Bring the Beach Mentality Home
Play is too important to do only on vacation is a confirming realization Elizabeth Butts brought home from a recent trip to the Gulf.
A recent trip to one of our beautiful Gulf Coast beaches left an affirming conviction with me. While the crystal aqua water was amazing and the sand dunes protecting nesting birds impressive, my inspiration was not a green one but rather a human one.
As a lifetime physical educator, what impressed me most was the significant and obvious role of play and physical activity. Everywhere I rode and walked during our little get-away, people of all ages were actively engaged.
With a long, sand between the toes, cold water lapping at the ankles walk, I became acutely aware of human play and movement. “Throw it to Mommy, Sally!” “Catch, Sam!” “Hit it to Daddy, John!” Everywhere along my stroll parents were playing with their children, children were playing with children, young people with young people.
The mix between generations, genders and ethnicity became evident with games that varied from sand volleyball to touch football, and Frisbee to beach baseball or paddleball. Of course, there were the brave souls swimming, body surfing and skim boarding in the chilly water and along the way were countless walkers and joggers leaving prints of all sizes in all directions.
The overall impression of movement touched me in a profound way as I realized the foundation of all the human activity around me was based on the abilities of movement fundamentals and the simple principle of play.
At UWG, we train our future student physical educators to teach the fundamental movements of throwing, catching, striking, running, jumping and bending, hoping that children and young people will be successful enough to enjoy a lifetime of play and physical activity.
Of course, many children have advanced in their movement skills often identified early as athleticism. For those children, parents often get premature glimpses of college scholarships and even dreams of professional pursuits. The play turns to “work” as practice, training and regimented competition becomes a way of life for entire families.
For others the play continues to be play with backyard ball and pickup games among the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there are those where play is limited to the occasional beach trip or family picnic when parents themselves regain their sense of play.
Playing and moving and seeking physical activity is a natural human function. As our society has become more technology oriented and more stressed by the daily demands to keep up, we have too often forgotten how to play and be physically active. Obesity threatens our healthy existence at younger and younger ages as a simple result of imbalance between dietary intake and physical expenditure.
Health and physical education programs around the country are often limited by competition for valuable academic time. Studies, of course, show a strong correlation between health, physical activity and academic performance. The arguments are indeed valid to keep our health and physical education programs strong with highly trained and committed physical educators.
Back to the beach . . . the beach is an important piece of the health and physical activity picture puzzle where play is central and parents are finding the time at last to encourage Sally to throw and Sam to catch and John to hit.
From my own parenting experience, I know that my husband and I did not depend upon my children’s physical education programs, although I did have the privilege of being my daughter’s physical education teacher in elementary school. We spent many wonderful hours of family time playing and being physically active together. Both of my children were fortunate enough to be granted college athletic scholarships and even a glimpse at professional baseball for my son.
Thus, the challenge for us all is to bring the beach mentality home . . . to pick up the bats, balls, gloves, and get those athletic shoes on and head outdoors to play. As we walked to our car to leave the beach, a precious young girl and her grandfather were mounting their bicycles for a ride along the park road. I heard her call out to her grandfather, “Lead the way Grandpa! I will follow you!”
Don’t miss the opportunity to lead the “play,” join the fun and share in the joy of human movement.
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