Category Archives: Play

Play isn’t dead yet! We’re going to turn the tide in Pittsburgh at the swim pools.

Wonderful article, taken apart line-by-line below.

Coach Mark’s Facebook posting:

Play is important, especially among boys. Furthermore, learning how to play well with others is a SKILL. It needs to be taught, modeled, practiced, reinforced, and even done under pressure so as to take others and ourselves out of our comfort zones. Generally, that’s what we call COACHING, LEADERSHIP and COMPETITIONS.

Game days rock. So much FUN.

This spring, summer and fall, I’m stepping up these efforts of AQUATIC game days to build wide opportunities for PLAYING WELL WITH OTHERS, safely, in an expanding network of private, public and institutional swim sites from pools to lakes.

Your help is welcomed. Get your group together — of kids and adults — of any swimming ability or with none at all — and let’s plan an event. Warm-up, group swim lesson, water-safety insight and GAME PLAY with new, fun, competition and rules — with your running mates and with another team as well. Fitness, teamwork, sportsmanship –> PLAY, thanks to a grant from the Pittsburgh Play Collaborative.

Mark@SKWIM.us — 412-298-3432 — or here on Facebook.


How America Killed Play—and What We Can Do to Bring it Back

Dr. Peter Gray outlined the five criteria of play. For an activity to truly be considered play, it must:

  • Be self-chosen and self-directed

  • Be done for its own sake and not an outside reward

  • Have some sort of rules/structure

  • Have an element of imagination

  • Be conducted in an alert frame of mind

Let’s ponder each of those points as it fits in with SKWIM, our aquatic game with two teams and the SKWIM disk.

Players choose to play or not. Then they often choose their own teams. Someone needs to divide the squads. Then they choose as to who plays where from goalie, defense, middle, offense, wing, etc. There is plenty of choice as to where to go. Pass or shoot too.

Play does not have an outside reward, so goes the expert’s point. In SKWIM, the reward is the game, the win, the fun. With campers, to turn up the intensity, it is often announced that the winning team in the next game gets a “mythical milkshake.”

Rules and structure are within SKWIM too. No contact with another player. Can’t take the disk out of the other player’s hand. No air-mail passing or scoring. Read the SKWIM rules in the lessons at SKWIM.us.

Imagination enters SKWIM with strategies and tactics. Who needs to get double coverage? Who can we pass to for advancing the disk toward the goal? What player can imagine racing to the disk and grabbing it before the others?

SKWIM play happens with an alert frame of mind on many levels. Safety of course. Play in the pool means keeping from going under and to the bottom. Being present is a big part of sport, especially a fast-paced game where quickness is expected.

When you break it down like that, much of what modern parents think of as play doesn’t actually qualify. The truth is play has been gradually declining for the past five or six decades, but it seems to have come to a head in the last 10 years. According to the Child Mind Institute, American kids now spend an average of just 4-7 minutes a day on unstructured outdoor play, and elementary schools across the country are reducing or entirely eliminating recess. Play is an absolutely critical part of our youth, as it develops life skills in a way which is very hard to replicate elsewhere.

How did this crucial component of the human experience get so diminished?

History lesson – the wonder years

The 1950s were something of a “golden era” of play. The post-World War II baby boom left no shortage of potential playmates for a kid, and child labor laws passed in the late 1930s meant children could no longer be forced to toil inside factories or coal mines. Schools had multiple recesses throughout the day, the concept of homework barely existed, and the school year itself was about 4-5 weeks shorter.

“School was not the big deal it is today. Parents were not involved. You went home, you were home. School happened at school, when you were out of school, you were out of school,” says Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College and the author of the book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. The culmination of these factors created a generation where kids played for hours each and every day.

“You could go out anytime during daylight and you’d find kids playing with no adults around. Parents shoo’d you outdoors, they didn’t want you in the house—moms especially,” Gray says. Organized youth sports were still in their infancy, and if they did occur, they were a far cry from some of the ultra-expensive, ultra-regimented leagues that exist now. In some little leagues, the biggest or most mature kid on the team often acted as the coach, and there was rarely a parent to be found down the foul lines. But this golden age of play didn’t last forever.

The rise of television made the indoors more attractive, sure, but it was the shift in parental attitudes around school, sports and free time that really changed things. Elementary schools (and schools, in general) began placing a greater emphasis on testing results and homework. According to the University of Michigan, students aged 6-8 went from having 52 minutes of homework a week in 1981 to 128 minutes a week in 1997.

