sessionLately I’ve looked at a number of different areas where restorative practices can or, in the case of the “supermarket meltdown”, could have made a difference. We’ve seen how it can be used in work with a difficult colleague, at home with a ferocious five year old, even in maternity hospitals (if you’re new to this blog I urge you check out some of the older posts). I suppose it comes with my job spec that one begins to see the applications of RP in more and more places as time goes on. In this regard I couldn’t help thinking of the line in the film The Sixth Sense – “I see dead people everywhere”. Only, in my case it’s “I see RP everywhere”. Not that I’m complaining about it. After all, it better than the alternative, i.e. just seeing conflict with no solutions everywhere.
Well this week, I’d like to look at the area of team sports. Now before I lose half my readers at this point, I’m not talking about elite, competitive sports here. If you’re a teacher doing a bit of PE, or just want to suggest something in the yard at break, the ideas here could be just as useful. Even if you’re a parent looking for a few party games for the next birthday party you’re throwing, there could be something in this for you. Ok, hopefully I haven’t lost you. Read on.
In my spare time, or as much spare time as someone can have outside of working two part-time jobs and rearing three children, I also coach the local U8 hurling/football team. Through this I’ve noticed that, in spite of the cliché that being on a team automatically makes you a team player, the truth is it that you still get cliques and kids who just want to spend time with certain friends and not others – a bit like kids in school really, or adults at work for that matter. And that’s ok. But when, you’re in a team the more connections you have across all the players the better, for a number of reasons. Firstly, people are less likely to feel left out and therefore less likely to quit (losing members is not good for your U8 team or not good for your staff team at work either). Secondly, everyone knows everyone else better and is happier as a result. And happier players make better players, players who will give that extra 10 or 20% for the team and/or try to support a team member if they are not themselves. Furthermore, happier and more contented players are less likely to cause trouble or create conflict in your team and, even if they do, it should be easier to resolve, given that there’s an underlying relationship and connection to the team.
Sounds easy. Well it is and it isn’t. The solution, in case you are wondering, is to actively build relationships across the team. Now obviously, I’m not saying have a talking circle in the middle of your training session (your bundle-of-energy U8’s didn’t come to talk all day and will not thank you for that). But something like the human knot exercise (trust me it's way easier that you Google this than I explain it) will get players interacting with each other that otherwise wouldn’t. We’ve tried this lately at practice and it’s a sight to behold. The basic idea is you get a group of 6 or 8 (must be even number) standing in a circle and shaking hands with opposite players. They then have to unravel themselves without releasing their handshakes to form a big circle. It’s organised chaos, but a great exercise in teamwork, communication, overcoming a challenge, looking for leaders, you name it. And, best of all, it’s great fun. Another team challenge is to get them to line up in order of their birthdates – and give them just 30 seconds to make it interesting! There are a hundred other games you could find doing a five-minute Internet search (remember these are ideal for birthday parties too, or to liven up a staid staff meeting). All this gets players interacting and relating to each other. And you actually prevent issues from even arising. It’s very hard to criticize or bully someone if you know they’ve the same birthday as you or if you saw them figure out the human knot.
I don’t wish to make this sound too easy because, as you know, there’s nothing easy in life. These exercises still need to be researched, trialed with your team, go through 2/3 failed attempts (“this is boring” I got last week even) before you figure out what works. But, with a little conviction and leadership on your part, the results will pay off. We work hard with kids and teams anyway. Might as well work hard with something that actually works! Good luck.
My name is Joe Power and I am the restorative practice development officer in Limerick since May 2018. I first came to RP in 2016 when it was introduced to the residential centre where I also work. I thought I would start to write a little about my experiences in developing both my own understanding of RP, as well as my experiences in trying to spread RP across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for other's to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it. Also please e-mail any thoughts/comments/stories you might have to me at email@example.com. Thank you.