Tag Archives: Freeplay Softball

Free Play Softball League: Ludic Aspirations & the Blue Men Group

Free-Play

Onset: Free Play Softball League winter blues.

FreePlay-November17

As it turned out, the gentle slope in the westward direction of Forest Hills (and its Field #8) allowed us to set up an impromptu diamond in the southeast corner and play in rather decent conditions for the last four weeks.

Last Sunday’s game may well have been our last of a season begun the SUnday after tax day. It was a notable Sunday for several reasons. First, for the second week in a row Jedi Matt launched a ball over 300 feet. This time I paced off the distance when I retrieved a second 300 foot shot into foul territory. Secondly, our cast of characters allowed us once again to play the minimum type of game with at least six to a side, a game in which we slice the outfield in half, give up the right fielder, a second baseman and some times a catcher, yet retain the first baseman to avoid the dreary game dubbed ‘pitcher’s mound.’ Finally, it was our fifth game in a row in which the home team had a chance to win in the bottom of the seventh.

Because I keep track of my own hitting, I can report we played 27 Sundays out of 30. We enjoyed this year the best weather and the most dynamic group relations of any season since I commenced my own participation in 2001.

Those features combine to knock out a data set about, this year and in a nutshell, ‘ludic aspirations, aging, and the interplay of masculinities.’ Ha!

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Free Play Alignment

Free Play

I asked by email for twelve and twelve came.

There’s more to it than that. First: MONSTER SLAM BY JEDI MATT! Estimates as to length of home run varied from 375 feet to a parsec; still, a top five mash for sure.

My research focus is on serendipity and this also means that I am ensnared on a good day with the problem of contingency as it happens in causal chains of human action. I told Dave B. as we departed the parking lot on Sunday that it was his own email to me earlier in the morning that compelled me to bring the equipment and learn whether or not we would gather enough Free Players together for a November game.

Carman

Mike covering second base, Matt on the base, Carman pitching.

Before his email I was ambivalent and leaning toward announcing by email that the field was too wet, the day too cold, and the season too aged, to play. Earlier in the week Francis, acting as our scout, reported the field would be playable on Sunday. Except this was in the middle of the week and Friday came a day-long, soaking, rain.

Marc


Matt running from first on Marc’s line drive.

The Dave’s email arrived in my in-box. I leaned the other way and shot out an email and stated I would be doing my darn duty and hoping we could play with enough forces to have a first baseman for each team. And, my colleagues made it so.

A close game, the fourth in a row, unfolded on a day past the ending of the real world series. Mark us down for one of best seasons whenever we’re playing in November. We tucked our improvised diamond in the southeast corner of the park and except for scattered miniature ponds in left field, the field was in fairly decent shape.

The ball was leaping off the bat. Monster blast! It came down to the last at bat. With one out I laced a shop into the gap, Stacey zoomed and grabbed it, darn kid! It didn’t matter we came up short, but everybody won the day.

Francis


Francis slapping a hit to score Matt.

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Epic Contest

Field #8

Vegans Astronomers

The Free Play Softball season continues apace. In previous posts I have been ‘complexifying’ thoughts about the meta-game and its management. Having abandoned one approach (cum experiment) three weeks ago, and with the help of veteran Francis, this week we had a heckuva game.

It obtained what I’ve suggested is the optimal result of any structural architecture, or in plain terms, is the goal of how teams are chosen. This goal is: a close game at the end and a game in which either team might win at the very end.

The norm is to stop at noon. Several times we’ve stopped with the score tied. This morning, we burst past noon to play two innings to ‘settle things.’

Innings played after the noon hour are for the Free Play paradigm extra innings. I recall in my twelve years only a couple of such games. This game today may have been the most epic of such extended games.


Previous musings.

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Whence It Flows

Mark Jaffe

ball leaving bat

“The ability to play is one of the principal criteria of mental health.” Ashley Montagu

Free Play October 6

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature’s Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

(excerpt: Ode: Intimations of Immortality from
Recollections of Early Childhood
; William Wordsworth

After last week’s game departed, at its conclusion, from the paradiso, today’s game turned out to be a memorable, crisply played, highlight of the season. With the wind blowing at something like 10-20 knots in swirling gusts, the conditions made fielding fly balls and pitching strikes a challenge. Yet, the pitching was excellent and the outfielders collectively turned in as terrific a morning’s work as I can recall.

