By Kevin Armstrong: President, Methodist Health Foundation
Remember that kid in school who was the last one picked for any game or sport? The one who was overweight, slow, not very coordinated?
I was that kid.
From grade school through high school I was big enough to play center on the football team. The position worked well: I could fill a pretty big hole and I didn’t have to run much.
“Pursuing a universal definition of play is probably folly. And I suppose the definition of play will change as we age.”
At least not during the game. Trouble was, I had to run laps every day at practice. Most of the team ran two laps before practice. I usually ran three. Coach’s rule was that the last three players to finish laps at the start of practice had to run an extra lap at the end of practice.
I got to be good friends with Dave and Tommy. We were the three slowest guys on the team and we huffed our way around the track after everyone else went home. Dave’s dad, who happened to be our coach, stood on the sidelines yelling, “Come on you guys, run faster!”
All I could think was, Do I look like I enjoy this speed? I’m running as fast as I can!
I joined a football team in grade school to have fun with my friends. To play. But my skills were mismatched and my motivations probably a bit misdirected. Team sports teach many important leadership skills but I had to turn elsewhere for play. Or, at least for what I understood then to be play.
“When it comes to play, anybody can yell Run Faster! The playmates we are likely to remember cheer, Let’s do this together.“
Pursuing a universal definition of play is probably folly. And I suppose the definition of play will change as we age. Playing at the age of twelve was different than playing at the age of 50. One moment on that football field long ago, however, has remained as a touchstone for my definition of play.
The fastest runner on our team was a guy named Steve who one day joined us for the third lap. I assumed Coach sent him over to pick up our tempo but even the coach looked surprised to see Steve still on the field. He found our pace, ran alongside us, and lifted our spirits with four simple words: “Let’s do this together.”
When it comes to play, anybody can yell Run Faster! The playmates we are likely to remember cheer, Let’s do this together.