By Adriana Ermter
What do Tennessee Titans tackler Michael Oher, two-time NBA champ LeBron James and L.A. Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig have in common? Playing ball changed their lives, for good.
Call Ball has the same positive effect on the one million kids playing it in our programs around the world—it's teaching them the skills they need to enjoy and excel in school.
We use sports and activities to help kids learn how to concentrate, to pay attention and to remember. These tools empower them to read and retain information and are the beginning of sustainable change. According to the United Nations, 12 per cent of children (that's over 170 million people!) are lifted out of poverty when they have basic reading skills.
This is where a game of
Call Ball and our specially-trained Coaches come in.
Our Coaches instruct the children (who, for this activity, are between six and nine years old), to form a circle. One child is given a ball and asked to stand in the middle of the circle and throw the ball in the air, while calling the name of a participant standing in the circle. The kid whose name has been called has to catch the ball before it hits the ground. If the child succeeds, the catcher and thrower swap places. If the ball is dropped, the two return to their original spots and the game continues. Sounds fun, right? It is. The activity also requires hand-eye coordination and develops concentration, attention and memory skills—all essential for success in the classroom. Our Coaches know this, so after each child has had a turn in the middle of the circle, they gather the kids together to reflect on the game.
The Coaches ask the children how they remembered the names of everyone participating. Then, they talk about the most challenging aspects of the game, allowing time for all of the participants to contribute. Next, each child is asked to share a time from their past when they experienced similar challenges, that were both mentally and physically demanding. Last but not least, the Coaches lead the group in identifying ways to remember information and to retain people's names.
Sharing these thoughts and experiences in our safe and play-driven environment validates the children's sense of self and infuses them with confidence. When they leave, they feel enthusiastic about and encouraged to attend and stay in school.
For us, it's just one more reason to play a little ball.