I am not a naturally competitive person. Keep this in mind.
I learned how to play H-O-R-S-E on our back patio where the basketball hoop was bolted into the roof of the garage. We’d alternate easy shots with ridiculous trick shots to try to get the other person to miss. We’d play one on one, two on two, around the world, bump, bounce-ball, and so on.
I learned how to play all racquet sports on our back patio where the siding on the garage provided an inconsistent return to all tennis balls. The plexi-glass window broke only once, and that was when we were playing tennis with rocks. We’d set the ping-pong table up on the concrete and epic matches were played, singles and doubles.
I learned how to play baseball, stick ball, and whiffle ball on our back patio where we’d set up a tee, play with a tennis ball, use plastic bats, all to keep the ball inside our parent-proclaimed postage stamp of a backyard. First and third base were on the concrete, second was just off patio on the grass. My father would hit lefty because he could.
I am not a naturally competitive person, but my father inspired my love of sports of all types, and it was the sports we played at home that I have held close over the years. The competition was always balanced with laughter and hugs all around once the game was over. This philosophy is why we play these games so many years later in my own backyard, at my own house, with my own kids. We kick the soccer ball around, we had a makeshift home run derby a few weeks back, and races are run.
We all know and recognize the value in outdoor play, especially unstructured outdoor play. The imagination is able to run wild and will turn a mild mannered backyard into a blazingly hot lava field. However, there is joy in structured competition, in pitting yourself or your team against another in a battle of skills.
Backyards come in all varieties. Our children are similar; some seemingly built for sports, for that competitive edge; some content to build magnificent castles in the air and envision worlds beyond our own. However our children and backyards are sized, a little competition in the safe confines of our own homes is warranted and perhaps even necessary for healthy growth. Just don’t forget to balance that competition with a healthy dose of joy and laughter.
Special thanks to my father who instilled these values in me so I can pass them along to my own children.