The look of devastation made me stop and take note that this was bigger than what usually plays out in the football games each day.
The joy of kicking a ball had become a game of speed, and there was no room for missed marks. As the conversation continued, another student came up with the idea that they should ‘JUST KICK THE BALL’. I noticed there was a sense of relief in the room when this was called out. I suggested the boys start nutting out what that would look like on the playground.
What happened in the next five minutes blew me away. I sat waiting to provide support or guide them in case they went off on a tangent, but that was unnecessary, so I decided to be the scribe instead. The boys went into action calling out what they wanted and did not want, and this is what they came up with . . .
- We don’t have teams.
- There is no scoring.
- Everyone gets a turn.
- You’re not allowed to talk when someone is trying to mark the ball.
- It’s going to be called 'Kick a ball' not football.
I realized how often we ignore the comments from children when they have a disagreement about playing footy in the playground. We tend to fob it off and think that it will sort itself out, rather than seeing that they are calling on us to provide them with the support they need to make changes in how they play.
Making a choice to stop and listen this time around has made a difference in how these boys relate to one another. It broke the pressure and expectations that come with playing football, when all they really wanted to do was to ‘kick a ball’.