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Brof, Brockey and Plunger Ball

Always on the lookout for evidence of the junkyard sportly, I revel in the following:

Every school culture has a way of arriving at its own games of eccentric ingenuity. Found objects in the environment - a set of steps, a stick, a trash can, a ball of any kind - are inspiration for play, for sport, and for the relationships they weave. And Ralph Wales, my colleague for nine years, is my archetype of the school-game inventor.

First there was Brolf. Ralph and his sixth-graders would tee off from their classroom porch using dilapidated brooms, the bristles wound with a regulation 36-inch length of duct tape, and deflated volleyballs. Had to be deflated. The "pin" was the willow tree down in the swamp by the studio, and a good Brolfer could make it in, say, eight strokes, weather permitting. Brolfers are undeterred by wind, snow, sleet, or rain.

Then came Brockey, a hybrid of equal parts brooms, hockey rules, and the circus, which often turned into low and muddy fooling around when the teams of six faced off in the spring muck to try to drive the lightweight six-inch plastic ball through the regulation clown-shoe goals. The teachers who played this every day with the eighth-graders often wore foul-weather gear; however, many a post-recess class was conducted with squelching feet.

When it came to plunger ball (plumber's helpers, softball, two toilets - tankless), the school headmaster had to draw the line. The parents conducting admissions tours were hard-pressed to explain away the toilet "goals" in front of the library. Headmasters are contractually obliged to be Wonkham-Strongs on occasion.

From the article by Todd Nelson "The Importance of Having Fun"


Slanty Line Theory

I have just learned that my Slanted High Bar concept was inspired by a physical educator named Muska Mosston. I like this alot - learning that something I had invented to explain a central concept about my approach to games was actually invented by someone else to explain his approach to physical education. What could be more affirming? Or sobering? Sobering to learn that the idea has been around so long and that so few people have put it into practice.

The Slanted High Bar concept was inspired by a physical educator named Muska Mosston, who useds a similar concept he called "The Slanty Rope." A good resource is Teaching Physical Activity - Choice, Challenge, and Change by Jim Stiehl, Don Morris, Christina Sinclair. Steve Stork writes: "Mosston and Ashworth (1986) suggest in their 'slanty rope' theory that, given options, children will choose that which is maximally challenging but at which they can also be successful. In gymnastics classes this can mean offering students a choice of rolling in different body shapes (tuck, pike, straddle), or from different heights (squat, handstand, dive) As long as the teacher acknowledges each child's choices and execution."

Sports for the Fun of It

Almost regardless of what other developmental purposes playing a sport might have, if children experience playing sports as fun, those objectives all become so much easier to reach, so much more joyfully.

Perhaps one of the most disappointing things about school sports is that, despite their young age, fewer and fewer children seem to have actually experienced anything close to playing sports for the fun of it.

When we were their age, we knew how to play for fun. We'd have these neighborhood pick-up games that anybody who wanted to could play. And we'd play them maybe on the sidewalk, or in the street, or on some currently vacant lawn. And if we didn't have a ball or bat or whatever, we'd make them out of whatever we had with us or could find.

We'd play games like stickball, wallball, stoopball and boxball – using unofficial equipment to play in unofficial spaces; changing the rules if we had to so it could be played by anyone who wants to; for the fun of it. In the experience of playing improvisational, homemade, environmentally sensitive sports, even winning isn't as important as fun.

These games are the foundation for a new sports event, designed specifically to restore the sense of fun to sports. It's called "Junkyard Sports," as comprehensively described in a book of the same name. Like the TV show "Junkyard Wars" (except for the "war" part) Junkyard Sports events are played in phases. During the first phase two or more teams each create a new Junkyard Sport - one that everyone has fun playing, and that takes full advantage of where it is played and what there is to play with. The second phase begins when everyone plays everyone else's sport.

And therein lies the event: fun, physical, collaborative, creative, competitive, ecologically sensitive, and just about infinitely extensible. It's an event that brings fun back into sports, that challenges kids almost at every level: intellectually, physically, socially. An event that you can hold every week, for every class or for several classes at the same time, that the kids can more or less run themselves, for the whole community, even.

Getting to lead a Junkyard Sports event is almost the opposite of what you do and how you are when you hold drill and practice sessions. You're less a gym teacher and more a Junkmaster. You find yourself gathering collections of recycled material (junk), scouting unexpected locations for the event to be held in. During the event, you're doing more cheering than what you might call "teaching" or leading" - even though you are constantly doing both.

