Outrage of the Week: Toronto School Bans Terrifying Orbs!

Hi Readers! A number of you sent me this story, about a K-8 school in Toronto that has temporarily banned all balls that are not Nerf-soft, after some near  misses, as well as an adult who got an actual hit to her actual head by a soccer ball and suffered a concussion.

The school board defended its action as, guess what? Prudent  Big surprise. But Dr. Mark Tremblay, chief scientist at Healthy Active Living Kids Canada, is quoted as saying, “The health benefits far exceed the risks associated with them.”

Yay! And  — duh. Charles Adler pretty much sums up my feelings about the ban with this essay. When the choice is between kids playing or kids standing oh-so-safely still, I think we can pretty much agree on which should win. But feel free to weigh in: Should kids play with soccer, foot, basket or volleyballs on the school playground? Or is this just a tragedy waiting to happen? Have a ball! — L.

Good lord, what is that dangerous object sitting next to the sweet, doomed moppet?

84 Responses

  1. I have to admit, it surprised me that kids bring their own balls to the school. Aside from that, I just cannot imagine limiting kids to nerf style balls. My son plays soccer, and I know that he may get hurt at it sometimes. Minor injuries are a pretty regular feature of the game. I still wouldn’t expect them to make changes if one of the kids or one of the parents watching got a concussion from a ball to the head.

    Only time the local league has annoyed me was the first game of the season, when it was 102 degrees F by 9 a.m., yet they kept the games going throughout the day until one child passed out from heat stroke at a later game, when it was somewhere over 110, or so I was told by those there. That’s a safety issue worth considering, and I don’t know why the league didn’t cancel games as soon as it became clear it was too hot to play, especially as practices are supposed to be canceled if it gets over 100. Easy enough to say the same for games.

  2. From the sound of the article, there are too many kids on a too-small playground. Trying to play many sports with many balls in a too-small area seems like a risky situation. If the kids can’t keep the balls under control, then something does need to be done. I would be in favor of keeping the balls and adding more recesses so there would be fewer kids outside at one time. As someone who’s been pelted in face several times (both accidentally and on purpose), I’m not a fan of being around a bunch of flying projectiles that kids can’t keep under control.

    Nerf balls are useless unless you’re playing dogeball. These kids should start playing jacks and pickup sticks.

  3. They have a basketball hoop in the “big room” (indoor play area) of my kids’ daycare. More than once my head has attracted a (real) basketball by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the thing is, I always felt it was my own fault for walking around in a play area without being more aware. Is there now something wrong with allowing kids to develop / nurture their instinct to dodge large items flying at their heads?

    I think that it’s been so long since kids were allowed to really play freely like they used to, people don’t realize how much we have already cut the average kid’s daily exercise. I wish people could understand how harmful it is to take away active play a little more each day. At some point we’ll have more people dying from playground safety than from playground dangers – if we’re not already there.

  4. I once “accidentally” whacked another girl with a lacrosse stick while chasing the ball in gym class. We switched sports the next day. Not related to the story particularly but still one of my favorite high school gym memories.

  5. My 5.5 month old has a toy turtle made of wood. The “shell” is a heavy ball about 4′” diameter that spins when the turtle rolls along, and can detach from the rest of the toy: it just sort of rests on the cradle of the turtle body and legs (wheels). I’m not describing it very well, but the other day, I took it down off the shelf, holding it badly, and the ball fell down a few inches away from my baby’s head. It isto pretty heavy, as I said- imagine how much apainting 4″ bowling ball weighs- it could have done real damage. I was pretty horrified by my stupidity. So now… I’m MORE CAREFUL when I get it out.

  6. Ridiculous. In high school gym class I got a shot straight to the mouth with a lacrosse ball and got an impressive fat lip. We put ice on it and moved on. Today that would likely be grounds for cancelling all sports in the school.

    Sh*T happens, people, and we are still here to talk about it.

  7. Better idea. How about rearranging the schedule so that not all 325 kids are outside at the same time? None of the schools I went to had all of the kids out at the same time. My elementary school usually only had 3-4 classes outside at the same time, mostly the same grade.

    And, maybe, ban parents from the playground.

  8. I’m kind of embarrassed that this happened in my city 😛

  9. a small atomic bomb

  10. Oh good grief. BALLS?!?!?!
    Gross motor skills? FUN?!?! dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge. Jeez.

  11. I just wish that when things like this happened there wasn’t such a knee-jerk reaction. The idea that certain things need to be “fixed” can be dangerous, especially when, in the case of playground injuries, usually the most that is needed is some ice or a band-aid. The more serious injuries might include broken bones or concussions, but again, these are rarely life-threatening. When we let fear rule our lives, whether it’s the fear of injury, of possible lawsuits, terrorist attacks, etc, our actions cease to be dictated by logic and common sense and instead take on forms such as this.

  12. […] Continue reading here: Outrage of the Week: Toronto School Bans Terrifying Orbs! […]

  13. I’m going to say the same thing I said the last time this came up: this is not league soccer. This is a small multiple-age playground. Not getting to use hard balls in this situation does not spell the death of play; in fact, for the kids who are trying to play in other ways, it might improve things. Sure, there might be other solutions. But I don’t know, I haven’t seen the place.

