Recreation: Tell The Story

Wanted: Recreation Leaders

"For the extraordinary individual who wants more than a job, this is a unique career. A way of life that will challenge the deepest resources of your intelligence, self-reliance, and responsibility. It demands an adventurous spirit…a forceful personality…superior intellectual ability…toughness of mind…a high degree of integrity. It takes special skills, professional discipline and resourcefulness to produce results."

If you are a professional recreator you have my greatest respect for you possess many of the attributes mentioned above. You also have quite a story to tell.

Actually, I found the advertisement shown above in an edition of the Wall Street Journal. The ad was recruiting for the Central Intelligence Agency. I think that these attributes mentioned fit quit well for those of you who work on our nation's playgrounds and in our recreation centers.

The Truth about Recreation

Many people feel that what we do is not all that important; certainly not as important as those individuals who risk their personal welfare providing public safety and the like. Not so.

For those who answer the call to public service in recreation, many of the same demands on personal lives, time and absence from home apply. After all, we work when others play.

It's time to find ways to tell our story so that our friends, neighbors and policy makers understand what we do and it's importance to the community.

As a professional recreator, you are the second shift in education. When the final bell sounds after school, we take over. Through recreational play you help complete the educational process for people of all ages. For the purposes of this story let's talk about children.

Stop Playing Around

Work in our culture is serious business. Play is not. Children's play is their work. Kids spend a huge amount of their time and energy playing. As a recreator, you channel and direct these actions with your kids on the playground.

In children, play is not a simple thing. Play is a child's vehicle for growth. Reduce play or the quality of play and you will surely stunt a child's emotional, physical and social growth.

Since most children inevitably grow into adults, significant consequences can occur without the opportunities play provides for individual growth. Work and play do not oppose one another. Quality work is closely linked to play.

Play is serious learning and learning is serious work. Through recreation you can teach a child things they didn't know they didn't know about, to steal a line from the movie The Lion King. During play with children they learn about things they didn't even know were out there. Then maybe they will go back into the classroom the next day and explore them further. Children explore and experiment in play. Our children are learning how to learn when they play.

Children come to terms with their changing environment through play and thus they are first exposed to a world that is constantly changing. Through the vehicle of play children learn to master social skills and ways to effectively communicate on different levels.

Children will become completely engrossed in their play, thus they learn creativity and become renewed over and over again.

Play teaches so much. It focuses concentration, while developing coping skills and imitative. It teaches conflict resolution skills, develops imagination and personal discipline.

Think About It

Intense thought activity is an integral part of playing. The fantasy of games and play are foundational to intellectual development. Play is therapeutic. Children and adults get sick both physically and mentally without the benefit of play.

So when you go to work on the playground or at the recreation center, the programs you provide to our children and their families are so very worthwhile and important. Build in as many of the outcomes mentioned above as you can. Plan your playgrounds and facilities to bring about more interactions and encourage play.

If you do you will:

Teach children cooperation and teamwork

Develop sportsmanship

Allow children to learn about life

Develop respect for themselves and others

Provide your kids with opportunities to test their limits

Teach respect for others and other's ideas

Develop children physically

Teach kids to successfully resolve conflict

Teach learning of the rules and how to follow them

Finally, you will be a significant factor in the development of children as they become happy and successful adults.

If people think that being a recreation professional isn't a serious and important job, they need to think again. One last thing… Thank you for what you do for your community. Now go out and tell the story.

William Potter is the parks and recreation division manager for Orange County Parks, Florida. He can be reached at