6 Feet Apart and Persisting Through the Power of Play: The Coach Perspective of In-Person Programming

  1. Updates

At Playworks, we commit to providing safe and healthy play to every kid. This year has called on us to be especially dynamic as we and our partner schools navigate the ever-changing environment of the pandemic. Right now, many of our schools are able to welcome students back into their doors in limited capacity using social distancing and cohort models.

Playworks Coach Natalie took the time to interview one of her peers about her experience as a coach this year. Coach T and Coach Natalie are first-year Playworkers bringing safe and healthy play to SOAR Elementary in Denver and Wheeling Elementary in Aurora.

Here is their conversation on transitioning back into in-person learning.

Q: What do you enjoy about being in-person?

A: All the kids are so glad to be here with their friends and with each other. I would say I have seen a lot of new best friends and kids taking a chance to be friends with new and different people. It’s pretty great in that way.


Q: How are you facilitating recess for your school?

A: We have three different spots around the playground, a play structure, a blacktop, and a field. The kids rotate between the three areas.

A Comment from Coach Natalie: I have a similar situation at my school and establish zones at recess. At one time, I have two in-person second grade classes; one class plays games on the playground and one class joins me in playing a new game, for example Cone Guardian. One of my classes is always sad when they are not on the playground. They always love the game once they get into it, but before they always ask me “Coach Natalie, why can’t we play on the playground?” Explaining to a 7-year old that we are in a pandemic is an interesting task.


Q: What has been your favorite game to play being back in-person with masks?

A: The older kids tried out spud, and that went really well. Castle ball was also a success! With the younger kids, they love any sort of tag: zombie tag, Band-Aid tag, anything like that. The thrill of the chase!


Q: What are some obstacles that you have seen when returning to in-person play?

A: There are so many extra steps in the day now: hand sanitizing breaks, cohort breakdowns, etc. It feels like we need a lot of extra time for things at recess. There’s just so much extra going on in the day to keep everybody safe, and it feels like it sometimes backs up into recess or playtime.


Q: How have you noticed that in-person play has impacted your kiddos?

A:  They are really relieved and glad to be back and playing. We now have to reestablish the rules of engagement, but it’s also an opportunity to clarify things. They are super glad to be here. That’s not to say, there are days when they want to be on the blacktop and play basketball, but they may not be able to because of our new CDC guidelines in place. That’s kind of a deep frustration for them because they don’t know how long this will last.


Q: Do you have any fun anecdotes from being in-person?

A: In my first-grade class I have this one little girl who will go “Coach T, Coach T! Air hug!”. It’s the cutest thing. And since we have come back, all of her classmates have caught on, so I get lots of air hugs when I come into first grade. I wouldn’t say there is one anecdote. There are just those in-between moments where they will come up and talk to you about their life or their day. That’s just why I show up.

From class switch-ups and hand sanitizer breaks to playground rotations and air hugs, the daily work of a Playworks Coach looks a bit different this year. Despite these changes, the power of play continues to positively impact not only our students and school communities but our coaches as well. We are grateful to have the opportunity to empower kids through safe and healthy play. Although we do not do this job for ourselves, each day of service proves to be oh so rewarding.

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