    A bigger concern for me with all the outrage: are we assuming these schoolkids have no other venues or opportunities for ball play? Around here, they certainly do, so I can’t get too excited about this. But if they don’t, then that’s a far bigger problem than just this ban.

  14. Really ridiculous! And my children came home from school to tell me, that they are not allowed to throw snowballs! I was shocked… It’s just so funny to do it, and I’ve never heard about an accident!

  15. While I do think that it is prudent to try to prevent people getting hit by fast-moving firm objects, especially in a setting where the person who kicked said object is 14-ish and the person who gets hit is 6-ish, surely any issues of people getting hurt by flying balls can be easily prevented by some simple and sane rules about WHERE kicking-ball games may be played by students – i.e. in places where a rogue ball is not going to fly into walkways and throughfares with force.

  16. My favourite quote when I read this in the newspaper the other day:

    ‘”What’s next on the ban list? Fun? Dreams? Rainbows?” asked a tweet from emmamwoolley.’

    I agree that if they could spread out recesses so that not all of the kids are outside at once, it would probably help a lot. When I was a kid, I wasn’t athletic, and as I grew up I too a lot of volleyballs, basketballs, etc. to the face in gym class (why do balls always seem to go for the kids with glasses?!). I would have hated to be stuck on a small playground with basketballs flying around, but there has to be a better solution than banning balls altogether. Hopefully the ban only lasts as long as it takes for them to figure something else out.

    I’m so thankful for my son’s school, which has a huge space for the kids to run and play. I know how lucky we are.

  17. O, the tragedy!

  18. Personally I don’t care that much about this one. I was not a sporty kid. I am terrible at sports. I hate sports. Always have. Always will. So actually as a kid this probably would have pleased me because I didn’t like being chased around and having balls thrown at me during dodgeball or whatever. I did like playing four square.

    and honestly balls can really hurt if you get hit with them. That woman actually got a concussion. If I was that woman I would be super pissed. Why not just have those playground balls? They are not super super hard like soccer or footballs?

  19. I bumped my head on my kids’ bunkbed. Ban bunkbeds! My kid bumped her head on a bench. Ban benches! My other kid bumped her head on a door. Ban doors! Is there anything a kid hasn’t been brained by?

    We’ve already banned brains, so that’s not an option any more.

  20. That school has no balls. Just sayin’.

  21. You have to read the new Wimpy Kid book Cabin Fever because Greg as a middle-schooler contemplates the fitness level of his classmates as a correlation to the removal of the playground and no balls rule. It’s quite funny to read as an adult so I can only hope kids read this book and start a revolt like the students at this school have.

  22. I read about this in the paper and I knew you’d pick it up. I feel for the parent who got a concussion because that really, really sucks, but the probability of this happening is infinitesimal (therefore it is unlikely to happen again, ban or no).
    The chance of 1. being accidentally hit in the head with a ball AND 2. the ball hitting you so hard you get concussed are unlikely individually much less both together.
    Anecdotally, I played soccer for ten years and never once received a concussion, though I was hit in the head a few times. Soccer, soccer balls and other balls are not inherently dangerous and therefore should not be banned.
    What is dangerous is children not getting exercise. We know there are negative effects from children not playing or getting exercise, so what kind of message does it send to kids to ban the tools they use to run around and have fun? That they’d be safer sitting around? We know for a fact that this is not safer, so to ban balls like this is utterly devoid of logic.
    A logical reaction would be to remind everyone to stay alert outside. Try not to boot the ball towards people who aren’t looking at you or who aren’t involved in the game. That is just plain courtesy anyway.

  23. Emily you must not be a spaz. For spazzes like myself getting pelted with balls is a regular not rare occurance. I can’t catch a ball and I certainly cannot dodge a ball well either. I do not have good hand eye coordination. Never have, never will. Never played a sport in my life. Not all kids are good at sports or should even try to play sports.

    However I was probably fitter than most kids because I danced. TIny my whole life. Very fit and muscular. Dance is great exercise. It was a thing I could do because balls are not involved. Funny that a spaz like myself could dance so well, but I could. That was the only time I wasn’t falling or running into things.

    So it is easy for a person who is good at sports to say getting hit with a ball and getting hurt is not common or bad, because you were probably good at ducking and catching. I wasn’t. So don’t downplay it for the rest of us spazzes out there.

    I never played sports on the playground unless the teacher forced us and I would be miserable the entire time. I liked to make up dances with my friends, swing, play on the playground or just walk around and talk to my friends or play imagination games.

    Honestly if you ask me the sporty types need to spend less time kicking balls around and more time making up imagination games since most jocks that I know are not the brightest. Some are, but not the majority.

  24. ps anytime I was forced to play sports I got injured. From minor to major. It was never a pleasant experience. So don’t say getting hurt doesn’t happen because it does. Often. For some people.

  25. Ha, I also sucked at ball games. Could have been a vision thing. One of my weirdest childhood memories was when we were playing kickball at gym. The other team started their usual “move closer, here comes the easy out,” while my team groaned and hurled threats and insults. I told myself I was going to show them all – I was going to kick that ball right onto the roof of the school! Here comes the ball, and I give a mighty kick . . . . Next thing I know I’m lying on my chest with th teacher standing over me. Seems I missed the ball and flipped right over. Ha ha ha! Best thing was that I got to sit out the rest of that idiotic game.