Sensationalistic news reports led parents to believe the world was becoming increasingly dangerous for their children, though statistics show the opposite was in fact true. As time has gone on, the outdoor world’s only become safer for our children. Either way, parents became increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of their child playing around town without adult supervision, and organized sports slowly came to replace play. As the demand for organized activities for younger and younger ages increased, organizations quickly met the demand. Parents stopped allowing their kids to walk or bike to practice, instead shuttling them there themselves.

“Kids going to games themselves by bike or walking became somehow dangerous. So parents felt the need to drive them there. Then if you’re going to drive them there, you might as well watch. Then it became a sort of parental duty to stay and watch. If you don’t stay and watch you don’t care about your child. So you’re supposed to be there, you’re supposed to be cheering your child on. You’re supposed to care if your child’s team wins or loses,” Gray says. “It was gradual, it happened over time. (Organized sports) came to replace actual play in people’s minds—this is how my child gets exercise, this is how my child meets other children, and so on.”

The undercurrent among all this was the idea that play was largely a waste of time. Adults believed structured, adult-guided activities were of greater value to their children, so they began filling their free time as such. As the commitments mounted, time for play decreased. “Instead of the idea that childhood was an idea of freedom and play and children were largely free of adults, we began feeling increasingly responsible for the children’s development,” Gray says. “And accompanying that idea was that children’s own activities are a waste of time.”

Of course, we now know that couldn’t be further from the truth. A 2018 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that play enhances creativity, imagination, dexterity, boldness, teamwork skills, stress-management skills, confidence, conflict resolution skills, decision-making skills, problem-solving skills and learning behavior. Play is an essential part of the human experience, and a lack of play can have troubling short and long-term ramifications for children.

A major benefit of play is what’s known as “risky play.” This entails engaging in play that creates some sense of fear. This often involves ascending to great heights (climbing a pine tree), moving at great speeds (riding a bike or swinging on a rope swing), play fighting (wrestling), going off on your own (hide and seek) or engaging with dangerous tools/environments. Risky play is a fundamental part of play. Children like to test their limits and innately know how much fear they can tolerate, and when they engage with fear and survive the experience, they become more resilient, confident and better-equipped to handle stress and anxiety. While play in general has decreased over the last five or six decades, risky play has been hit particularly hard due to overprotective parents. Playgrounds have become increasingly sterile in America—most are now devoid of equipment that allows you to confront any fear of heights or high speeds, and offer little challenge in the way of dexterity or agility.

“Natural selection has designed children to play in risky ways so they learn how to deal with risk…I can do this thing that stretches my physical and emotional abilities and I can survive it, I can do it. What you’re practicing is controlling your mind and body in a somewhat fear-inducing situation. But it’s a fear-inducing situation that you can control, you put yourself there. But what you’re learning is you can deal with feeling fear, you can hold yourself together. So when you experience something that produces fear in real life, it’s not a new thing to you,” Gray says. “I feel confident I can handle this instead of panicking. I think that’s part of the reason we’re finding a lot of lack of resiliency today, we’re finding a lot of people falling apart when something difficult happens in their life. Because they haven’t practiced this kind of play where they’re deliberately putting themselves into difficult positions and learning how to deal with that.”

Gray notes that continually decreasing levels of play have coincided with increases in depression and anxiety among young people. In a 2014 TEDx Talk, he outlined how five to eight times as many children now suffer from major depression or a clinically significant anxiety disorder as compared to the 1950s. Questionnaires have also revealed a continuous decline among children and young adults in the feeling that they have “control over their own lives.” They’re increasingly micro-managed and have limited chance to cut loose or follow their intuitions. It’s not an exaggeration to say a lack of play may be at the heart of increased anxiety and decreased resiliency in young people. It’s not their fault—they’re simply ill-equipped to handles life’s ups-and-downs.

“The use of mental health services on campuses is skyrocketing, students are coming to college unprepared for dealing with the bumps in the road of life,” Gray says. “They have all too often emotional breakdowns about getting a bad grade or having an argument with their roommate or being so-called ‘bullied’ by somebody. Things that in the past, the expectation and the reality was to largely deal with these things themselves, they had the coping skills to know how. Today—I don’t want to say no one does, but an increasing percentage of students don’t have the skills to deal with these bumps in the road of life.”

