Playing games connects us with others and gives us a sense of self. Being on a team teaches the importance of group collaboration and personal responsibility. Playing gives us freedom.
There have been several studies done on the statement above and the results are conclusive – children learn valuable life skills on a playing field. So much so that there are now several organizations committed to giving all children a chance to thrive through team play – something Perkins has been doing for years.
“Our players gain confidence, a sense of belonging, accomplishment, and camaraderie,” Program Director of Adolescent Girls Joe Mantha said.
One of the most popular community programs for special needs children is TOPSoccer (TOPS). TOPS is a national program which serves athletes with disabilities. The program is designed to allow any boy or girl with a mental or physical disability to thrive on the soccer field. Perkins intramural sports program was created with the same goals as TOPSoccer in mind.
“The biggest takeaway from the program,” Joe explained, “is it gives the kids the opportunity to play a team sport, be a part of a team and have an opportunity they likely wouldn’t get anywhere else in the community. Here, it is not about winning or losing it is about acquiring life lessons.”
The unique aspect of the program at Perkins comes from the fact that the kids get to be a part of a traveling team. For each away game, they ride on a van and visit another school; something that can often be stressful. As part of our ongoing goals, activities such as these assist our students to succeed in our communities. One example of this is that our students, while on a traveling team, have the opportunity to experience a meal out as part of a team building exercise.
The intramural sports program runs three seasons; soccer is played in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring. There are 10 to 25 kids per season from both the day and residential program participating. The league is made up of Devereux, The Robert F. Kennedy Lancaster School, Stetson, and Perkins. Teams are co-ed and run with referees and regular league rules. Teams are made up of players aged 13 and older.
Being a part of a team teaches leadership, offers an energy release, and allows kids to establish new friendships. “For some of our kids,” Joe said, “It gives them something to look forward to – an outlet. It is important for them to learn to put themselves out there. It challenges kids with frustration tolerance to do the good.”
Of course, like any team, there is the sense of joy when you bring home the coveted trophy at the end of the season. Here, at Perkins, the biggest game of the season is the game for the Lancaster Cup. The Cup is earned by the team that wins the third game held against the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) School each season.
“Winning the Lancaster Cup puts kids on top of the world,” Joe said.
Joe has a picture tacked to his bulletin board of a team winning the cup one year. “Look at those smiles,” he said. “I have never seen a group of young men so high on their own success. This win meant the world to them. The smiles and the pose say it all.”
To top the season off, a sports banquet is held every June with parents, players, families and staff in attendance. This is a great opportunity to give the kids who have played a sport throughout the year a chance to stand in the spotlight and be recognized for their achievements on the field or the court. It also reminds them that there is an intrinsic benefit to playing a sport – one that will likely serve them for years to come – they have learned the value of fitness.