On Recreation Imbalance
By: Dr. Reeve Robert Brenner
Here are 10 issues from the perspective of the sociology of recreation.
1. Playing alongside others as opposed to playing against others
At issue is why so many aggressive, even violent, fast-moving, and therefore exclusionary ball playing sports receive the space, funds, and attention? Why do exclusionary facilities precede inclusionary facilities? Why are there no Total-Mix ball playing sports based on Universal Design?
2. The Total-Mix sport concept vs. the Spectrum concept
The first mainstreams all segments of a population. The second offers a separate but unequal distribution of facilities, usually to the most vocal. And, special populations are not particularly vocal. Why aren’t we for them? Where are the ball-playing sports that bring communities together? These must be sports played alongside, not against.
3. Programs vs. facilities
Our budgets and attention are heavily into the former. However, the average kid has a number of drop-in facilities and need not wait for programs. He/she can drop-in on basketball, tennis, volleyball, and the like. Special populations do wait. The wheelchair user has no facility to participate in playing ball where he or she can wait to play.
4. Playing ball
“Playfields” get the funds and space – tennis, baseball, football, soccer, rugby – where are the ball-playing sports that are companionable, friendly, non-aggressive? Why have only fast-moving sports so that a wheelchair user cannot also participate with everyone else? Why must the differently able and non-athletes always remain marginalized?
5. Accessibility or inclusion?
It is important to ask, “What’s the point of a ramp to an exclusionary facility like basketball and tennis and other fast-moving fields of play? What’s the point of accessibility without inclusion? When is the last time you saw a teenager in a wheelchair waiting to get into a basketball pick-up game? Why must he/she alone wait for a program?
6. (A) Playgrounds, (B) Playcourts, (C) Playfields, and (D) Play toys
What are the essential distinctions of these in the world of play, recreation, and sports? The answer provides insight into an imbalance of incomprehensible proportions. The toddlers and kindergarten children have play toys and playgrounds. The jocks with baseball, tennis, basketball, football, soccer, etc., have playfields. Only a scattering of Playcourts exist. Playcourts addressing the recreational needs from six to 16, the non-jocks, youngsters in need of civilizing activities with rules that are required to follow, boys with girls playing ball together, with families, mainstreaming special populations. What facility can you name that exists for playing ball for 90% of our population? Our budgets of funds and space do not address youngsters in the middle between playgrounds and playfields. Special populations are particularly underserved when not ignored.
7. National Association for Recreation Equality
NARE advocates for non-aggressive recreational facilities of Universal Design. The Association promotes Playcourts addressing the recreational needs of boys and girls ages six through the teens and beyond and the differently able. A Playcourt must be non-running and non-aggressive and participants are to play the court, not an opponent.
Only three ball-playing sports provide answers for the following question: “Name the ball playing sports where a) participants play alongside each other not against each other b) there is no offense or defense c) your opponent can show up tomorrow. Why is this important? It is important because if you play alongside that means you play the course or court and can therefore play alone or with anyone and everyone inclusively. You play with, not against, even if there is fierce competition playing alongside.
9. Sport and Sparta
Philologists connect sport and Sparta as cognates. Spartans were not a friendly folk, but, then, are we more civilized on our playing fields? Are the sports we play combat? Must that be the case in all instances? Where are the sports that are companionable and not combative?
10. Accessibility vs. Inclusion
What’s the point of a ramp onto sports fields, such as tennis and basketball courts? What’s the point of access without inclusion? There is an abundance of the former, accessibility; little of the latter, inclusion. Playgrounds with ramps teach us that now wheelchair users in a $150,000 playground are marginalized inside the “accessible” playgrounds whereas previously they were marginalized outside the playgrounds.
Rabbi Dr. Reeve Brenner founded the National Association for Recreational Equality, www.nareletsplayfair.org. He invented Bankshot Total-Mix Sports, inspired by a wheelchair athlete.