    But the funny thing is that outside of school / group stuff, I was very athletic (except for ball sports). I could run, jump, climb, bend, balance, do crazy shit on my bike, better than my older brothers and almost anyone else. Too bad my parents didn’t have the means to put me in gymnastics.

    But I gotta say, I loathed gym, and recess wasn’t much better, since they often required everyone to play ball even if they didn’t want to. We didn’t have playground equipment, but I could find better things to do than listening to “easy out, easy out!” To this day I don’t understand why gym is a required subject, especially for older kids. Plain old play provides a lot more exercise than an organized gym class.

    I don’t understand why kids think it’s OK to hurl threats and insults on the playground and in the gym, when these things are not permitted elsewhere. Why do teachers allow it in the context of “sports”? Is it thought to be character-building in that context?

  26. Maybe the school can just set up an area for Wii Sports. A bunch of couches, kids play their video ball games and no one ever gets hurt, except maybe some carpial tunnel cases.

    My son packs his own soccer ball for recess in his already crammed backpack because “all the good ones” have been kicked over fences and they only have flat balls left. Recess without balls is like hot chocolate without marshmallows.

  27. Actually, having gone and read the article, it seems that the ban actually makes sense. It’s all about circumstance. The school is described as having a “small, walled” playground that is “crowded”. A school that has K-8 grades and includes a daycare is a small one indeed – possibly overcrowded with 350 students – and it may simply be that it’s impossible to have a ball game in that playground without a serious risk of others getting hit by the ball. This is not a sensible or safe arrangement, especially considering the age range of the students. I mean, would YOU really WANT to be in an enclosed area with soccer balls flying around (from games you’re not involved in) all the time? I certainly wouldn’t, and I’m an adult.

    The high school I attended had what you would call a “gym” (an indoor basketball court/hall really), a tennis court, and an oval. It would not make sense for a school like that to ban firm balls because there are places available for the students to play ball games without the risk of hitting people not involved in the game – and that’s where they DID play them. Nobody ever played soccer in the canteen or library quadrangles – which had enough space but were full of people doing things or going places or getting their lunch or sitting together and talking. If areas like that were the only option to play ballgames, then a ban on firm balls would make sense. It’s just too dangerous and too unpleasant for the non-ballgame-players.

    Anyway, the school isn’t banning all balls. Kids can still play with foam balls, which is a lot better than nothing, and certainly a lot better than having people getting hit by firm balls all the time, or constantly having to be alert in order to avoid them.

    Note: The woman who got concussion possibly got it from falling and hitting her head after the ball hit her, rather than the ball hitting her in the head so hard it concussed her. Even so, that’s not good.

  28. Why is it every time Lenore posts something on this website, a sizeable proportion of responses go the way of “Well, normally I’m all for [kids doing something free range] but in this situation there was a risk of someone getting hurt, so maybe the [school, police, nosy neighbor, voice of overreaching authority] have a point?” PEOPLE!!! We can’t control for all risk! Sometimes people get hurt in the normal course of life! Kids are sometimes going to throw the wrong way, be too rambunctious, bump into someone, fall off the monkey bars, etc. But then they might actually LEARN something…they might learn that they have to watch out for other people when they’re playing, moderate their level of play for the number of people around, what have you. If the kids only ever play with nerf balls, good luck being around them when they get their hands on a real ball.

    Ugh. I think I get crankier every day I continue to live in this society.

  29. And my children came home from school to tell me, that they are not allowed to throw snowballs!

    Actually, in my elementary school, we weren’t allowed to throw snowballs. This was the early 1970s.

    Not that they could actually stop us, but we weren’t allowed to do it. I suppose it kept down the giant free-for-all snowball attacks, but I got hit in the eye with a snowball when I was in elementary school. Actually did some permanent damage–to this day, one eye is weaker than the other.

    And yet, somehow I survived.

  30. I never LEARNED anything Elisabeth from getting hit and hurt by balls in school. I still suck at catching and dodging balls to this day. So not sure what lesson is being taught there because whatever it is, I didn’t learn it.

  31. @SKL, that totally reminds me of Charlie Brown 🙂 I too was one of the kids notorious for striking out at kickball, but I still loved to play. And for those who say they’re no good at sports, well, I’m not either, but I still love being able to run around, and if there’s a frisbee or a ball or even a can being punted around, so much the better.

  32. @elisabeth: so your point is that, because the adults actually involved in the situation decided to set a limit on what they consider appropriate play for one particular time and place, they are trying to control for all risk, which is impossible?


    They’ve banned hard balls from a space where it sounds like they didn’t really belong anyway. They don’t seem to have removed anything else. So the kids can still run around, or climb, or skip rope or turn somersaults or build snow forts or a million other fun and active things. But oh no, the sky is falling, and they are all going to wind up fat and unskilled.