I moved to first base, my first and probably my best position, although I haven’t played it much since 1976! Still, with Francis at short stop and Vincent, all of eleven years old, at third, we coalesced into a vacuum cleaner. After the Juniors spotted us a three run lead at the end of the first, the teams played seven innings to a standoff in a 10-7 win for the Chiappas. Fittingly, Vincent snagged a rocketing liner in the hole at third, with his glove on the ground, to end the contest.

After last week, I would guess the temperature of individual enjoyment was high. Good for each and every one of us.


Note to self: there is hardly anything actually objective about our game. It is, after all, play, and thus it is riddled with the human. Oh, heck I’m with George Herbert Mead, there’s nothing objective whatsoever about Freeplay Softball’s social endeavor.

Distinction between propositions or judgments about the way things are and those about how people think or feel about them. The truth of objective claims is presumed to be entirely independent of the merely personal concerns reflected in subjective expressions, even though is difficult to draw the distinction precisely. The legitimacy of this distinction is open to serious question, since it is unclear whether (and how) any knowing subject can achieve genuine objectivity. Nevertheless, because objective truth is supposed to carry undeniable persuasive force, exaggerated claims of objectivity have often been used as tools of intellectual and social oppression. OBJECTIVITY (The Philosophy Pages)

Merleau-Ponty

Merleau-Ponty

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Free Play Reset

Then & Now

IF

IF

IF

IF

No matter the result, there’s always next week. The candids from last week do reflect how quickly the process of resetting follows on the outcome of our Sunday game.

On this blog, I’ve been going into my thought processes and expressing some of my analysis about the intersection of group desires with the format of a zero-sum kind of game, named Free Play Softball League.

With the support of longtime players, over decades we’ve tried to support a singular hope for competitive games, without triggering the Sunday softball game’s human thrust being mainly about one team winning. We were in the midst of a specific procedural experiment about how we pick-up and compose two different teams prior to play on Sunday mornings; ‘all this’ for the sake of reducing the number of hopeless routs, and mitigating the odd statistical outcome in which one particular player is on the winning team close to two-thirds of the time.

Now, it’s back to the drawing board. But, I will look forward to leaning into the my very smart mentors and discovering if there’s a new experiment we will embrace.

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A Record Everybody Helps Set

Free Play September 1st

Yesterday’s Free Play Softball game was epic. For starters, 27 players were on hand. Dave Kolb thought this set the record for turnout in September. It was the best turnout this season, and, the icing was the appearance of both new first timers and some returnees from past seasons.  We ended up with my ideal outcome, a one run game.

When is it beneficial, or necessary, to make the effort to learn more about what each group member’s reflections are about their own experience of the group?

Describe the kinds of Free Play softball games that you enjoy the most.

win win

phenomenological (and social-psychological/anthropological) reflections…

(more…)

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Free Play String Continues

Andre

Andre

Andre

Tom W. 3 hits in 3 at bats; 3 fo’ 3

Free-Play-August-25

The Gang of Summer

I maintain the Free Play Softball ‘league’ is enjoying the greatest string of great weather I’ve seen in the twelve years I’ve been playing; that is playing as we do every Sunday at Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

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Bayesian Aesthetics, oh, and Play

Action Shot

On Sunday we enjoyed an iconic Free Play Softball League contest. Perfect weather greeted us. The home team won on what surely was the first walk-off two run, two RBI sacrifice fly. It was hit by John. He was making his first appearance in a Free Play game. I later learned what brought him to our game for the first time.

The game was iconic because it obtained almost all the implicit goals of our weekly softball games: the game was well played, very close, included some absurdist theatre, and showcased several individual feats. The photo below captures a bit of our happy collective mood in the game’s aftermath.

Free Play August 11

Given the “case” this particular game presented, I, with my researcher’s beanie set a kilter on my head, found the morning’s affair to be especially wondrous. We’ve been doing three experiments, one started last season, one started at the beginning of this season, and one started six weeks ago. Collective informal, ad hoc, social experiments aimed to identify possible avenues of change interest me a great deal. This past Sunday offered up a good, let us call it, ‘experimental circumstance.’

