It is summer and when I take one of my daily hikes or take a drive in my less than luxury automobile I find one perplexing problem in our fair town. Ramona does not have a recreation department like one in cities that I grew up in, but it does have plenty of athletic fields at schools and in parks.
I will not go into one of my fairy shrimp diatribes (for the time being). What I find perplexing is that most of the time most of the fields and courts are empty. For the most part, the only activities I see on the fields are organized activities with adult supervision.
What happened to kids playing on playing fields? I haven’t seen one over the line game in several years. What happened to sandlot baseball games? Don’t kids play touch football anymore? Why are the public tennis courts empty most of the time?
Don’t kids ride bikes anymore? Soccer moms are the new mode of youth transportation. We have bike lanes but they are mostly used by adults getting exercise. Kids should be riding their bikes to schools, fields, courts, pools and friends’ houses.
When I was a kid, (No laughing I was once a kid.) not many kids had wrist watches. (Again no laughing; watches had been invented when I was a kid.) Our time piece was street lighting. When the street lights came on, it was time to stop playing and go home. We watched television only after we were done playing. We watched TV. We didn’t play games on them.
We blame soft drinks and fast food on childhood obesity when in my opinion the real culprits are video games. Kids don’t play sports. They play like they are playing sports.
Parents shouldn’t have to pay over $100 a month for kids to play on an elite team. Kids should be playing pickup games in every sport. Kids shouldn’t be playing just one sport so that they might get a scholarship in that sport. Kids should be playing every sport for the love of playing.
No outdoor basketball court or tennis court should be unused in roundball season or during any season. Fields should not be vacant. Bike lanes should be full of kids on bikes.
Recreation programs are nice but, with budget cuts and spending on recreation limited to government grants, they are becoming dinosaurs.
Parents should get their kids out of the house and off of the couch and on their bikes and on to the fields and courts or just into the back yard.
Teach kids to play pickup games and invent their own games. Teach kids to play croquet, bocce, horseshoes, and bean bag games. Dodge ball should not be outlawed.
Bump out, handball, over the line, three on three soccer, roller hockey, three on three football should be played by both genders.
Parents, here is a challenge. Take your kids to a park or school with some friends. Bring a ball and drop them off and tell them you will be back in an hour. When you come to pick them up, if they beg you to go home and come back later then you have done your job.
If you are not comfortable leaving them alone, just kick them out of the SUV and tell them to go play so that you can read your book or tabloid. Catch up on the British royalty or Justin Bieber.
Or, have an adolescent stay with them as a supervisor—don’t say babysitter— while you go shopping. The teenager will probably end up being the referee or join one of the teams and have fun too.
When you get back, get in the game with them. Show them what you’ve got. At worst it will be good for some laughs. You shouldn’t have to go to a desert or a river to have fun with your kids.
Take them to the beach. Let them play. They will have fun in the surf, play beach games and dig holes in the sand. Take them for a walk along the shore. Teach them how to body surf or boogie board. Just let them be. They will find something fun and healthy to do.
The NFL shouldn’t have a Play 60 campaign. It takes 60 minutes to get started. While playing games kids will figure out how to settle arguments, make rules and boundaries and have fun.
Let’s fill up the playing fields and courts in Ramona with kids. Kids come in all ages.