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Coaching Junkyard Sports

This is an excerpt from Junkyard Sports by Bernie DeKoven.

This is an excerpt from Junkyard Sports by Bernie DeKoven.

There are five phases in teaching junkyard sports:

  1. Playing the demonstration game
  2. Inventing a variation
  3. Testing
  4. Sharing
  5. Judging

Your participation as a coach differs from phase to phase.


During the first phase, the demonstration game, your goal is to introduce the materials and show how they might be used. Notice the emphasis on might. The only purpose of the demonstration game activity is to get things started, not to tell people what they're supposed to invent or how they should be using the junk.

Instead of thinking of yourself as a coach, try using the term “junkmaster.” All you really need do as junkmaster is collect the junk, decide where you want everyone to meet, and whom you want to invite. In the meantime, the demonstration games in this book get people and ideas moving. They demonstrate that, in fact, given this junk and these people in this place, it is possible to come up with a genuinely playworthy sport. Though the demonstration games described in this book are fun enough to be played for hours, they serve their purpose in 15 minutes or less.


In the invention phase, you are junkmaster and facilitator. As junkmaster, you establish the parameters for each of the four elements: the people, the environment, the junk, and the associated game. As facilitator, you institute the decision-making processes that lead to the evolution of a new junkyard sport.

The junkmaster is a role that is central to the experience of junkyard sports. You, someone else, or some group of people should assume responsibility for deciding on where, when, with whom, and with what something gets played. You gather the materials, set the stage, and direct the show.

It's a lot of fun to be junkmaster. You get to challenge people, and yourself, on so many levels. You get to create and lead experiences that engage, entertain, and enlighten. The junkmaster not only decides what junk gets used but also gathers and tests the junk. Using all the junk, engaging all the players, and incorporating as much of the environment as possible, the junkmaster develops her own junkyard sports--games that are fun enough to get people started on creating their own.

The goal of teaching or leading junkyard sports is achieved when the people who get led or taught then lead and teach their own junkyard sports. You succeed as a teacher of junkyard sports when the people you're playing with become their own junkmasters.

It is generally difficult for people in large groups to invent anything. Most professional facilitators suggest a maximum of eight people per group. This is because the more people that are involved, the more difficult it is for any one person to be heard. The invention of a junkyard sport is a collaborative event, so the easier you can make it for everyone to be involved, the more successful the experience. For this reason, you prepare for a junkyard sport session by establishing a junk pile for each group. There is no rule saying that each group has to have the same materials. If they do, the chances are good that they'll learn from one another's ideas. If they don't, there is a greater opportunity for diversity of sports. The more diverse the groups are in age and ability, the more likely it is that more people will benefit from the sports they create. If it is at all possible, consider inviting people from all sectors of the community to your junkyard sport sessions.

As a rule, the sooner people get actively involved, the more likely it is that they'll stay involved. Conversely, the longer they discuss possibilities, the more likely it is that things will start falling apart. Your main objective, then, is to get them to start playing with the junk, seeing what else they can make it do. As long as they are playing together, they'll have a reliable source of inspiration.

Read more from Junkyard Sports.

More Excerpts From Junkyard Sports