Yard Games in Secondary Physical Education
Cummiskey, Matthew, Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators
Why Yard Games?
PHYSICAL EDUCATORS ENDEAVOR TO TEACH STUDENTS a variety of sports and activities that can be enjoyed for a lifetime (Lieberman, 2012). As George Graham and colleagues so succinctly explained, "The purpose of a quality program of physical education is to guide youngsters in the process of becoming physically active for a lifetime" (Graham, Holt-Hale, & Parker, 2007, p. 4). Yard games fulfill both these challenges--to add variety and to focus on lifetime activity. Yard games such as bocce are outdoor games that involve minimal equipment and can be played in confined areas. The games are mildly competitive and involve low-intensity activity such as standing, walking, throwing, and collecting small objects. For many students and adults concluding a long and often sedentary school day or workday, yard games represent an opportunity for convenient physical activity. Unlike a local fitness club, yard games are a few steps away out the front or back door. Startup costs are affordable, and for several yard games, the equipment can be "built" at home or substituted from other materials. Yard games feature relatively simple rules especially when compared with the 100-plus-page official rulebooks for many traditional sports. Yard games often require only one partner and are therefore easy to organize; additional partners may be recruited for more enjoyment and social interaction. Unlike sports such as football in which most participants are young, yard games can be enjoyed by multiple age groups including the elderly. This affords participants access to multigeneration dialogue and the perspectives that come from conversation with diverse groups. Yard games are less skill-dependent than traditional sports, making participants less likely to be dissuaded from participation by a lack of perceived competence (Napper-Owen, Kovar, Ermler, & Mehrhof, 1999). Participants can start playing the actual game immediately in schools and can easily transition to community settings. Small-sided team sizes allow skills to be improved more rapidly than do larger-sided activities with the added benefit that learning is more private.
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Yard games provide low-intensity physical activity over longer durations to improve fitness. There are numerous physical benefits to be gained by modest increases in physical activity, the very kind that yard games afford. A recent article by Garber and colleagues (2011) states that "reducing total time spent in sedentary pursuits and interspersing short bouts of physical activity and standing between periods of sedentary activity should be a goal for all adults, irrespective of their exercise habits. Exercise performed in this manner improves physical and mental health and/or fitness in most persons" (p. 1355). What matters most in improving fitness is the total energy expended in metabolic equivalents (Pollard & Rice, 2007). Therefore, duration and frequency can be used to offset the lower intensity of yard games. Dunstan and colleagues (2012) found that simply walking for 2 minutes following 20 minutes of sitting significantly reduced glucose levels in the blood. Overall, the researchers found that any interruption of sedentary periods was enough to improve several indicators of health.
There is increasing evidence that physical activity should be interspersed throughout the day as opposed to being accrued all at once. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web page titled "How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?" states that "10 minutes at a time is fine" (CDC, 2011). Adults should vary the frequency, intensity, and duration of exercise to meet the recommended guidelines. For example, an adult could bike ride before work, walk at lunchtime, and then play yard games in the evening. Together, these activities would constitute a holistic, ongoing, and individualized approach to physical activity that includes options ranging from low-level to moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. …