Experiment No. 1. Set in motion last season, and implemented by virtue of a voice vote, we began to call balls and strikes using a nifty affordance, a mat placed over the rubber home plate. It delineates a strike zone determined entirely as a matter of a pitch striking it on the fly. At the time it was a daring experiment because it attended to a problem only a few people felt was a problem: batters waiting for the perfect pitch under the old regimen, under which balls or strikes weren’t called. We have stuck with the experiment, having the catcher call the ball or strike. We have also gone back to the old routine under specific extreme circumstances having to do with wind velocity!

Experiment No. 2. Set in motion at the beginning of this season, and implemented willfully by me and several others, this experiment had a singular hypothesis. Should we actively promote the entertainment and sporting opportunity to our personal networks and on local bulletin boards, our numbers will increase. New players have arrived and stuck with us. We’ll see if our numbers stay robust as the weather becomes less attractive in the fall.

Experiment No. 3. Set in motion six weeks ago, and implemented without any input from the group, we have moved from having me determine the line-ups–a role I had for nine seasons–to me picking up teams school-yard style with Mark Jr. There were two basic goals, the primary one being to spread the talent around more equally, and, secondarily, to offset the advantage Mark jr. himself offers to the team he is placed on. This latter goal follows from his own tracking of the performance of his weekly, temporary team. By doing so he quantifies our results and certifies that his team wins 75% of the time.

(I’m tempted to say we’ve also been doing a meta or over-arching experiment that has something to do with giving me such a hand in the proceedings! As I mentioned to Kurt on Sunday, if I’m bossy, it’s the only day of the week I’m like a boss. Oddly, my imperial authority is partly rooted in the fact that I carry the collective equipment in the trunk of my Civic, and store all of it over the winter. He who trucks the crown and throne and battle gear. . .)

Because of this secondary goal of picking two teams, offsetting Mark Jr.’s track record, he and I have figured out a rough formula. My team is always the home team, and, I get the first pick, and, I start with longtime player Francis, and, in the fourth round Mark Jr. makes up for my extra player, and, finally, we may haggle over the last few picks.

Francis is the key gimme because he plays shortstop. Mark Jr. brings his own performative edge to his own team because he is a lock-down shortstop on our bumpy grassy infield. Others among us have tried their hand at shortstop, yet is has come down to Mark Jr. and plucky Francis.

This approach held until last week. Experiment No. 3 constitutes a series matching one person’s picks against a second person’s picks. In the experiment MArk and I determine our own line-ups, figure out in which slot players bat.

14-13

The 15-8 game was the only game where some players thought the distribution of players at the outset determined the outcome of the game. Mark Jr. has won 50% of his games. So far this experiment is progressing. Its most positive effect so far is twofold. First, players no longer feel my solitary, inept picking is ruining their chance to win. Second, when players express displeasure with the line-up, the blame is distributed to two possible culprits. The experiment has dramatically dampened second guessing about weekly competitive balance.

An Epic Fly

We play on a diamond with a screened backstop and no other fences. (Our field reminds me of the country fields I played on in Vermont decades ago.) As far as I know, this is different than the set-up for most of the (higher-than-our-modest level) slow pitch softball played year in and year out in our region. Next door to our favored wide open field #8 are four manicured, fenced, typical fields. On those fields, hard hit drives and flies can leave the field in classic home run fashion. On our field the hitter probably has to run out a home run. Outfielders, especially when the field is dry and hard play to prevent balls from skittering past them.

State Road Park


Parma’s State Road Park, one of upper level softball’s most storied diamonds

Sunday, John, a friend of Carman, shows up to play with us for the first time. He goes out to shortstop for our batting rounds. He looks experienced. He’s wearing actual baseball/softball jersey pants. He’s big. Then he takes a few practice swings, and the ball just soars off his bat.

I think to myself, “He’s pro.” This is my way of stating what was obvious to me, this is a high level player, one whose hitting approach is to launch the pitch over the fence. And, then I thought, here’s a guy who offsets Mark Jr.. And, this meant we might just do a straight back and forth choosing of players for the first time ever.

So we did. Francis got to play with Mark jr. and happily showed his mettle and versatility with one of the season’s most stellar outfield catches, a running chase-down of a falling bullet.

