Savvy or Not So Savvy? The Ball Ban


What ever happened to teaching kids that sometimes they have to play by the rules, even if they don’€™t like them?
I’€™m talking about the ban on balls in the schoolyard we’€™ve been hearing and reading about across all news channels of late. The principal enforced the ban (apparently one that had always been in place but had not been enforced) as a way to avoid further injury in the schoolyard after a parent was hit in the head with a soccer ball and suffered a concussion.

The ‘€˜ball ban’€™ news hit the big time last month after Saturday Night Live made a jab at it during the Weekend Update segment. The news travelled even faster after that and everyone had an opinion, most feeling the ban was totally ridiculous. Just last Tuesday, the school decided to revoke the ban and are looking for better ways to make the schoolyard more safe.

You might be surprised to know that I don’€™t think the ban was as ridiculous and unreasonable as the rest of the world did. I think it’€™s sad, but not ridiculous. Here’€™s why: my two boys attended a primary school where the same ban was in place about five years ago. They were 6 and 8 and bursting to run and play in the schoolyard. They complained a lot because they hated the decision (and the principal). But they still played football, soccer and tons of other games outside everyday. They had to improvise and figure out new ways to play with the soft balls’€”they kicked them around and played soccer baseball, they played foursquare (remember that one?) and even handball with the tennis balls (how very European of them).

I remember at the time thinking the ban was ridiculous’€”just as everyone else felt about the Earl Beatty ban. But, I also knew how small and overcrowded the school yard was. Our old school went up to grade eight, which meant that there were 13 year-olds (bigger than me) who were sharing a very crowded space with precious little 6 year-olds in grade one. For any school with limited space to play, that’€™s a liability regardless of what kinds of balls are being played with. As sad as I was about the fact that the ban had to take place, I kind of understood. So I bought more Nerf balls.

The ban at our old school lasted a few years. It came and went without any media attention and everyone survived it. When I asked my kids if they remember, they both grumbled ‘€œOh man, that was the worst’€. But they got through it. They went along with rules they didn’€™t like, they adjusted their games and they still had fun.

What do I really think? I certainly don’€™t think the ball ban is a reasonable solution to the problem of overcrowded schoolyards and safety is not confined to the question of what kind of balls they are playing with. I also don’€™t think the obesity issue in North America is about what kind of balls our kids are playing with, either. Obese kids are likely not kicking the ball around in the first place. They might not even care about the ban.

I’€™m a huge advocate of physical activity and love sports. I also know that a big part of playing sports is learning to play by the (hard ball) rules, even if you don’€™t like them. It’€™s an important part of life that kids need to learn.

At the end of the day, is the ball ban Savvy or Not? I still say not. But let your kids figure it out themselves for a while before you jump in to change everything.


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