Snowball Fights Then & Now

I was watching the news this past week and saw an item about the Canadian national snowball fighting team’s preparation for the upcoming world championships in Japan. I loved the interview with the co-captains but then I stopped and wondered how these 20-somethings managed to get good at an activity that has been banned from schoolyards for at least two decades.

Winter recess time is vastly different for kids in 2016 than it was for me 40 years ago. At my school, snow meant that the morning recess would be spent building snowforts so that at lunch recess we could have a decent snowball fight. Sometimes it would be grade-vs-grade, sometimes boys-vs-girls and sometimes just one group against another but it was always voluntary and if any student happened to wander into that area, it was understood by everyone (including the teachers) that it was their fault and not the snowball thrower if they got hit. It was like walking in puddles all recess and then complaining that your socks were wet all afternoon. I do not remember a teacher ever saying “stop throwing snowballs, someone is going to get hurt” but I do remember that when someone got hurt, everybody stopped and understood that the fight was over for that recess unless the patient quickly said they were OK. This was often pre-empted by the thrower’s offer of a “free shot” for the victim. Yes, even in snowball wars there was empathy!

In fact, snowball fights were nowhere close to the most dangerous winter recess activity. Every new snowfall meant that the snow pile from the parking lot would get higher and higher and the view for the king of “King of the Castle” got better and better. With each thaw, the snow would get icier and more jagged and it was a miracle that there weren’t more broken bones and facial gashes.

I know that society today will never return back to these activities “good old days” and that if I proposed a “snowball fighting zone” on the Mentor/TEAM playground, I would need permission forms executed by lawyers to make it work (and my colleagues would volunteer me for yard duty every recess, every day!). Society can also send mixed messages, however. When I Googled “snowball fight at recess”, the first result was this – a child’s game in which participants throw a snowball at a group of bullies (one of the bullies is wearing the answer to a math problem and he is the “target”)! Huh? Get the correct answer by partaking in a banned activity that is directed at someone involved in another socially-unacceptable activity? I would love to meet the creator of that game…on the top of a huge pile of parking lot snow!

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College / TEAM School

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