    But the school has made a knee-jerk reaction…

  33. by the sounds of it, the school doesn’t have the room to allow all the kids to play outside, now instead of banning the balls right away, they should have looked into other ways, like others have suggested, different recess times.

    funny how some of you suggest kids can do other things, well you must not have kids in grade schools because they acually are really limited to what they can do outside. Did you know that many schools don’t allow skipping ropes-strangling issue, many school boards don’t allow kids to play on play ground equipment from nov to april because kids will get hurt (yup this one is true, the cold weather will make the kids hurt themselves more) dodge ball has been banned from school (thou I do know some still play it), tag is no on the fence, because of the running, marbles are banned due to choking hazard, acually alot of toys are banned because of the fighting amongs the children.

    so what are kids left with, nothing, to walk around, yup thats what they do at my kids school, its sad that this is what recesses has become, a boring place for kids to walk around and do nothing. Also, maybe I’m being silly, but I find it highly unlikely that a young child was able to throw that ball so hard that it caused a concussion to an adult, acually this was the adults fault, did they not see the children throwing and kicking the soccer ball around, why wasn’t it stopped, do they only have one parent outside to supervise all the children, very silly in my opinion.

  34. This reminds me of an incident at the school where I teach. A boy had kicked a ball straight up in the air and caught it himself, but it bent his thumb back, and it was swelling a bit. The teacher emailed the boy’s dad, asking if he would like her to do anything more than give the boy a makeshift icepack. The dad emailed back, “Tell him to suck it up. He can’t kick that hard.”

  35. In junior high a fellow pe student was hit in the mouth with a hockey puck. He lost a tooth and needed a root canal and maybe stitches, can’t remember. Thank god we hadreasonable teachers who realized this was a one off event. We continued hockey practice while the boy was taken to the office. The unit was continued, and I think the injured boy even came back to play (after he healed).
    Nowadays I work in a Pre-k and we allow snowballs. Not at the building (lots of windows). And due to their ages (2-5) we don’t allow them at other people. If someone gets hurt or breaks those rules we don’t ban the activity, simply correct the one child.

  36. @Dolly- Playing with balls teaches gross motor skills, spatial awareness, and coordination. Maybe you should try it with your kids, it’s never too late to learn!

    This seems so trivial and small, banning balls for safety purposes. But it’s these little acts that add up to a big picture that looks very bleak for our future generation. Recess for kids is usually their favorite period, but leave it to adults to take the fun away. What will we point the finger at next, as the new danger for our kids?

  37. Yes I know balls can teach good skills. But not all people are born with the ability to be good at ball playing or sports nor should they. I prefer artistic people who can dance with such beauty and skill and grace to people hurling balls at each other.

  38. OT: I had a free range moment that turned sour (for me)…I took my 3 1/2 year old daughter with me to my friend’s church to watch her daughter get baptized. After about 40 minutes, my daughter was getting pretty antsy so I took her outside. I saw a nursery with lots of toys and books and the door was unlocked. It was raining pretty bad and cold and I didn’t know how much longer the service would last for, so we went in. I had forgotten my coat and purse and told my daughter “stay right here and play with one toy, do not make a mess and I will be right back with our coats”. I was gone for all of two minutes. I come back and there is an older woman standing by my daughter (who was happily playing with some toy) and said to me, in her harshest tone “whose child is this???”. Mine I replied and I got a lecture that we NEVER leave children unattended, she was left alone for TWO MINUTES and who knows what could have happened to her!!! I didn’t want to get my friend in any kind of trouble and I didn’t really know what to say, other then “I was going to get my coats. I am sure she was very safe for the two minutes I left her in the nursery room”. She then proceeded to tell me that anything could have happened and made me feel like she was about to call CPS on me. I didn’t know what to do. Well, I did know what I wanted to do but I was afraid my smart mouth was just going to get me in trouble. She told me she was locking the room and we had to leave. So we left. I wished I had thought of something witty to say…at any rate my daughter had no idea any of this happened. We went outside and she jumped in puddles until the service was over and we went inside to congratulate the family.

  39. Ank: While I respect your right to be as free range as you want and to make decisions about your child, you also have to respect that when you are not on your property you don’t call the shots either. There was a good chance that the policy for that church is that kids are not to be left unattended in the nursery room. So whether or not you agree with it, you have to follow it if such a policy exists and from the way the lady was talking, I have a feeling there was some kind of policy.

    I think we all just need to respect each other’s decisions more. If you want to leave your child unattended on your property, you can and unless something bad happens people should leave you alone about it, but on other’s property you have to respect their rules too. It was probably a liability thing. Since you are not a member of that church that lady did not know you or your child so she does not know in general if you are a good parent or not. Maybe if she knew you, it would not have been as big of a deal.

  40. Dolly, I agree that we need to respect the rules once we know them (sounds like this mom was not on home territory). But what was the need for that biddy to be such a hag about it? I remember when my kid was exactly that age, and I was berated by a stranger for a free-range parenting decision I made, based on what I knew my kid was capable of. Some people just don’t know when to shut up. It’s annoying in the extreme.

    It would have been more than enough to say “it is our policy to never allow a child in here unsupervised even for a minute.” The whole “anything could have happened, bla bla bla” was quite unnecessary and rude. Especially since it was probably not even true.