How can we put play back in our children’s lives? We’ll get to integrating more “true” play in a second, but you can start by shifting certain organized activities into more playful states. Are there ways to help them self-select and self-direct more of what they’re doing? Or decrease the focus on outside rewards? Or foster a grander sense of imagination? The more an adult is telling them exactly what and how to do something, the less play is taking place. The U.S. Soccer pamphlet Best Practices for Coaching Soccer in the United States sums it up nicely: “Coaches can often be more helpful to a young player’s development by organizing less, saying less and allowing the players to do more. Set up a game and let the kids play. Keep most of your comments for before and after practice and during water breaks.”

In terms of pure or “true” play, we’re not getting back to the days of the 1950s anytime soon. However, some communities are fighting to bring play back with encouraging results.

Schools around the country are integrating “play clubs” and finding great success. These clubs typically take place on school grounds for 1-2 hours directly preceding or directly following the school day. Different equipment is set out for kids to play and experiment with at their leisure, and adult supervisors (of which there are not an abundance) are trained only to intervene when something truly dangerous is occurring. Gray recently observed an elementary school play club that takes place prior to the school day once a week (though they’re trying to make it more frequent) and was delighted with the result.

Gray also offers up the idea of recreation departments including more sandlot-style activities among the more organized sports. It would be formalized in the sense it would take place at a given location at a given time, but it would really be just a way to get a bunch of kids together. A volunteer could help get games going during the first few sessions, but slowly step away and intervene less over time. New equipment could be added over time to help inspire different games or different styles of play.

“Free play indoors in the school and outdoors, it’s age mixed, all grades K-5…It’s working wonderfully. It’s working partially because the age mixing. Older children are helping to solve the quarrels among younger children,” Gray says. “Children are truly running in hallways, wrestling, playing chasing games, some old-fashioned games, very vigorous play. Here’s a situation where there are adults present, but the adults are initiating actives (and) they’re not intervening. I was there for an hour, there were 150 kids, and I did not see any single case of adult intervening. It went so remarkably well.”

“Maybe one parent is there at a time to help each other put their minds at ease. It begins with something more formal, but over time, that structure falls away,” Gray says. “I think that could catch on. I think there’s enough kids and enough parents who would want to do this as an alternative…Ideally, over time, the kids who are coming together (for this) every Saturday afternoon start realizing they can do it every other day, too.”

Swimmers doing a med ball routine

March Med Ball Routine

3 sets:
  • 1st set is learning / testing and from 1 to 3 reps.
  • 2nd set is strength, together, # of Reps (repetitions) = 10 for day 1
  • 3rd set is review, reinforcement, speed and race: only 2 reps each exercise
Exercises:

Around head

Around waist

Around one leg

Around other leg

Figure 8 between legs

 

Dead lifts

Snatch & press (stop in squat, then overhead)

Clean & press (one motion to overhead, split okay)

Good Morning (behind neck, straight back, bend forward)

Double-arm straight overhead, thighs to sky

 

Overhead press with both arms

Overhead press with one arm

Overhead press with other arm

Bicep curls

Triceps extensions

Steve’s vertical swim bench

For more insights and to purchase, go to:

Equipment is on display and ready for sale at the trade show as part of the American Swim Coaches World Clinic in Anaheim, California, in September 2018.

Video

 

Photo assets

Tip: Click image for larger view.

Pending:

  • User manual / web course
  • Quick routine
  • Extensive routine
  • Podcast discussion with inventor
  • Digital badge(s) integration

Rotary

Landing page for Rotary Club presentation(s)

Mark Rauterkus was an invited speaker to the Kittanning Rotary Club on  February 28, 2018. These resources assist with interactions with members and other Rotary groups in the future.

Handout

Introduction:

Coach Mark Rauterkus joins us from Pittsburgh’s historic South Side. Mark has been a swim coach since 1976 when he started a swim team as a high-school-aged lifeguard.

He has coached nine (9) years at the college level. Mark has worked for more than 52 athletic directors and 34 principals. In his career, more than 10,000 kids have called him “Coach Mark.”

His swimmers have set state records in: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Mark’s newest role: executive director of SKWIM USA, a nonprofit to grow the aquatic game of SKWIM.

