Recreation & Leisure: Rhythm of Life

The real value of recreation and leisure is
its effect on life itself.
Look at the people around you.  
How many of them look like they enjoy life?  
How many times have you heard reference to
life as a rat race? 
Life is more than existing, and 
an active lifestyle can give you that extra ingredient.

Six points stand out when considering the value of participation in recreation and leisure activities.

**Fun
**Sociability – making and keeping friends
**Transmission of and adherence to proper values
**Deemphasize spectating
**Supplement stimulation of physical fitness; carries over to emotional well-being
**Self-identify enhancement

Most participants determine the purpose of their engagement through their own attitudes and values. Some play for fun, some play for serious competitive reasons.  Daily activity programs are more and more a way of life.  Leisure-time pursuits not only enrich present life but adds enjoyment to the quality of life in the future.  Participation should emphasize the recreational aspect of experience.  While certain sports requiring tedious training are beneficial to the participants, equal attention to activities that can be enjoy spontaneously is important.  Fun should not be organized out of leisure activity. Participation should be enjoyable.

Participation in leisure activities afford an opportunity for individuals to achieve purposeful living. The experience allows a discovery of personal goals and builds relationship with other people and the environment.  The participant is becoming more self aware.

One of the most important values of recreation and leisure endeavors is the opportunity for individuals to respond to success and failure experiences.  A measure of success can be encouraging while failure can be motivating. The mental adjustments to success and failure is excellent training for similar experiences in other phases of life.  Success and failure elements exist whether in competition with others or as one tries to improve personal skills.  It is these elements that are of immense value to an individual’s development.

Where the physical begins and intellectual ends is difficult, if not impossible to determine. Advocates of “total development” suggest that fitness extends beyond the muscle and we must view a person as a whole.

Physical activity develops strength and endurance and the neuromuscular coordination that contribute to agility and confidence in the control of one’s movements. Participation develops the ability to handle the body gracefully and efficiently.  The qualities of strength, endurance, and agility are directly useful in meeting the stresses of everyday life.  Indirectly, they comprise a great asset for anyone through the inner confidence and self-assurance achieved. An active lifestyle is one of many ways through which we may reach the goal of total growth and development.

The learning ‘products’ of active engagement with others include qualities such as sportsmanship, appreciation of effort, and factors associated with adjustment and modification of reactions to others and their ideas. Experience in group activities broadens the individual viewpoint, enhances self-assurance when in the company of others, and teaches the meaning of loyalty and cooperation.

I believe the purpose of an active lifestyle contributes to physical, social, intellectual, and emotional well-being.  A goal of participation is to enhance the quality of life, feelings of self-worth, and satisfaction through leisure pursuits.  The purpose of participation is simply and fundamentally to achieve a better state of being.

Recreational Sports Contributes to Student Development

Reviewing my About page you see that I spent 10 years managing recreational sports programs for college-aged students followed by 10 years studying the relationship between academic and co-curricular experiences. The interest in how these experiences could facilitate student development and achievement are still important to me.  A few months ago I collaborated with a local university recreational sports department.  My primary function was to provide an introduction for a staff development program focusing on student development and meeting mission.  The institution mission is in direct alignment with the purpose of my blog. It says in part, “to enrich the educational experience by providing opportunities that focus on the development of lifelong wellness skills for students.”  

To create the presentation the staff and I discussed importance of bridging the department mission to the university mission.  Linking department mission statement and the organization mission promotes unity of vision.

A department’s mission statement extends to the campus community a promise of intent to serve. While a mission statement can be the inspirational foundation of an organization, it must also be the framework for program planning and assessment. 

Flow from intent of the organization (mission) to the program goals (desired outcomes) guides evaluation of the goals (actual outcomes). In other words, how well does the department contribute to the organization meeting mission.

Applying the concepts of a mission statement into practice will afford the ability to answer the “so what” question.

We discussed and worked through an exercise to operationalize the mission statements (institution and department). Transforming the mission statement from an abstract concept to a specific measurable vision contributes to progam planning.

The purpose of the exercise was to name key elements of each and pinpoint overlap.  Below is a partial example of such an outcome of the exercise (used in another setting).

The second part of the staff development was to select a theoretical foundation for their work.  My role was to supply an example of using theory to guide practice.  I chose Arthur Chickering’s (1969, 1993) student development theory.  He bases his model on the precept of experiential learning. This theory is a perfect fit as an example for a recreational sports department.  As conceptualized by Chickering, experiential learning is the learning that occurs in a person as the result of changes in judgments, feelings, knowledge or skills.  Chickering hypothesizes that the student experiences have the potential to have a substantial impact on overall development.  Chickering’s model includes 7 evolving factors (tasks) of student development, which he refers to as vectors.  Vector quantifies both direction (i.e., improve, status quo, worsen) and magnitude (i.e., how much of a change).

Below are some examples (non-inclusive list) of how recreational sports programming contributes to student development (applying Chickering’s vectors)

Achieving Competence

**Sports participation enhance self image
**Classification systems used in programming contributes to building competence
**Social interaction and challenge of participation
**Positions of responsibility provide opportunities to build competence **Learning rules, how to work together as a team, strategy of play and competition

Managing Emotions

**Participation helps express aggression (cathartic effect)
**Sport environment allows an opportunity to try new ways of expressing emotions
**Co-recreational opportunities enhance social interactions
**Need to adhere to rules and regulations

Autonomy

**Participation in sports helps in character development, self sufficiency, and self support
**Sports teams help in disengagement from parents (transition to college) **Enhances the ability to use each other’s strengths to make progress as teams make decisions and solve problems
**Cooperation among team members and opponents is necessary to have a successful play experience 

Interpersonal Relationships

**Tolerance may develop by creating a plane of equality on the playing field **Classification of sports and variety of program offerings aid in diversity of personal interactions
**Sports environment helps to eliminate social and racial barriers

Establishing Identity

**Self-concept varies directly with one’s body concept and sports participation enhances this
**Helps develop ability to handle/respond to competitive pressure

Developing Purpose

**Participation may enhance goal directed behavior
**Setting of the team or performance goals and persistence in accomplishing these goals
**Individual and dual sports aid in lifestyle development

Developing Integrity

**Participation enhances loyalty and altruism
**Sport environment allows one to observe, analyze, and evaluate others value structures
**Sport environment develops its own behavior structures, norms, and statuses


Tell me and I Forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand. – Confucius
Final Thoughts

A recreational sports department should have, above all, a fixed, articulate philosophy concerning the nature, intent and reason behind the programs.  Recreation professionals must transition from intent and apply theory to practice in order to prove educational accountability.  Student development theory, such as Chickering, serves as a core construct around which we identify goals, programs developed, and interventions evaluated.

If a profession is to know where it is going, what it is striving for, what it hopes to accomplish, and how it might proceed in its work, it should have goals and outcomes clearly defined. 

If human development is indeed a lifelong process of acquiring, analyzing, and synthesizing information, ideas, and knowledge then recreational sports professionals can feel good about the impact of their programs on that part of the process which occurs during a student’s college career.

I view the sports environment as a mini-society or participatory model of life. I feel that the developmental opportunities in the larger world and those in the sports environment are similar. Future blogs will expand on these comments…my recent work has stimulated the idea to share my beliefs with you.

Any thoughts??