  41. Also the fact that “she does not know in general if you are a good parent or not” does not justify Mrs. Hissy-Fit’s worst-first assumption.

    Now, I will say that an apology would have been in order for creating concern on the part of Mrs. Hissy-Fit upon finding an unknown, unattended child in her area of responsibility. Would have been, had her rudeness not exceeded the original offense.

  42. for the record, I did apologize and I explained that I didn’t want my daughter disturbing the service and I had a choice of either leting her play with a toy quietly for 2 minutes or drag her across the sanctuary crying because I took her from the toy she had just started playing with! it was just her insistance that ANYTHING could have happened to her, which is just not a great way to live. Anyways, I’m not likely to visit the church again, so I suppose the point is moot. I wonder if that women is congratulating herself from keeping the hoardes from my daughter.

  43. The woman may have been taken off guard. I would be kinda freaked if a small child just appeared somewhere out of nowhere. You never know if the kid wandered away and their parent is frantically looking for them, if the parent is coming back, who does this kid belong to, etc. So I am going to give that woman the benefit of the doubt on this one. She probably went on too much but old women are excitable, just let it roll off your back.

    In the future, bring some toys with you to events like this or don’t bring your kid at all or arrange to leave your child in the nursery at the beginning with someone especially at places where you don’t know anyone or the rules of said place. The lady may have been nervous about getting in trouble herself if she was in charge of the nursery and a child got lost or dropped off on her watch and she had no idea what was going on.

  44. Our school recently enacted a “NO Running on the Playground” rule after two kids collided and neither was hurt. Um, they’re kindergarteners, they really only have one speed (unless you count skipping). I think its ridiculous! Heaven forbid we teach the kids to look out for others or watch where you are running because you might trip and fall. Sheesh. We are crippling our next generation.

  45. Heather, I’d hate to tell you how many moms I’ve heard telling their kids not to run at the park. Or those who have looked at me funny for not curbing mine.

  46. The concern about kids getting hurt is not totally unfounded. When my son started soccer last year at age 5, he was put in a group with other 5 year olds (whom I think mostly just turned 5.) I could see right away (and knew from experience,) that my son was way ahead in ability than the other kids. When I was asked if he could move to an older group, I agreed because I didn’t want him hurting another kid because he could so much harder than they would be expecting. In the older group, his ability matches that of the other kids.

    Which is why I have to wonder, why do they have preschoolers out at the same time as the older kids? Yes, it IS good to have multi-age groups, (like with the play pods) but it is also good to have times when the kids can do age/ability appropriate things. Different rules can apply for both times – like “balls only allowed when you are outside with your grade only, and only with people who agree to play.” They shouldn’t be banned altogether.

  47. @Dolly – sympathise, I am a spaz too, at least when it comes to balls. At the first school I taught at, my 5 year olds actually gave up trying to teach me how to throw a basketball! And I was supposed to be teaching them, sigh…..

    However banning balls is nuts. By all means bring kids of different ages out at different times, if injury is a real problem, but it doesn’t sound from this article as if it is.

    My primary school actually did have a child die after suffering a brain bleed following a smack in the head from a softball (I think it might be the same as a baseball), but that was just thought of as a tragedy – which it was, of course. There has never been any moves, to my knowledge, to ban softball. (A shame in my opinion, LOL, as I always hated the darn game, but good for those kids who loved it!)

  48. @ Lollipoplover –

    Pretty much the only people that the previous situation was desirable and safe for was the children who were engaged in the ball game. Yes, balls do teach co-ordination and motor skills and spacial awareness and increase fitness – IF you are one of the people directly involved in the ballgame. If you are trapped in the same area as the ballgame without being a player it teaches you… not much, really. Hide behind a barrier? Try to annex the furthest corner of the playground? Keep your eye on the game rather than doing whatever you wanted to do at recess?

    Nobody is arguing that playing with hard balls is inherently dangerous, or dangerous for the people who are playing with them. Rather, playing with hard balls where there is lots of potential for them to fly off and hurt somebody is, generally a bad idea. Especially when the children who might get hit could be a lot younger and smaller than the person who kicked the ball.

    Like I said, at a school like the one I attended, there were lots of places to play ballgames without the risk of hitting other people – and, by unspoken and undirected agreement, that is where they were played. That is just common sense. It appears that in this school, there is NO place ballgames can be played without that risk.

    While I certainly do believe in allowing people who want to play games with hard balls to do that, I believe that the right of everyone who doesn’t to NOT get hit by hard balls comes first.

  49. Still, maybe we teachers down here are just insane. I remember one of our favourite games in Gym in high school involved teams of 7 putting the smallest kid in the middle of a gym mat and then running full tilt to the other end of the gym, and on one wonderful day the boys got so enthusiastic that they ran their mat full tilt straight into the wall and knocked their kid right out. Aside from calling the ambulance, there were no repercussions, and the game continued on other days. Can’t remember if they ever got the same kid into the mat again though!

  50. my kid played soccer @ school with a bunch of guys. Girl joined in built like a twig and my son kicked the girl’s leg instead of the ball!! Broke her leg. This was 6th grade. Accidents happen. No-one died but a leg was broken. He broke both wrists 2 years beforehand jumping off nothing at Tae-kwon-do. We didn’t sue, girl with broken leg didn’t sue. Stuff happens.