It came down to the last inning. The visitors took a 13-9 lead in the top half of the inning. In the bottom half, the home team grabbed three runs and John, the brawny newcomer stepped up to the dish with the bases juiced. Francis, in left field, was something like 350+ feet away. In a fenced-in softball field he would have been standing on the other side of the leftfield fence.

I don’t know squat about elite softball but I suspect top level players who come to the plate with the game on the line, one run behind, bases loaded, knowing any hit wins the game, nevertheless want to send the ball into a definitive orbit.

Mark Jr., for whatever reason, commanded his pitcher move to short, and he took the ball and stepped to the mound. Okay, he stepped to not a mound but, rather, to a rugged gash where a mound never existed. He threw some practice pitches. He took some grief from the home team. Tom, our elder was catching and warned Mark Jr. about “too much arc.”

Standing on the sideline, I understood this was a case of mano-y-mano, taking the game literally in one’s own hand, live by the sword or die by the sword, gamesmanship. Ha! Absurd! Crazed! It was a beautiful distillation of everything our free play game isn’t ordinarily about–yet our game can be about anything.

Then John blasted a 3-2 pitch in the direction of heaven itself. There’s no fence! I half expected the fly ball to sprout a parachute on the way down. The outfielder catches the ball and three runners tag up. It wasn’t even close. The tying run scores and the next, winning, run scores and would have beat any throw.

Game, but not match. John, you da man. (It turns out John is visiting us to get reps before autumn’s league and tournament league action.

 

 

 

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Aiming For the Mat

Ants Win

If the resistance to change depends partly on the value which the group standard has for the individual, the resistance to change should diminish if one diminishes the strength of the value of the group standard or changes the level perceived by the individual as having social value.

This second point is one of the reasons for the effectiveness of “group carried” changes’ resulting from procedures which approach the individuals as part of face-to-face groups. Perhaps one might expect single individuals to be more pliable than groups of like-minded individuals. However, experience in leadership training, in changing of food habits, work production, criminality, alcoholism, prejudices, [calling balls and strikes,] all indicate that it is usual easier to change individuals formed into a group than to change any one of them separately. Kurt Lewin

Free Play Softball league Poster

. . see you there!

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Free Play Perfection

July 21 Free Play

Twenty-three out of twenty-four attendees are in this photo from Sunday’s game. This was our best turnout so far.

Ideal conditions evoked a crisply played game. Just like last week, a single seven run inning staked one of the teams to a big lead. However, this advantage almost completely evaporated during a stirring top-of-the-seventh rally.

Free Play Softball, Sundays, 9:45am, at Forest hills diamond #8, Cleveland Heights.

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Free Play Lightning

Free Play july 7

I’m taking the photo, so we added up to 22 free play players Sunday. Six new players have joined us. Yes! For the second week in a row Mark Jr. and I picked teams in schoolyard fashion. Unlike last week’s one run game, this tilted intensely in the last two innings. Mark and I debriefed our disparate picking strategies after the game and he saw the risk involved in putting four brawny first basemen on his team.

In row two, fourth player in is Vincent. He is eleven. Without any comment he is being allowed to play even if he’s a few year’s shy of the lower age limit. He’s around forty years shy of the average age of our participants! He made the play of the game at second base, backhanding a looping drive while moving to his left. It occurred to me he may well be our most serious player. He’s the only one of us who has a chance to make the big leagues.

Our average age, Vincent, and my appreciation of Richard Thompson compel me to end on a musical note. (Free Play Softball league: Sundays, 9:45am, Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.)

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Lost Another Cover

Peanuts

Freeplay-June23-13

June 23rd turnout — best so far at Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, 9:45am, Sunday. See you there.

AndreAndre pre-game vocal warm up.

Andre told me, “You never take a picture of him.”

Peanuts

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Freeplay Turnout

Freeplay Turnout

The Crew for Sunday June 9

IF

David Kolb is at the protective fence. Jedi Matt’s t-shirt reads: Savoring Every Memory Since 1847. With the bat on his shoulder softball deity Mark Jr. likely is pondering some demonstration of prowess or moral instruction. So it went.

We had our first eighteen person turnout since last August. Thank you Randy from North Royalton for showing up. We subjected our new player to the full spectrum of our inner and outer game/games.