Mark’s passion as an advocate in the city is expressed at CLOH dot org. Creating Literate Olympians Here.

Resources and Easy Courses:

Feel free to team up with a youngster for meaningful online adventures.

Advance insights with Coach Mark as your guest speaker

I’ll speak about my personal history as a coach in swimming and water polo in the city — and throughout my career. But, it isn’t much about me, however. The focus is on how we can leverage sports, fitness, wellness and efforts in our communities around the realm of playing well with others. Some of the basic understandings of the purpose and meaning of sports need to be put into better focus.

Sports are games of time, space and relationships. That’s from a book I helped publish years ago, Sport, Spirit & Soul.

With a philosophy and a few concept maps, we can make improvements and reform — as many elements in sports are in trouble and messed up.

So, I’ll talk quickly about some problems and how they can be fixed. And, how the wisdom of the group of those in attendance can make an impact with the community, teams, coaches, and participants — as well as with their own families — in terms of sports.

Likewise, I’ll leave with a few challenges and tools for others to do, online, for free, for fun, if interested. Q&A of course.

My message is a help us think again about sports and recreation from school age kids to seniors, spectators to league managers.

Projector if possible but not necessary

I love to present off of my iPad. Photos help to put more sizzle into the story. I have the various types of adapters, VGA, HDMI, and Apple’s Lightening.

Pop Quiz

As a way to be more interactive, especially among friends and with a smaller group, we can share our own remarks and move through the talk, guided by the questions on this quiz. Door prize expected for top answer giver, but I’m biased as to what answers I’m seeking. Most questions have no right or wrong answers, much like life.

pop-quiz-for-Rotary-Club

Replies:

  • Authentic Pittsburgh: steel, incline, 3 rivers, sports, ethnic
  • Favorite sports: soccer, hockey, football
  • Other favorable sports: hockey, football, basketball, soccer, golf, boating
  • Favorite team: Penguins (mid 2000s), Penguins, Steelers
  • Game as youngster: soccer, hockey, basketball, softball

More

Thunderbirds hosting SKWIM & Water Polo — Special event on Saturday, July 15, at South Side’s PPS Cupples Stadium

Save the date. Saturday evening. Our athletes are getting to take the field at 5:30 pm with the professional team, the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds. Show up after 5 pm and before 5:30 to visit with the coach and volunteers.

Handout to Campers:

Our swimmers, water polo players, SKWIM athletes, staff and lifeguards — plus family and friends — are invited to join together for a special event this Saturday evening, tomorrow, July 15, 2017, at South Side’s PPS Cupples Stadium for interactions on the field with Pittsburgh Thunderbirds, a city’s professional ULTIMATE team.

Arrive after 5 pm to check in with Coach Mark, and be ready to hit the field from 5:30 to 6 pm with the players. Then we’ll stay to watch and cheer for the team at its 7 pm game.

Meet up at the gates of the stadium AFTER 5pm and before 5:30 pm. Youngsters should be accompanied by an adult. This is an optional event. Everyone has to get there on their own.

Tickets (generally $10 each) to the game between the Pittsburgh Thunderbirds vs. Detroit have be obtained by Coach Mark for our group. Everyone who can attend the game needs to reserve their family’s tickets by doing ONE of the following:

  • EMAIL Mark@Rauterkus.com with the names of the people who are attending.
  • TEXT Coach Mark at (412) 298-3432 with the names of the people attending. OR,
  • Go to the site, https://Play.CLOH.org/ (you are here) and do “web join” and then leave a comment with the names and number of tickets of those who are attending.

At the game, Coach Mark hopes to visit with guardians and players and share some other insights into additional activities to come in our normal sessions slated for this summer — plus some other optional activities too.

Thank you Pittsburgh Thunderbirds. The game of ULTIMATE is a disk-game much like our aquatic game of SKWIM. Seeing these players and their teamwork, passing, defense, hustle and sportsmanship can inspire our play and help us become better athletes.

In other news:

We’re going to be playing SKWIM and water polo from 6 to 7:45 pm every TUESDAY and THURSDAY evenings for the weeks to come at the outdoor Citiparks AMMON Swim Pool, Bedford Ave & Memory Lane, Hill District. — Weather permitting.

