I have mentioned in previous posts that I didn't play a lot of organized sports as a kid. Growing up in Queens with working parents, it was a couple of seasons of little league and then I was playing in the school yards and out in the street. The virtue of street and school yard games is the sort of Lord of Flies nature they take on. Kids make up their own rules and solve their own problems, they play with a little equipment as possible and emulate the "best parts" of the professional game they love. While structured kids sports certainly have their place, there is something about the life lessons learned in the school yard that make them more valuable to me. And so I have created THE list of school yard sports that should not die a death of attrition to the ever-growing organized sports leagues for children 2-1/2 and up.
Played world-wide in back alleys and school yards this is still the most popular sport on the planet. In school yard terms you can play with any number of kids and the macho is measured in how often a player is willing to dive on the concrete to stop an opponent.
Placed so low on the list only because I am truly terrible at it, stickball is the closest thing you can get to baseball when you are playing with 5 of your friends in a school yard. For the uninitiated, there is no catcher is stick ball, the game is played with a pitcher throwing to a batter with a wall behind him. The strike zone is drawn is chalk against the wall. Everyone gets the same strike zone and all the fielders act as collective umpires. There is no base running. The rules we played with were simple:
-On the ground past the pitcher was a single,
-Landing past the infielders on the fly was a double.
-Landing past the outfielders on the fly was a triple.
-Out of the yard was a Home Run.
The basics were there, fielding, pitching and hitting. And really what better test of 11 year old prowess is there, than the ability to hit a tennis ball with a broom handle?
So you have 5 kids and a football should you play catch? No no, this is plenty for a full-on game of touch football, street style. 2 kids on each team, the kid with the best arm was the official quarter back playing for both sides. There were no first downs, you had 4 downs to get from wherever you had the ball to the end zone. End zones were defined, in our case by the telephone poll in front of my friend Nick's house and the hump in the street in front of the creepy Italian lady's place. The curbs were out of bounds, if a play was called dead for an oncoming car the results of the play were not counted and the play was a do-over (the same would be true if a pass it a telephone wire or tree branch over head). I remember to this day the instructions from my QB, "cut to the back of the Nissan, I'll pump it then go to the trunk of my dad's car, I'll hit you there."
#2. Roller Hockey
The greatest game ever known to those who've played it (still far too few). Roller hockey. Played out in the street in front of my house, then in the school yard nearby and now at the roller rink my tax dollars paid for, this game has evolved into one that closely resembles the game you might have seen if the NHL ever did a better job of promoting the world's fastest team sport. The game has evolved as street level equipment like roller blades, sticks and pucks have gotten better. No game is more fun on a Saturday morning.
While this 5'8" white kid was never any good, there is no denying that basketball is the ultimate school yard sport. Find a hoop, bring a ball and choose up sides. Probably the simplest of all school yard games and one of closest facsimiles to the pro-game. School yard basketball is world famous, what major NBA star hasn't been seen doing at least one ad where he shows up in the school yard to show the kids how it's done? The game relies of team work, skill, personal improvisation, and toughness, that's what street sports are all about.