God bless Alice Kolb for reminding me right off not to worry so much about the size of our group. Oh, we play–conduct our 27 year old ongoing experiment– every Sunday at around 9:45-10:00am at Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights. Anybody 16-115 is welcome to join us.

If it is possible for groups to experience Spirit in immediate and direct ways in Open Space, so also for the individual. And personally, I have been a major beneficiary. Over the 15 years since Open Space was first done, it has been an amazing journey.

The learnings have been many, but two stand out in particular. First, it is all about letting go. We have discovered, through countless pointed lessons, that there is precisely one way to mess up an Open Space – and only one way. And that is to think that you are in charge of what happens, or worse yet, to act that way. Truthfully, the facilitator has little if anything of a substantive nature to contribute. No fixes, no interventions – or at least not of an obvious sort. For a brief time at the beginning, the facilitator holds center stage (literally), and then it is essential to get out of the way.

For me, as for most of my friends and colleagues, being charge, taking control, was the be all and end all of a proper manager – by whatever name. And if we weren’t in charge, then surely somebody had to be. We became quite skilled at developing marvelous designs for training and other work, timed down to 5 minute intervals with precise instructions for who, what, where, when and how. We knew that things didn’t always work as we hoped, but we had the idea – the perfect span of control would be realized, the optimal organization set in place. If not today, then tomorrow for sure.

The stakes involved much more than professional skill. It was really about image and self-esteem. Those who were in charge ruled, and to be out of control was, typically, to be out of a job. Giving up the one thing that seemingly defined me as me (at least in a professional sense) seemed a little much.

I can’t say that I achieved my objective all in one fell swoop. Truthfully, I did not fully realize how deeply the urge for control had rooted itself in my daily life and professional practice. However, by taking things one step at a time, not unlike the twelve step approach to breaking any addictive behavior, useful things happened. My approach was quite straight forward. Each time I have the privilege of Opening Space for some group, I would think of one more thing not to do. Some little intervention, bell, or whistle was laid to one side. “Ice breaking” exercises disappeared. Warm up, creativity inducing programs were put down. To my surprise, as each layer was pealed off, the function of the group suffered not a whit. Indeed, it only got better.

The hardest part of letting go was to put to one side the self-expectation that in the event of conflict, it was my job in life to intervene and fix it. I found, however that in the (usually) unlikely event that my intervention was effective, the group would look at me with some kind of wonder, forgetting totally that they were the ones who were wonderful. And of course, if I failed miserably, the group would blame me, and forget that I did not have a conflict – that it was not my problem to be solve. (Owen Harrison)

 

 

 

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Free Play Means Free Plus Play

Free Play Softball league – tag – all historical posts

Free Play Softball league Poster

Findings – The case study suggests that play in a ludic learning space can promote deep learning in the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and moral realms.

The capacity for such integrated judgment seems to be borne out of transcendence, wherein the conflicts that those of us at lowe levels of insight perceive as win-lose are recast into a higher form that can make everyone a winner, or can make winning and losing irrelevant. And finally, with centering comes commitment in the integration of abstract ideals in the concrete here-and-now of one’s life. When we act from our center, the place of truth within us, action is based on the fusion of value and fact, meaning and relevance, and hence is totally committed. Only by personal commitment to the here-and-now of one’s life situation, fully accepting one’s past and taking choiceful responsbility for one’s future, is the dialectic conflict necessary for learning experienced. The dawn of integrity comes with the acceptance of responsibility for the course of own’s own life. For in taking responsibility for the world, we are given back the power to change it. (D.A.Kolb)

Above was originally quoted in the first blog post about the Free Play Softball League, eight years ago.

Learning to play, playing to learn
A case study of a ludic learning space (pdf)

Alice Y. Kolb
Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University,
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

