In Playground Games, having fun is no joke

students play volleyball
Students play a match at Pitzer’s volleyball court. (Nanako Noda • The Student Life)

5C students spend most of their time studying for college courses — but that doesn’t mean they’ve completely graduated from elementary school. That’s where the Pomona College physical education department’s Playground Games class comes in.

Led this semester by Pomona-Pitzer cross-country coach Kyle David Flores, Playground Games meets every Friday on Marston Quad. The class starts with a light warmup and stretching before delving into whatever childhood game they want to play, including tag, capture the flag, dodgeball, softball, wiffle ball, ultimate frisbee, Kan Jam, cornhole or shark and minnows. 

“I usually give them options going into the day and I let them vote, just to see what they’re feeling for the given day.” Flores said.

The course, which has been running for upwards of nine years, is a favorite among students. Though it’s intended to be casual, Flores was pleasantly surprised to find how excited the students were to engage with the activities.

“Believe it or not, they’re really motivated to play backyard games,” he said. “They get really into it and they take it kind of seriously, which threw me off the first day.”

Sarah Sundermeyer PO ’22 said the environment lets students commit to the activities and try their best without verging on the cutthroat. 

“It’s a very fun atmosphere,” she said. “People get competitive in a really silly way that is very inclusive.” 

Flores’ leadership helps ensure every participant feels welcome, Sundermeyer added.

“He goes with the flow,” she said. “He’s really entertaining and kind of dives into whatever we want to do in a way that encourages us all to join in.”

As with any Pomona class, there’s still learning involved. In addition to the wellness benefits of exercise, students have been introduced to new games like amoeba tag and hacky sack dodgeball. One week, Sundermeyer said, a student suggested turtle tag, “where it’s just tag but if you don’t want to be tagged, you just drop onto your back like a turtle.”

The collaborative nature helps students get to know each other better, too.

“It’s one of the few classes where I’ve actually been able to get to know people and make friends,” Peter Hodge PO ’23 said.

Rachael Murdock PO ’22, who is taking Playground Games for the second time, values her friendships with her classmates.

“We get to hang out and do silly things together,” she said.

Although the vibe may be casual, participants still come in with high expectations, and they’re looking forward to seeing how the semester progresses.

“Coach Kyle has promised us a parachute, like the ones that we used to play with in elementary school,” Sundermeyer said. “I’d like it on the public record that we have been promised a parachute and that we’re very excited to play cat and mouse.”

Aside from fulfilling physical education credits and innovating the field sport genre, the inspiration behind the class is to give students a fun, active stress-relieving outlet.

“I like how we can do stuff as college kids that we used to do in elementary school,” Flores said. “It’s kind of fun to relive your childhood and goof around because you know it’s still not entirely serious. There’s no winning or real winning or losing — it’s just about having fun.”

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