As Junkmaster, you set the challenge. The collection of junk can have tremendous impact on the kinds of games the kids invent. The more junk, the more difficult it is to use it all. The less obviously appropriate the junk (what if nothing looks like a ball or bat or racquet or stick?) the more creativity required. The place that you select for the event has similarly powerful impact on the challenge. Playing in a hallway requires a different set of strategies and skills than playing in a gym or a playground or parking lot or sidewalk or swimming pool.

Though there are many possible solutions, the problem posed by the Junkmaster is as much of an intellectual exercise as it is physical and social. It's a kind of puzzle, and solving it, even if you never actually get to play the game you create, is fun in and of itself.

For example, how would you play soccer if you had the whole playground, including the swings, basketball court, and play structure to play in? And all you had to play with is: four beach balls, two six-inch balloons of different colors, two trash cans? Plus whatever you might find laying out in the playground? And 14 seven-year-olds, two of whom are in wheelchairs?

Here's one possible solution.

Let's call it: "Beach Ball Balloon Trash Basket Playground Soccer." Divide into teams. Each team gets a different color balloon. Balloons are placed in the middle of the play structure.

Each team sets up its goal area somewhere in the playground. The goal area is a circle, about 5 feet in diameter.

Each team selects one player to be Canner. The Canner is like a Soccer goalie, except not at all. Using the trash can, the Canner attempts to capture, hold and carry his team's balloon.

The only players who can touch a balloon are in wheelchairs. If the Canner is in a wheelchair, the Canner can also touch a balloon directly. As long as the trashcan is empty, the Canner cannot leave that area. Beach balls can only be kicked or butted. Balloons can only be hit by beach balls. And there should be no physical contact between players. The winning team is the first team whose Canner has planted that team's balloon in an opposing team's goal area.

Beach Ball Balloon Trash Basket Playground Soccer (BBBTBPS) is clearly only one of many possible soccer-like games we could create with the specified collection of materials, players and environments. We could even use the very same to make a basketball game. After all, there is a basketball court in the playground. And getting a balloon into a real basketball basket could take a lot of teamwork. Especially if there were any wind. Whereas getting a beach ball into a basketball hoop is simply impossible. Or is it?

FOUND Magazine

By collecting and displaying discarded notes and photos and scraps, FOUND magazine creates a kind of conceptual frame around them, helping us see their depth and expressiveness. It takes a playful eye to find the kinds of things found in FOUND. It's an art in itself, building on the everyday to reach the transcendent, remarkably similar in spirit to, for example, to kids playing in a vacant lot, and, coincidentally, Junkyard Sports.

They explain: "we collect FOUND stuff: love letters, birthday cards, kids' homework, to-do lists, ticket stubs, poetry on napkins, doodles- anything that gives a glimpse into someone else's life. anything goes. we certainly didn't invent the idea of found stuff being cool. every time we visit our friends in other towns, someone's always got some kinda unbelievable found note or photo on their fridge. we wanted to make a magazine so that everyone can check out all the strange, hilarious and heartbreaking things people've picked up."

Online, be sure to take a look at FOUND's Find of the Week as well as their collection of found notes, and found photographs.

Thanks for this find go to Scrubbles

Play Your Way

Play Your Way is a Disney and ESPN collaboration that will warm the hearts of Junkyard Sports fans the world over.

The core concept: the PAG - "...Physically Active Games that kids create and play indoors, outdoors and anywhere!"

There are currently ten games listed on the site. Here is the winner of the PAG Super Hall of Fame:

"Handball is a combination of soccer and rugby. There are two nets and two goalies for each team. Handball can be 3 on 3, 4 on 4, or 5 on 5. If you push someone with or without the ball, there is a 1 on 1 showdown and the fouled person goes 1 on 1 against the opposing goalie. You can steal the ball from anyone except the goalies. In Handball you can only use your hands. You can pass the ball from player to player. When the ball hits the ground its anyone's ball. If the ball goes out of bounds the last team to touch the ball has to give up the ball to the other team. That is Handball!"

They even have Junkyardly recommendations for sports equipment on a page called: "STUFF TO PLAY WITH"

"You don't have to have all the latest sport equipment to create your own PAG. In fact, true ESPN PAGGERS prefer to use common items in uncommon ways when creating their games. Below are a few suggestions for things you can use to create your own games: CHALK, BANDANNA, BUCKET, HULA HOOP, HACKEY SACK, FRISBEE, BEAN BAGS, JUMP ROPE, TIMER, RAMP"

OK, so maybe it's not so inclusive, junkwise or playerwise. But it's a one of the few, and probably one of the best-sponsored invitations for kids to invent their own sports. And as such, is a treasured, and significantly praiseworthy resource.

This is a Flickr badge showing photos in a set called Junkyard Sports. Make your own badge here.

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