David A. Kolb
Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University,
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

learningfromexperience.com

Abstract
Purpose- In this paper we propose an experiential learning framework for understanding how play can potentially create a unique ludic learning space conducive to deep learning. Design/methodology/approach- The framework is developed by integrating two perspectives. First, we draw from multidisciplinary theories of play to uncover the underlying play principles that contribute to the emergence of the ludic learning space. Then, we examine the formation of a ludic learning space through a case study of a pickup softball league where for fifteen years, a group of individuals diverse in age group, gender, level of education, and ethnic background have come together to play. Findings – The case study suggests that play in a ludic learning space can promote deep learning in the intellectual, physical, spiritual, and moral realms. Originality/value- This paper uses the play literature to inform the experiential learning concept of the learning space.
Citations
755 RK: Case study research: design and methods. 2 edition – Yin – 1994
601 Experiential Learning: Experience as the Source of Learning and Development – Kolb – 1984
526 Thought and Language – Vygotsky – 1962
468 Mind in society – Vygotsky – 1978
268 The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, transl – Maturana, Varela – 1988
219 1872) The Expression of Emotions in Man and the Animals – Darwin
163 R: Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior – Deci, Ryan – 1985
153 How we think – Dewey – 1910
152 1871) The descent of man and selection in relation to sex – Darwin
114 Truth and method – Gadamer – 1960
111 Qualitative Case Studies – Stake
86 Childhood and Society – Erikson – 1950
83 Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being – Ryan, Deci – 2000
73 Play, dreams and imitation in childhood – Piaget – 1999
61 The ambiguity of play – Sutton-Smith – 2001
60 Conflict, arousal, and curiosity – Berlyne – 1960
47 Homo Ludens – Huizinga – 1938
46 The interpretation of dreams – Freud – 1976
34 Playing and Reality – Winnicott – 1971
16 Punished by rewards – Kohn – 1993
15 Animal play behavior – Fagen – 1981
14 Play and its role in the mental development of the child – Vygotsky – 1967
6 Qualitative inquiry and research design – Creswell – 2007
6 The hurried child – Elkind – 1981
6 1898): The play of animals – GROOS
5 Intentional icons: Towards an evolutionary cognitive ethology – Bekoff, Allen – 1992
4 play and games – Callois, Man
4 Man meets dog – Lorenz – 1994
4 S.: Ideas are born in fields of play: Towards a theory of play and creativity in organizational settings – Mainemelis, Ronson
4 Does play matter? Functional and evolutionary aspects of animal and human play – Smith – 1982
3 Liminal to Liminoid, in Play, Flow, and Ritual: An Essay in Comparative Symbology, Rice University Studies, 60(3):53-92. [reprinted, in a slightly changed form – TURNER – 1974
2 The school and society and the child and the curriculum, The University of Chicago – Dewey – 1990
2 Play: An interdisciplinary integration of research. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation – Kolb – 2000
2 The Playful, the Crazy and the Nature of Pretense – Miller, S – 1974
2 Relationship play therapy – Moustakas – 1997
2 Social play in the domestic cat – West – 1974
1 A critical reanalysis of the ontogeny and phylogeny of mammalian social and locomotor play: An ethological hornest’s nest – Bekoff, Byers – 1981
1 Animal play – Bekoff, Byers – 1998
1 Evolution and play – Brown – 1995
1 An ethnographic study about a casual sport context”, Unpublished manuscript – Calhoun – 2007
1 Drawing on the right side of the brain, Tarcher – Edwards – 1989
1 The power of play, Da Capo Lifelong Books – Elkind – 2007
1 Why people play – J – 1973
1 Play and behavioral flexibility – Fagen – 1984
1 Applause for aurora: Sociobiological considerations on exploration and play – Fagen – 1994
1 A team with no name: Winning is not about keeping score”. Unpublished manuscript – Goldman – 2002
1 Chimpanzee and others at play – Goodall – 1995
1 Smart moves, Great Ocean – Hannaford – 1995
1 The endangered minds, Simon and – Healey – 1990
1 A comparative approach to play: Cross-species and cross-cultural perspectives of play in development – Height, Black – 2000

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Scrappers Edge Freeplayers 6-5!

Babe Ruth

April 28. Day Two of season twenty-seven. 9:45am, Field #8, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Ohio? Drizzling.

Then a busload of 9-11 year old boys and their minders unload and inform us they have a permit for the hallowed field for this day.

We count our numbers and seems their are eight, and we will commence to practice the game of softball. We make our way over the the fenced in softball fields. Another team is practicing on the northwest diamond–no doubt for the opening week of league play–and Dave asks of them if they will engage us in a friendly game.

“No.”