Mark Rauterkus     Mark@Rauterkus.com
 PPS Summer Dreamers' Swim & Water Polo Camp Executive Coach
 Swimming Coach with The Pittsburgh Project
 Varsity Boys Swim Coach, Pittsburgh Obama Academy
 Pittsburgh Combined Water Polo Team
 https://CLOH.org
 (412) 298-3432 = cell

 

Connected Writing Ideas

Students and even coaches are encouraged to write within the Swim & Water Polo program. Open ended questions follow:

How did practice go today?

Was it good? — That’s sorta boring. Why was it decent, or amazing, or not. However today’s practice was for you, try to learn from it. What did you gain? Can you turn a bad practice-frown upside down? Can you capitalize on the momentum of a good workout?

What are some of the things you need to do to guarantee that you’ll have a great practice the next time you are at the pool — or even in the classroom?

What about sleep? Can you put yourself to bed early? Sleep is often the best supplement for your growth and improvement. If you are training hard, you need quality sleep too. Play hard and rest hard.

Do you have a favorite going to bed routine? A favorite pillow? Do you have a favorite blanket? How can you get two extra hours of sleep tonight? With good sleep, you recover more deeply and improve brain functions. You’ll be more focused and attentive in training and boost your immune system.

Talk about water. How about hydration? Can you drink a bunch of water today?

Do not drink the pool water, of course. But, drink from the fountain. Drink at meals. Drink from your own water bottle. Take care of it. Don’t play with it, but treat it as a valued asset to guard and consume. It’s hard to remember to drink an adequate amount of water over the course of the day. Being properly soaked with water, inside and out, makes for a great day.

Performance declines happen when you sweat and body weight drops. Cramps and headaches can be more frequent. And your rate of perceived effort goes up. That means you think your efforts are hard. Don’t make the hard workout feel harder than it has to feel. Hydrate!

Write a goal for your next practice.

Most campers walk into an activity and can only brace themselves for the challenges ahead. You can do more to prepare so you are ready to perform. Don’t just react to everything that comes you way. Be brave getting in. Decide that for yourself. Be attentive to the coaches and instructors and absorb every word they say. Start to listen to them even before they speak. Be ready to catch on what comes next.

Go to practice with a specific goal in mind. The goal doesn’t have to be crazy. Tell yourself to do extra dolphin kicks on push offs the wall. Setting yourself a little goal will give you a sense of ownership and pride in your swimming. Sit down with some paper or onto the web site or tablet and make a training journal note. Write what you are going to accomplish tomorrow.

Tell the world a few things you are grateful for.

As you communicate your ideas about the things in your life you are grateful for, you’ll find that you’re doing one of the best stress-busting techniques ever. Keep perspective. Be grateful.

Writing down a few things you are grateful helps us stay positive.

Pick one piece of self-talk you want to change.

Becoming a mentally tougher is a challenge. Learning how to struggle without quitting. Press on when your heart and chest are telling you to take a break. Use visualization to help remind ourselves what we were saying to ourselves in these battles. What can we do for ourselves to be better for the next competition?

One thing you can do now and write about is to pick a piece of self-talk to use at practice tomorrow.

Controlling your self-talk is one of the biggest steps in developing a tougher, high-performance mindset.

What are some of the things you have said to yourself or others during tough practices in the pool? What negative things went through your mind? Write it out, and do some mental judo to give that negative self-talk a positive tone.

“I’m tired and I don’t feel like I can go faster…”

Vs.

“I’m tired, but so is everyone else. Let’s give the next play an awesome effort and take things from there.”

Write about the future and explain what tomorrow’s great workout can look like.

Visualization and imagination are big concepts that can be used to improve yourself. Just “daydream” about your swimming. Then daydream about tomorrow’s time at the pool. Instead of goofy daydreaming, take control of it.

Spend a few minutes visualizing what you want your stroke to feel like in pool tomorrow. See in your mind’s eye, the top-of-the-water, clean, smooth energy with your arms and legs. Picture your body zooming along the surface.

Go!

Link to input form.

Recap: Special SKWIM event at the Oliver Bath House and post-game open house was a blast

Our event and visit to the historic, Citiparks’ Oliver Bath House on South Side was a big success.

Citiparks Lifeguards and VIPs from The Pittsburgh Project and Mel from PPS / State Rep Gainey’s office, along with hosts, Coach Mark of Pittsburgh Obama and Kevin, SKWIM’s inventor from Washington.

Extended Game Video

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