  51. Participating in life may be hazardous to your health. Please only be born and live if you are aware that SOMETHING may happen to you. 🙂

  52. I can’t imagine a playground smaller than the one at the school my son goes to. It’s a small, inner-city, mostly concrete playground, and yet they haven’t banned football with proper footballs. They have simply designated a corner of the playground for ball games, and then each class has a turn at being able to play football at recess on a rotating basis.

    On the days they don’t play football, the head teacher has a constant battle on his hands trying to stop the boys playing wrestling instead, apparently. I think football is probably safer.

  53. My elementary school playground was huge– enough room to play basketball, four square, football or tag, we had playground equipment including swings and a slide and there was enough room for everybody to do their own thing with only the occasional wildly thrown or kicked ball. Banning balls on that playground would be stupid.

    But a “small, walled-in” playground makes me think of a handball court. Imagine trying to play Mother, May I in the middle of a handball court. Seems like if you’re not involved in the ball game, you’re going to spend your recess time ducking and frantically trying to keep your eyes on balls.

  54. When I was in high school, my carpool always liked to hang around for a while in the parking lot after school. One snowy day a snowball fight broke out. We were all having a blast. Then a couple of the preists at our school came to the parking lot. And started throwing snowballs too. It was one of my favorite high school memories.

  55. As others have noted, if it is that small, they need to stagger recesses somehow so there’s a smaller number of kids out there. Regardless, I definitely fall in the “What? no balls?” camp here. First, soccer balls, footballs, basketballs are not HARD balls. Banning baseballs, fine. Those are HARD balls. These others? Not so much. For Dolly and the other self-described spazzes, I don’t think anyone’s saying kids HAVE to play ball. I have two kids, one of whom is a diehard ball-player (of any kind) at recess, and one of whom likes to wander about and chat with friends and observe the action. Both are perfectly legitimate and are what my kids, individually, NEED from recess. Granted, we are lucky in that there is plenty of room, but there are ways to be creative with smaller spaces, too, that would not involve banning (I can’t believe I’m even writing this!) balls!!

  56. @Dolly – you’d freak out over seeing a child play in a perfectly safe room with a toy for TWO MINUTES?? Remember, the woman herself admitted my daughter was left alone not for five minutes, or 10 ten. two minutes. So in your mind I was wrong to take her out of the sanctuary because I didn’t want her to interrupt the service, I should never have her out of my sight, not for a second because I guess the angry hoardes were right around the corner, waiting for their opportunity.

  57. Inside classroom rule = NO flying balls!

    Outside classroom rule = Always be prepared to duck! (Especially adults!)

    Works at my kids’ school.

  58. I’m reminded of a rainy-day PE classic from the late-60s and early 70s (as I recall we played it both in grade and high school) called “crab soccer.” The participants – 15 or so to a side – would sit on square wood slabs about a half-inch thick and about 9″ square with four office-chair casters one to a corner. The players would push themselves with their hands while kicking at a huge soft canvas ball that was about a yard in diameter toward goals at either end of the basketball court. Unlimited potential for mayhem and lawsuits – large blocks of wood scooting out from under butts and through the air, rubber-rimmed metal “wheels” rolling near and across fingers, an absolute melee of face-level feet kicking with abandon anywhere near the ball… oddly, I don’t remember anyone ever getting badly hurt. That was the most fun I had in gym class.

  59. “While I certainly do believe in allowing people who want to play games with hard balls to do that, I believe that the right of everyone who doesn’t to NOT get hit by hard balls comes first.”

    This is the problem with trying to achieve zero risk. No one ever WANTS to get hit by a ball, but accidents happen. Eliminating the source (ball) will just transfer the risk to something else.
    My son fell at recess last year (and got a bad concussion) on black ice. Do you eliminate recess in all cold weather to reduce this risk? It’s a slippery slope, pun intended.

  60. Great, everyone will be safe from bruises or concussions and the kids can all die of complications from diabetes and heart disease before they’re 40. Then no one has to worry about the dangers of modern life for the elderly, since at this rate we are going to run out of elderly in a hundred years.

  61. Again you don’t need balls to play and exercise. There are more than one way to get exercise. Never played a sport in my life and I was super tiny and muscular in childhood.

  62. No ANK, you were wrong because you don’t know the policies of said church and just did what you wanted without finding out the policies first. If the policy is to check in the child to the nursery first and not leave a child unattended (Even for 2 minutes) than that is the rules. You follow them or don’t be there. I know at our church kids are not left unattended in the nursery rooms. We have to check and sign them in. They don’t want kids alone in the rooms for more reasons that stranger danger. The rooms are used a daycare and preschool rooms during the week and they need to protect the rooms for getting trashed or vandalized by kids for one thing. Otherwise the business will suffer. They also want to know when each child is signed in, about any food allergies, behavioral problems or issues, who is the parent and who will be picking the kid up. Those are all important things.

    Maybe she just didn’t want your child trashing stuff so she would have to pick it up. The point is you were not 100% in the right so you have no right to be so indignant about it.

