Inspiration in Little Rock

Charles Cooper

Each year, Playworks introduces its program to potential expansion cities through a weeklong “Recess Roll-Out.” Selected schools in the city each get a Playworks coach for the week to demonstrate how the program can impact the students, staff and culture at the school.

This week, we’re in Little Rock, Arkansas. Here is an example of how Playworks made a difference to a child at Stephens Elementary.…

Charles “Coach Coop” Cooper
Playworks Recess Roll-Out Coach
Stephens Elementary, Little Rock, AR

What a wonderful first day! I was welcomed with warmth and good ole Southern hospitality.

Today, a third grader was my inspiration. This student has sickle cell and is scheduled for a blood transfusion tomorrow. His teacher said he has been depressed and detached from recess — and from school in general. She said he usually tries to figure out a way to stay indoors or sits somewhere alone outside. Students empathize with him and try to support him, but he doesn’t respond to them.

Today, however, I didn’t meet that student. Instead, the third grader I saw came outside with his class for class game time yelling Lil Rock .. Lil Rock… Lil Rock!,  the chant they learned in morning assembly. We played several games, and this student was going 100 percent. When we played circle dodge ball, he was able to dodge the balls for four or five rotations.

Everyone cheered for him. His smile was so wide that it reflected the sunshine! His teacher was ecstatic…..even concerned for a moment that he was “playing too hard.” She prompted him a few times to go easy, but he continued to go “hard.” When she saw his bright smile, she stepped back and played with her class. We ended with a huge Lil Rock! cheer and the student went back to his class with nothing but smiles.

At the end of the day, the teacher pulled me aside and said with so much passion and sincerity, “His demeanor was completely different today. I couldn’t believe this was the same student! He volunteered to lead our reading session today. That hasn’t happened all school year!”

I was truly inspired – almost to tears – and so was his teacher. I may not get to see this young student again before I leave, but I feel GREAT knowing that this child had a wonderful breakthrough during such a dramatic period in his life.

I envision this child bragging to his parent tonight about how he was a champion in dodge ball today. And a superstar amongst his peers.

More Stories of Play


kids and adults on tv set
kids and adults on tv set

Developing leaders on and off the playground ›

Before Playworks came to Gustavo’s school, he says recess was bland with just three options for how to spend the time. After Playworks came, there were actual games, regulations for games to make them consistent, a lot less harassment of people making fun of other people. “After Playworks, school felt like more of a safe…

The Difference a Caring Adult Makes in the City of Good Neighbors ›

“Schools are going weeks without hearing from kids. Calling it a tragedy doesn’t do it justice. Even if kids are safe, they’re still lost kids because they aren’t connected,” Tyler Davis, Playworks Site Coordinator in Buffalo, NY, explains about kids in the pandemic who haven’t been attending school virtually. At the end of the pandemic,…

Recess is Necessary ›

Researchers agree: it’s important to prioritize recess in how schools approach re-opening. The research community has come together to establish the Global Recess Alliance in an effort to bring attention to the essential role of recess during school reopening. These scholars, health professionals, and educational leaders agree that recess is critical for children’s physical and…

Stories from the Playground: Coach Hoops ›

It’s not every day that a Playworks #AmeriCorps Coach is honored by the Los Angeles Lakers, complete with a basketball clinic hosted by legendary forward A.C. Green. Then again, being treated to a center court awards ceremony at a Lakers game isn’t something a Playworks Coach experiences every day, either. But it’s her everyday actions…