don't know how adults have forgotten that it is not necessary to supervise play, they don't even have to set guidelines, if the truth be known. Give kids a few objects like tires, boards, blocks, ropes, buckets, brooms, shovels, whatever, and then give them some space. Look at the faces above, do those kids look like they need help having fun? Do they really need to practice and learn rules just to expend energy?
Shouldn't that broom become the mode of travel for the witches and warlocks of tomorrow, or the noble steed of the cowboy. Count the ways a heap of tires can be used, from rolling the tires, to rolling in them and on them, stacking them, laying them out as an obstacle course, whatever. The kids might fall, get a splinter, bump heads, and other minor injuries, but their minds will be as active as their bodies as they think, imagine, create and just enjoy. They barely notice them. And dirt is remedied by the hose.
When did we forget that kids are designed for play, discovery and creating fun? I can't think of too many more pleasurable ways to spend an afternoon than watching kids as they create their own play. I find it inspiring, because I realize how much I have forgotten. I have forgotten that a rope can be tied around waists for a laughter filled run. Or those old boxes can become a castle. Or how to become a fencing master with a stick that recently was roasting wienies. But one thing I didn't forget is that the sound of children's laughter is probably one of the most beautiful sounds on earth.
I wish kids could have the opportunities we once did to play with all their energy, their imaginations heightened to a peak, and their discoveries and accomplishments greeted with squeals and laughter. Why must every toy be designed? What's wrong with a little improvising? Somehow, trying to hit a ball with a stick seems a bit more challenging than a properly balanced metal bat. And rocks make fine bases, even if tripping occurs. I recall endless days of making our fun, rather than having it all planned out for us. To me, it seems that is more likely to lead to growth, both in the body and mind, than worrying whether the kids have the latest toy to entertain them. Half of the fun is creating, isn't it?
I may not get to coach again, but I offered to hold the end of season cookout and every parent sign up to attend that one. We're going to attempt cooking S'mores -- not prepackaged bars or cereal but honest to goodness Hershey bars, melted over a sticky burnt marshmallows between two graham crackers. Heck we mastered roasting the wienies this time, we shouldn't have any problem. Right?