  63. Exactly, lollipolover. I don’t want to get hit by a car while I myself am driving safely, so I’d like to request all other drivers in my city who might be going where I am to please not do so. Because you can’t guarantee you won’t hit me. Right? 🙂

    And true, there are other ways to play besides using balls. However, balls do tend to equal instant game – get a few kids and a ball together, and it’s amazing the wonderful things that result. Plus, one of my kids simpoly loves balls (as in, nearly always has one at hand or foot, even in the house), and I think while no one at recess should HAVE to play with balls, I also think balls belong at recess and their absence is ridiculous and WILL lead to less play.

  64. ANK, the thing is, that lady didn’t know you were going to be gone for “only” 2 minutes until you got back. And maybe it was her responsibility to make sure someone was always in there if there were kids in there. Maybe she feared getting in trouble for not locking the door or for taking a pee break, or having to figure out what to do with the child if you didn’t come back pretty quick. In any case, I could see her feeling alarmed while waiting for you to get back.

    But then, seeing that it was only 2 minutes and you did come back and no harm was done and the child was apparently big enough to be OK alone for 2 minutes, she went too far. People need to learn to say what needs saying and then shut up.

  65. dolly: This room was not a daycare center. It’s a small room with some toys and books to keep kids entertained that don’t want to be in the sanctuary. We went inside because it was raining, cold and I didn’t know where else to keep her entertained until the service was over. I was not leaving her for two hours or even 10 minutes. I ran back to get our coats. the woman could plainly see that my kid was quietly playing with one toy, not trashing the place, although that wasn’t even a concern of the woman. The woman was practically hyperventilating because in those two minutes, ANYTHING COULD HAVE HAPPENED. Remember, the angry hoardes are just waiting around the corner, unless I’m right there to hold them back. I suppose I could have put her on the bench that was outside in the rain and told her to side there until I got our coats, but the toys just seemed like a more fun (and dryer) option.

  66. You know, if they have really been trying to get the kids to stop throwing balls that hard(which is what the principal says), then I’m not sure the ban is anti-Free Range; it could be natural consequences of a particular problem with a particular school’s this-year culture. It sure sounds like “If you don’t play nicely, you don’t get to play at all.” It’s pretty easy for me to imagine a scenario where sports balls have become the weapon of choice in schoolyard war, and a parent just happened to get hit by one thrown hard enough to cause a concussion.

  67. ANK: I will take your word for it since you were there and I was not. I was just pointing out that there could be another side to this story here the way you told it. I found a wandering small child one day and I was concerned. Not because I was anti free range but because the child was very small and I did not see a parent anywhere in sight. Granted in my story it was in a parking lot which is a more dangerous scenario but the moral is the same. I was worried for the kid. Also just pointing out that they may not have wanted any kids messing with those toys at that moment because there was no one to do clean up duty or she was supposed to be locking up the room and she couldn’t because a child was in there alone. Or she was afraid she might get in trouble for not being in the room where she was assigned. There are just lots of possibilities there.

  68. Another thing to point out-balls can be a form of bullying too. I was often pelted with balls too hard by the kids that didn’t like me. Pretty sure they were not all accidents. I was not the only kid that happened too. Maybe that could be going on, but instead of dealing with the bullying which they SHOULD do, they just punished everyone and said “No balls”. Schools are not known for their tolerance rules much anymore as most schools just jump straight into zero tolerance.

  69. Soccer balls aren’t hard balls? I’ve gotten a couple smashed into my face. They’re pretty damn hard. I got one of those red rubber kickballs to the face once that broke my glasses into about six pieces. They’re hard enough.

    As far as one being prepared to duck when outside, that’s ridiculous. Yes, you should be on the lookout for danger, but I can’t imagine anything less fun than spending my precious 20 minutes of recess time huddled in a corner with my arms over my face, praying that I don’t get smashed in the face with a foot/base/soccer/baketball.

    Also, we played that game on the wheeled seats as well. I hated it. I always got my fingers run over by other kids. Sometimes on accident, but usually because they were waiting for me to put my hand down for balance and then would scoot right over my fingers. “Oh, sorry, accident.”

  70. OT Lenore, but we can’t read your whole article on the Wall St. Journal without subscribing. Is it posted anywhere else?

  71. @Lollipoplover: Black ice should be a federal offense, definitely. LOL. (But really, I’ve slipped on black ice and it wasn’t fun, but throw down some kitty litter and let the kiddos have some fresh air)

  72. I think:
    1. how do we define concussion??? black-out, headache, dizziness…anger/shock at being hit in the head? perhaps we have become super-cautious and label all head-hits as concussion just in case, to cover our butts from liability.
    2. that kid threw a soccer ball that hard? he better be the pitcher on the baseball team!
    3. yes, everyone has a right to not be hit in the head by balls they are not playing with…but by that reasoning, I have a right to open my windows and breathe in fresh non-smoke-filled air which means the people who live below don’t have the right to smoke on their balcony…I have the right to walk in the street without being hit so all drivers don’t have the right to drive when I walk…and so on

  73. we had balls at school, the squeezy type though, you probably only would be able turt someone with it if you shot it at mach1

  74. racheljoyhattan, it’s a teeny tiny playground where the kids are most likely forced outdoors for recess (I know I was forced to go out when I just wanted to stay inside). It’s not a big playground where an errant ball might come your way while you’re far away on the swings. If the kids can seriously not get away, the school needs to figure something out. Either stagger recess or limit the balls on the playground to one at a time. If three-fourths of the playground is being occupied by ball sports, that doesn’t leave much room for kids who don’t want to play to do much of anything besides keep a lookout.

