Renbrook Sports Survive the Pandemic

Tony Scherer '82
Tony Scherer ’82, long-time Upper School teacher and coach, whose love of sports, particularly baseball, is legend, offers this reflection.   

FUN. That’s where it starts. The first time we run, the first time we play catch, the first time we hit a ball with something, the first time we throw a ball through a hoop. Sports are fun. (Or, if you prefer, sports is fun, if you think of “sports” as a collective singular noun, like “art” or “music.” English teachers think that way.)
Anyway, fun is the impetus of a sound sports program, and it’s often the goal. But at Renbrook, we have other goals, too, for physical education: We recognize that kids need exercise and that they need a break from the critical and necessary work of the classroom; movement is essential to both the body and the mind. We build skills. We stress hard work and teamwork. We emphasize the value of competition without placing an outsized premium on winning.    

Personal growth and increased understanding are among the positive outcomes. Relationships are forged. Renbrook kids become fluent in the languages and variances of the games we all play. Athletic Director Peter Reynolds has often said that one of his goals for Renbrook kids is for them to walk by a park or a court or a field and be able to join a game seamlessly—to understand the rules, written and unwritten, of “pickup” sports. Our students take their sports seriously and invest themselves totally, and the pay-off is life-long engagement with their physical well-being and the connections they make in team play.      
   
How, then, to continue the power of Renbrook athletics, or to replicate it, during a pandemic? Peter Reynolds, along with Sarah Davis and Natalie Kirkpatrick, knew the answer. Go back to the beginning. Find the fun. Set up a field, provide Wiffleball equipment (pandemic rules: each kid gets their own labeled bat, sanitizes hands on the way in and the way out, wears a mask), get fourteen eighth-graders, and let them play. Keep adult intervention to a minimum. And let a group of kids who for months may have been deprived of camaraderie, teamwork, and play—play.     

It worked. The joy was palpable during those two weeks of Wiffleball. Athletes, artists, actors, close friends and virtual strangers, a new student—all fully engaged, competing, and working together—enjoying the last hour of the day and counting the hours until they can do it again. It wasn’t about the score or who won. It was about being outside and being together and moving and laughing. And it sure was fun. 
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