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Do Your Kids Need a Recess Coach?

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Obesity, bullying and bad behavior are problems plaguing our nation's schools. Now one nonprofit says they've got a solution: Hire a coach for recess!

coach at recess

According to the New York Times, a growing trend on schoolyards across the country is the hiring of a recess coach, who directs children in organized games during recess. Says one principal in N.J.: "Before, I was seeing nosebleeds, busted lips and students being a danger to themselves and others. Now, Coach Brandi does miracles with twenty cones and three handballs."

Playworks, a nonprofit group out of Calif., developed the program. According to the article, they have 170 schools in low-income areas of several cities, including Boston, Washington and Los Angeles.

And it's not just Playworks that is emphasizing physical activity during recess: Florida's Broward County schools jettisoned recess altogether in 2007 in exchange for 30 minutes of teacher-supervised physical activity.

Although parents and teachers have mostly been supportive of the program, some critics argue that the purpose of recess is to allow kids to unwind during the school day. "I just can't imagine going through the entire day without a break, whether you're an adult or a child," says Maria Costa, a mother of three who says her daughter is stressed out by the mandate to exercise. "It's just not natural."

Dr. Romina M. Barros, an assistant clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, seconds that. She says that kids benefit the most from recess when they are left alone to daydream, solve problems, use their imagination to invent their own games and "be free to do what they choose to do." Transferring the rules of the classroom to the playground doesn't help. "You still have to pay attention," she says. "You still have to follow rules. You don't have that time for your brain to relax."

A spokesperson for Playworks disputes this, saying their program still "allows for [kids'] creativity," adding, "In some cases, we're teaching children how to play if they can't go to the park because it's drug-infested, or their parents can't afford to send them to activities."

What do you think?

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8 comments so far | Post a comment now
Black Iris March 15, 2010, 1:27 PM

Kids need some kind of supervision during recess. Around here the problem is the people in charge of it don’t let the kids do a lot of things.

The ideal would be a person leading games for kids who wanted it and some other staff making sure the rest of the kids didn’t get into too much trouble.

Angela March 15, 2010, 3:37 PM

That sounds more like physical education than recess. As a kid who was shy, had asthma, and absolutely no coordination I lived in terror of sports or group physical activities. I’ve since worked very hard to get and stay in shape and do believe that P.E is important, but kids need an actual break too.

sherry March 16, 2010, 5:23 AM

I think a laid-back coach is a good option. You don’t want someone hounding the kids and forcing them to do things. However at my daughter’s elementary school they have someone who comes three lunch hours per week to help the kids play games. They had noticed that there were a lot of kids who just didn’t know what to do to pass the time at lunch recess.

Having this coach type of person has been great. He’s taught the kids how to play different games and they bring out all kinds of stuff - soccer balls, jump ropes, etc.

It’s casual though. If the kids are having fun playing amongst themselves or they’re tired and just want to hang around, no one forces them to play. However, it’s been very beneficial and a lot of kids have reported having much more fun now that they have some organized games to play.

Paula March 17, 2010, 6:58 AM

I’m glad to see this is sparking a discussion about recess and playtime. Recess is different for our kids now than it was when we were all kids. Back then, older kids taught the younger kids the rules, like how to pick teams or settle arguments, and so on. But kids don’t get to go outside and be unsupervised the way they used to, especially in inner-city neighborhoods. So when they come to school, they don’t bring the same skills and sadly don’t know how to play.

At Playworks, I work with parents and I hear the same thing you’re saying: that there’s not enough playtime for kids in the day. Schools all over are cutting recess because they say it impinges on instructional time or feels unsafe. But schools that want to do the right thing have found that we can help make it possible for kids to play together safely AND have fun, giving them an alternative to cutting recess. We’re not organizing the playground to control kids. We’re organizing the playground so kids can ultimately take playtime into their own hands. – Paula, Playworks

C. Ozbirn April 16, 2010, 12:13 PM

Here is a good one. As I am walking down the hall today I look up at the “Run Walk Club” wall which is funded and by the PTA. It’s a program that rewards the kids voluntary participation in physical exercise during recess. I don’t have a problem with that and also ran it 2 years ago. What threw me was the sign that said you had to have a certain number of laps or you would not get a passing grade in P.E. I am going in to talk to the teacher on Monday since he was gone today, but I can not figure out how they can require it for a grade in another class. At different times of the year extra stuff is offered during recess that does not fit into the curriculum but your not required to knit a scarf or you don’t pass art or attend choir during recess or you don’t pass music. Uhhhh!!!!!!!

Alejandro Saffer August 14, 2010, 11:33 AM

I was thinking the same thing

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