    I’ve been hit a number of times so I’m especially paranoid about keeping an eye on balls. If I’m walking down a sidewalk and some guys are playing catch with a football in the street, I will keep my eye on that ball until I’m off the block. I can’t imagine being on a small playground with eight different balls being kicked or thrown. I’d have to be put on anti-anxiety medication.

  75. My grade 5 son goes to school an hour early every morning… is it because he’s such an eager student? Um… no. It’s because he and his friends want desperately to be able to play football, and a version of it where they are allowed to touch each other. Apparently, it is against the school policy to lay hands on another student at all during play at recess (though they are allowed to bring a ball… so far).

    I asked my son about how it goes for him before and after school, playing football the way they want to — does anyone ever get hurt? “Yeah,” he said, “sometimes someone gets hurt, but we check to see if they’re ok and then we keep playing.” I asked if anyone ever gets hurt in a way that means to them that they are not safe, that they’ve been hurt on purpose — does anyone feel scared or upset beyond just physical pain? He looked at me like I’d grown a couple more heads. “No. We’re just having fun. Everybody knows that.”

    I really think the “no touch” policy, in the case of “consenting kids,” is a real disservice to them, especially boys. It’s well-documented that wrestling and physical play, including touching and tackling, is part of their development into whole and healthy people. Playful roughhousing is not making boys more violent; actually, it’s the opposite, strangely enough.

    It’s one thing if a kid is getting pounded against his will, and quite another to have boys “playing out” their aggression and physicality, laughing and enjoying themselves, getting an occasional injury. Suppressing this kind of play is actually harmful from a psychosocial and physiological standpoint. Not all boys need this, but so what? Let the ones who do need it wrestle and play, and teach kids when to say no and walk away from play they don’t enjoy.

  76. One of my sons absolutely loves to play basketball at recess with his much larger classmates. He has been in the nurse’s office three times so far this school-year with goose-eggs from being accidentally knocked down. When I ask him if he wants to stop playing or if he wants me to ask the recess-duty teacher to speak to the other kids about perhaps not being so rough, he looks horrified and says, “NO, MOM! We’re having FUN!” He says his classmates always pick him up and make sure he’s okay, and he always returns to the game after visiting the nurse.

    Just asked him what he thinks about this particular school’s policy and he said, in a very loud voice, “No! That’s wrong! That school is terrible!”

    Accidental injury from healthy play is very different from deliberate bullying.

  77. Mollie: that is a great idea to let boys get their running out and stuff before and after school. Probably helps them concentrate better in class. Maybe I will do something similar like let them race on the walk into school or get a little early to the schoolyard and let them play ball or tag for a few minutes before class starts. Boys need to get that physical exertion out to concentrate. Studies have proved that time and time again.

    I also am with you it being okay for kids to hug or do touch football etc as long as everyone is okay with it.

    However there is that gray area where jocks bully the nerdy kids and then when caught say they were just playing or weren’t being too rough ,etc when they were bullying. Again zero tolerance so that is why they say no touching. Zero tolerance just makes it easier for teachers to not do their job because instead of making sure no one is being bullied they can just say “Nobody touch anybody period”. It is just one of those things.

  78. I posted this on my facebook page as well. All I can say is…really?

  79. Well, we can forget Canada being a challenge for Australia in any ball sports for the next couple of decades.

  80. I work with kids in a gymnasium where we can have up to 40-50 kids at a time. We generally engage them in a maximum of 2 sports at a time and we use only about one ball per game (imagine a game of football next to a game of soccer.) With only these 2 balls and this many kids, we still deal with our fair share of head smacks, due to butterfly chasing, inattention, or randomized throwing and kicking. Add to this our program mixes kids ages 7 to 13 and you have an environment where someone can get truly whalloped. We mitigate the (real) concussion risk by operating with slightly under-inflated balls. This way, a football or soccerball to the side of the head, blasted across a gym, doesn’t knock anyone out. And yes, when we play dodgeball, it’s with softer balls (they have an outside coating so they can still travel quickly, but don’t pack a punch unless thrown by one adult at another.) We also rule out headshots. Don’t crucify the school for trying to put in place rules that prevent head injuries- lawsuits are real. Yes, we’ve all survived our childhood, but until you’ve actually seen a small 9 year old take a kickball to the head thrown by a big 10 year old, you don’t know what rules you might *try*. My guess is this school will probably settle on a better plan, but for now, they’re trying stop a million parent complaints.

  81. […] in deranged adults; one Swedish preschool micromanages the color and placement of toys, and a school in Toronto recently banned balls.  Meanwhile, the EU (you know, that organization which bankrolled “end demand” ads despite the […]

  82. Rick Mercer did a rant about this, no one says these things better than him.

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