Memorable childhood games banned across USA

Within students' chaotic lives of racing to meet a project's due date, begging teachers to grade a late worksheet worth a few points, or making an attempt at an extra credit piece to relieve some of the stress on our grades, students often think back to the gentle days of recess. The gentle swaying of the swings, the ups and downs of the seesaw, and all of the little games we used to play, from hide-and-go-seek to hopscotch. That little time of physical activity in the elementary school day that students had all to themselves and their friends. It's doubtful that students will ever get that time again in high school, but they can dream, can't they? There are some glimpses of these games in our PE classes, but still none of the laidback freedom of recess.
Yet, some of the most defining aspects of recess are disappearing, many of the cherished childhood memories still fresh in our minds are being swept from the playground and even from our PE classes. Whatever happened to the rush and thrill of tag, or the careful and quick thinking while playing a rousing game of dodgeball? These games are being banned in states from Massachusetts, to Virginia, and down to Texas. In schools all over the country, these harmless games of rough physical activity and competition of skills are being banned from playgrounds and gyms everywhere. With the gatorball tournament coming up, we are transported back to the days of our carefree attitude and the breezy days of recess amid the chaos of red rubber balls flying through the air. But will gatorball fall from the school boards pleasure, too? And what other cherished game will be next to get "out?"
One may ask the question, why would schools ban the absolutely charming and harmless game of dodgeball? That question could be answered by the fact that not everyone counts dodgeball and tag harmless. According the Mike McGurk, Director of Student Activities, dodgeball was banned because of safety issues and injuries that are sometimes involved in the game. Throw a foam-filled ball at another student to get them "out?" My goodness, no, what if you hit them in the face, or if they feel bad about getting "out?" Run around a field tagging people? What are they thinking, they could scrape their knee. Because the Office of Risk Management finds these games 'hazardous,' no one gets to enjoy these games of slight physical risk.
Of course, students can't just blame the school for all this because it's not entirely the school's fault. No, the enemy of competitive play ground games is far closer to home than most think, in fact, normally they're down the hall from your bedroom. Once again, the parents strike down another innocent aspect of childhood. When a school in Massachusetts banned dodgeball out of fear of an injury related lawsuit, schools all over flew to eliminate the threat of injury related lawsuits. Schools have to dodge the ever present threat of a lawsuit, trying to minimize the chance of such an incident. That means minimizing the risk of students getting hurt. This means less fun in PE.
Some people think that games like tag and dodgeball are harmful to students' well-being, ranging from physical to even emotional injuries involved in the games. Please, students have suffered worse than a few hard knocks. What about sports that have become America's most precious games, like football or basketball? Is a ball hitting an arm or leg worse than getting ploughed into the ground by a 150 pound guy in full gear, or being pushed trying to get a ball through a basket? And if you want to see emotional stress on a student, ask them which tests they're preparing for tomorrow. How is America going to fight obesity in children if no one lets them do anything? What's wrong with games that are in some small way physical? What's going to happen when America turns out to be a country with wimps and crybabies? Injuries happen on the playground and in the gyms regardless of whether the pupils are playing tag, dodgeball, or even hopscotch. Students know this and play them even though there is a slight risk of injury. Why should schools deny them the games they find a lot of fun and are willing to play even though they could get hurt?
Gatorball is a variation of dodgeball, with all of its old rules and original gameplay, but with two main differences: "Gatorball is a form of dodgeball with softer balls and safer rules," according to Yoni Lee, senior and SGA Vice President at Robinson. Formed last winter of 2005, "Gatorball was formed while brainstorming new ideas for student functions that would promote Robinson School Spirit," says Lee. Gatorball is a school-wide event but it is spreading to other Fairfax County Public Schools. Since the balls are softer, gatorball is permitted to be played since the chances of kids getting hurt are smaller now that the balls are softer. Yet, even with this, neither gatorball nor dodgeball are permitted to be played in P.E. classes anymore.
Competition makes sure that no one person falls too far behind the others and feels an outcast, and it also provides a way to prove ourselves to peers. Will the time come when students get to play dodgeball again without fear of the school board? Maybe, maybe not, that's still left to be decided. Fairfax County Public Schools has our best interests at heart, but banning playground games for fear of injury seems too overprotective and a bit of an overreaction, on the school boards part and on the parents' part. "I think students at Robinson miss dodgeball, but they have the chance to play gatorball," says Lee. Dodgeball and tag are a sorely missed aspect of gyms and playgrounds for students of all ages, now that their favorite games are "out."

By Stephanie Axelrod |  December 19, 2006; 8:40 AM ET
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