09-12-22 | News

Self Competitive and Rival Competitive Sports

National Association for Recreational Equality
by Staff

There is an often overlooked polarity in the world of ball-playing sports. We identify these polarities as self-competitive sports, rival-competitive play. And they do indeed belong at each end of the spectrum of our shared community spaces. They make up our neighborhood and neighborly NARE 1playing fields and common-ownership spaces designated for active (eg. basketball, tennis) and passive games and play (eg. bocce, Bankshot, golf). They are generally the familiar play fields, courts and the recreation assets a community provides. How well these assets are deployed in the community is another question important for the readers of this magazine as a separate related subject.

The rival-competitive opponent-based sports are well known; they are mostly team against team with one side required to overcome and "beat" the other. Success is measured solely by conquest (which happens to be the English translation of the Greek word Nike, an all too familiar brand of sports apparel). Players are not necessarily focused on getting better for their own sake, by improving their skills at the sport's challenge regardless of others. Their metrics are based on winning or losing against others - not alongside other "participants." The purpose is to overtake, "gain mastery over" and vanquish opponents we use such terms as crushing and routing; we, as reflected in sports reporting, decimate and obliterate, winners trounce, pommel and pound; they beat up and knock the socks off by pulverizing and crushing opponents. These all emerge from what we ironically call play. Beating, drubbing, whipping, battering, pasting, walloping, thumping, shellacking, and the like are all recognized sports usages. These terms are familiar synonyms not only for combat and war but for our opponent-based rival-competitive fields of play.

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And what of self-competitive ballplaying sports without rivals to defeat or combatant teams, winners and losers, aggression and body contact? We recognize that the ballplaying sports played in our parks everywhere across the United States are rivalry-based sports, sports at which you defeat opponents. You "cooperate" with teammates precisely to defeat others. Ball-playing sports dominate their claim to recreational assets and play space. Only golf, bowling, and more recently Bankshot are ball-playing sports which fit the category of self-competitive play. No body contact, no aggression, no winning and no losing. Rather, the intent is improving one's skill-range measured against how one performed previously at the sport's challenge taking note of the measurable gains and steadily sharpening of skills. These sports are played alongside and not against others. Of what importance are the differences between sports with opponents against sports without opponents? Sports based on offense and defense sideline atypical players; the differently able are marginalized and excluded. Sports that are self-competitive mainstream and integrate all members of a community regardless of ability or playing in a chair.

The lack of awareness of Universal Design on the part of our elected officials and other recreation professionals regarding the ongoing discrimination against 24% of our neighbors and the exclusion of the differently able and the atypical from our parks and playgrounds is both puzzling and upsetting. Sadly, it appears to be of little use, regardless of its importance, to call attention to the distinctions among self-competitive, non-competitive, and rival-competitive play. Particularly in ball-playing facilities which communities provide! Playing balls is what we do in our parks. The National Association for Recreational Equality (NARE) distinguishes between alongside play and playing against rivals, between exclusionary contact and non-contact sports, between accessibility and inclusion. These are critical distinctions within the broader sphere of social issues of the 21st century. It's also all about doing the right thing. The 24% differently able have been overlooked long enough.

We want the kind of society where everyone can participate in inclusive non-aggressive recreation. Rival-competitive sports exclude by their very nature. Individualized, self-competitive play, by contrast, mainstreams. Communities should provide walk-on, drop-in ballplaying sport facilities for Gary who uses a wheelchair, for Larry's two kids with different degrees of autism, for Richard who has mobility impairment and me, nearing 90 years old, who would like to play ball among others of all ages with his grandchildren. They should enjoy the same rights as others- instead of the on-going exclusion, discrimination, inequality, and a kind of betrayal of trust the differently able experience.

In our society there are undoubtedly worthwhile programs communities provide but virtually no walk-on ball-playing facilities. We need recreational assets and amenity-playcourts that strive to increase the drop-in walk-on inclusion of people with disabilities too. There should be many others in addition to golf, bowling and bankshot out there getting all of us out there in our parks that provide for including the differently able and the 24% neglected others. We should be better at sharing our shared commons.

The upcoming Playgrounds Issue of Landscape Architect and Specifier News saw many firms submit their projects for feature consideration. This project was not chosen for a Feature in the issue, but we at thought the project deserved to be showcased online . . .


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