Everyone Gets in the Game

Our Playworks AmeriCorps coaches are dedicated to bringing out the best in every kid at each of the schools we serve in Southern California. Coaches help build a culture of play that enables kids to feel a real sense of belonging and have the opportunity to contribute on the playground, in the classroom, and into their communities.

This school year is our 10th anniversary of service on playgrounds all over Southern California. Here’s an inspiring story from a brand-new Playworks AmeriCorps Coach:

The second day is always better than the first! I mentally decided I wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the daunting task of figuring out the ins, outs, ups, and downs of my new school. I can’t say I didn’t experience that overwhelming feeling at all on day two, but believe me, nothing takes the edge off like a good game of Magic Tag! The object of the game is to avoid being tagged by the magician who is trying to turn everyone into magic wands.  I invited a group of students to the basketball court with clear boundaries for players to run in, and asked all the kids to line up on the sideline before getting started.

After a week of shadowing at another fellow coach’s school, I discovered that selecting students to be the magician by the equity method of “ boy, girl” worked like, well, magic! Washington Elementary was no exception. Since one of my female students was the magician for the previous round, i was time to choose a male student, so I went with Albert. He seemed excited enough, and his toes were where we like them…on the line!

I yelled the magic word, “Cupcakes!,” and Albert went to town catching his peers. I noticed he wasn’t using the butterfly fingers I’d instructed the kids to use when tagging, but instead, he opted for a delicate shoulder cuffing. As I began walking over to him to correct this, something stopped me. I thought to myself, he isn’t hurting anyone; he’s even more careful than most are being so far. I can address it later. I’ll let him play. We enjoyed several rounds before the bell rang.

As I walked over to return my boundary cones, a young woman touched my shoulder, and said, “Thank you! I’m so glad you’re here.” I thanked her and told her it was my pleasure.

“Albert was playing, and he never usually engages,” she continued. “ I’m glad you made him comfortable. He is one of my special day class kids.”

I grinned and said, “Oh, it’s my pleasure. Glad I could help him get in the game!” We exchanged a few more words, and we went our separate ways. So far, I’m four days in, and Albert hasn’t missed a game!

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