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Why Rounders is Good for Resilience

Rounders2

When did you last play rounders with a bunch of children? How did it feel – for you? The children? What did you observe as the children played? Enthusiasm? Joy? Empathy? Encouragement? Fun? Disappointment? Despair? Jubilation? Triumph? Camaraderie? Independence? Collaboration?

I recently played a game of rounders with a bunch of Year 6 children who are not the most cohesive bunch I’ve come across: there are characters and clashes. However, without a doubt, it was the highlight of my day – possibly my week. Rounders has that uncanny attraction that draws children into something that I think is even more powerful than a playground football match: it draws boys and girls together into a concerted team effort to score points – rounders – in a climate of intense fun and challenge. What I observed was team spirit that overcame boundaries that traditionally separate children: gender did not come into it, nor did race, ethnicity, height, weight, ability or popularity. It was a great leveller, which is possibly why every single child wanted to take part: there was no hesitation, no anxiety, no reluctance, no fear – just a willingness to be part of a team with the shared goal of getting those points. It was refreshingly liberating.

Ok, great plug for rounders, but what has this got to do with resilience?

Resilience begins with acceptance: every child in that game was accepted into the game. There was no exclusivity or division. Resilience also requires belonging: every child felt they belonged to their team and, more importantly, that their team needed them (the ongoing calls of encouragement directed at each child in turn were testament to this). And, finally, confidence: every child, without fail, had a go. Even the ones who admitted that their batting – or bowling – sucked: that didn’t stop them putting all their effort into trying to propel that flying sphere.

Two essential elements for resilience are independence and collaboration: these were present in abundance. When you’re holding that bat, all eyes are on you. All on your team are willing you to hit that ball into next week. The opposite team are anticipating where you might direct the ball. You have to stand there holding yourself together and not worrying about what is going on around you. If you’re fielding, your team are relying on you to watch that ball and, if possible, apprehend it and even catch it. You’re on your own but you’re in a team. Operating independently but working in collaboration with others to achieve a common goal: either to get the points or to get the other team out.

Motivation is obviously high. This drives up expectation. And expectation drives focus and achievement. It was enormously gratifying to watch children improve their bowling, or persist in working on their batting technique, or repeatedly chase after the ball with the aim of stumping a frantic runner cheered on by an enthusiastic team.

And it wasn’t just the successes that proved important: children were out when they wanted to be in; some didn’t even reach first base when all they wanted to do was to fly home; potentially they had ‘failed’ or, even worse, let their team down. But it didn’t seem to matter with this lot: when you see a game for what it is, when you value what’s important and give that it’s due prominence, personal failure becomes less significant and resilience is strengthened.

Without a doubt, those children were developing skills and attitudes that enable resilience to grow and develop.

At the end of the game, breathless, red-faced and excited, we all walked back into the school building feeling a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.

‘Sir, can we play rounders again at lunchtime?’

So we did.