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Introducing Junkyard Sports

This is an excerpt from Junkyard Sports by Bernie DeKoven.

This is an excerpt from Junkyard Sports by Bernie DeKoven.

Junkyard sports are “real” sports and games played with the “wrong” equipment. Because the sports are made up by the people who are playing them, they offer a welcome alternative to the traditional sport programs. Junkyard sports stress personal involvement, active participation by a diverse community, physical and psychological safety, creativity, and most of all, the opportunity to create and share fun.


The concept we're calling junkyard sports is as ancient as sport itself. Earlier in the 20th century, this idea was demonstrated on the streets, sidewalks, vacant lots, and backyards of most cities, when games like stickball, box ball, and pie-tin Frisbee could be found virtually everywhere there were kids. Even today, when so many kids spend their precious play time in front of the television or in organized league sports, you'll find kids playing basketball with a trashcan and a paper wad, or playing baseball with a frying pan bat and a ball of rolled-up socks. Playful minds find inspiration in the limitations of equipment, environment, and physical abilities.

Junkyard sports are so inviting because they are based on sports that everyone knows. The inventiveness begins when people play the sports in some unusual place with some wacky piece of equipment that has nothing to do with how the sports are supposed to be played, and then they mix these sports with other sports. This is the spark that ignites the imagination. Junkyard sports are also played with as diverse a group of players as are available--young and old, novices and experts, those with and without disabilities--to create a sport that is truly inclusive. There is no need to adapt a sport for a specific population when the very population that will be playing it is creating it. There is no reason to worry about how willing people will be to play a sport when the sport they are playing is their own.

Junkyard sports are a rich, exciting, and growing resource for physical activities that will work in any environment and with any player. The activities can take anywhere from a half hour to a half day. In five minutes or less you can easily initiate completely new activities for any audience. Kids will use their bodies and minds to develop and exercise their capacity for play, to develop social skills, and to learn from and with each other. They will design and experiment and play as a team.

The process of invention in junkyard sports develops the whole player--body, mind, community, and environment. In the process of developing a new, informal, just-for-fun sport, players combine physical education with cognitive skill development and socialization. From both the educators' and players' perspectives, junkyard sports are invitations to play and opportunities to transcend differences in physical abilities, social status, gender, and age.

There's a big difference between a sport that you learn and a sport that you make up. Sports that you learn, despite their numerous benefits, have a way of separating people. There are those who are good enough, and those who aren't. Sports set the bar, creating a challenge that its players rise to meet. But when you're making up a new sport, the question isn't so much about whether you are good enough to play it. It's about whether the sport is good enough to make you want to play. Junkyard sports, then, make it possible for anyone to play with anyone else. As long as they're making up the sport together, they'll find a way to play together. From the perspective of a recreation or youth leader, this makes junkyard sports an ideal vehicle for serving the community. As a class project or as an event, the invention of a new junkyard sport is an opportunity for integration and celebration.

Read more from Junkyard Sports.

More Excerpts From Junkyard Sports