This is an excerpt from Junkyard Sports by Bernie DeKoven.
One of the most radical of the implications of junkyard sports is the notion that regardless of what gets invented or played or who wins, the only thing that really counts is how much fun it is for everyone. As a criterion for success, especially for those who need to answer to many objectives of educational and public programming, the “fun for everyone” goal can be surprisingly difficult to communicate and defend. Most sport programs are funded by organizations that measure success in terms of the development of very specific athletic competencies--a belief shared by the majority of the people served by these programs. Try telling parents who sent their kids to soccer camp that, although their kids lost almost every game they played and didn’t show any particular athletic skill, they succeeded because they had a lot of fun.
The “sports for the fun of it” concept was developed specifically for those people who are not served by sport clubs and competitions--the people for whom participation, and not competition, is the goal. It was developed because we have all begun to recognize that this is a far wider audience, with perhaps even more telling needs than the audiences served by traditional sport programs.
Many of our so-called athletes who excel in sports and eagerly embrace the rigors of traditional physical education and sport programs also ultimately find themselves in a similar position of disenfranchisement and obesity, because they did not achieve or even maintain their star status. Motivated solely by the promise of professional sports, they end up embittered and ill served by the very institutions that had once provided them both purpose and identity.
The “sports for the fun of it” approach subscribes to a very different set of premises. It is based on a faith in human motivation. When people have fun playing, they put more of themselves into play. They engage body, spirit, and mind, challenging themselves to excel because in excellence there is even more fun. When they play, not for score or recognition but for enjoyment, they play for life. Central to the notion of “sports for the fun of it” is the idealistic and often unreachable goal of fun for all. As difficult as it may be to achieve, setting this as a goal establishes a focus that is both individually and collectively experienced. It introduces the notion of community and urges the development of both personal and social competencies.
In traditional sports, the game itself determines who is good enough to play. In junkyard sports, the players determine whether the game is good enough. The better the game is, the more fun for the more people for more of the time the game is played. By including players of different ages and abilities, you create an even greater challenge and a more profound accomplishment. The victors of junkyard sports can never be confined to the winning team. Victory is something that happens to the entire community of players and spectators.
By aiming at an experience that is fun for everyone, players have an objective criterion for measuring the success of the game. In the process of attempting to succeed, they also develop social skills that include compassion, communication, acceptance, shared leadership, and shared victory.
Read more from Junkyard Sports.