Later, with a light rain falling, a second inquiry is made and this other team agrees to a game. As it turns out, our spontaneous opponent is a co-ed team in the co-ed league. (We’d be co-ed too; alas…) They inform us in the league they are in the men bat on their ‘off batting side.’ However, for the purpose of what amounts to a scrimmage-type game, they decide not to do so.

We play four innings, and the line score looks like this at the end:

Scrappers score

What fun was had! After the game, the two teams collided in gratitude and high fives and hand shakes. We mentioned anybody is welcome to join us on Sunday mornings. We told the Scrappers,

We’ve been playing pick up games for decades here on Sunday mornings.

April 21. Opening day and we have eleven, then Pete shows up and we’re twelve. It was a crisp day. The metal bats could transfer quite a pointed zing at times.


Freeplay Softball league

Sunday mornings 9:30; game time 10:00am
Open to participants 16-116 years of age; any gender; any background

We try to keep an accurate score.

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Freeplay Oddities

Mark-pitching

A lot of weird stuff happens in the Freeplay Pick-up Softball League/Universe. It’s the nature of this game; meaning our ongoing experimental game (every Sunday at 10am, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Field #8.)

One of the oddest things transpired yesterday when our one and only super duper star Mark Jr. shifted to the pitcher’s mound to pitch the last inning. In breezy conditions he acquitted himself adequately enough. We, the batting team, laid into him but he brought his laser-like focus to the task at hand.

Dave B at the bat

Dave B. at the bat.

Francis action shot

Action shot as Francis drives the spud into the hole, if you can pick it out skipping among the leaves.

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Kofa In, Kolb in Hawaii

Boys of Fall

Set-up for autumn play with home plate where 2nd base is; looking north.

just-enough-free-players

Kolb leaves for Hawaii and Kofa shows up for the second time this season. Go figure but once a Freeplayer, always a Freeplayer.

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Perfect Day For Some Ball

Freeplay Softball

Just about a perfect day for softball, and a close game, and a happy crew.

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Freeplay Softball Exemplars, Debacles, and Experiments

Dr Kolb's Swing

As a student of the mechanics of swinging a bat at the softball, this Freeplay Softball Season, and once again, my top rating goes to our founder, David Kolb. His compact swing is matched with a steady sightline on the ball to produce an effortless flat trajectory off the bat. On our rock-hard bumpy field this season his line drives have on a number of occasions rolled endlessly for homeruns.

A newcomer, Dicky, gets runner-up honors in my estimation. His swing is classic. It’s compact, smooth and supported by a predictably timed step into the ball. My guess is that he honed this swing about fifty years ago and has been rolling with the muscle memory for a long time.

Happy Freeplay Campers

This was the third photo I snapped on Sunday, after I exhorted the grumpy element to manufacture a smile. This came after a rout, again. I’m the so-called handicapper, who for nine seasons has been charged with creating well-matched line-ups. My goal is always a one run game. This season this goal has mostly eluded me.

In July we instituted an experiment, calling balls and strikes without an umpire, yet using the surprising convention of a specially-shaped carpet laid over the plate the ball must touch to gain a strike. Also, with two strikes, the batter only gets two free foul balls. So, two experiments aimed to move the game along, and, disadvantage the “Mike Hargrove” school of–what shall I say–selectivity. I’m a charter member of the long at-bat club under the old regime of not calling strikes, although I am also one of the batters who tends to select pitches out of the strike zone. Noting my own example, I’m not a member of the epic at-bat club, and so the hyper-selective hitters in this epic club are compelled to nowadays manage the strike zone. This has been very amusing. We’ve only witnessed one swinging strikeout and one called third strike, and these go along with several more retirements by foul ball.

I mention this because doing experiments is part of the aesthetic of the game, even if we don’t do many experiments at all. Of course the game itself is an experiment unfolded over twenty-six years: one in which anybody over thirteen years of age shows up in our open space to participate in a game about playing, rather than one about the final score.

Routs have little standing. Smile for the camera please.

 

 

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Between Anarchy, Hierarchy, Bureacracy; and, the Minimus Link

Free Play Players

I spoke to the gang about arriving at the field on time. Offering how it would be neat to commence play close to the traditional ten o’clock time.

How about arriving in a timely fashion, or, agreeing to complete seven innings and go past the traditional noon ending time?

Could we collectively reclaim the principle of playing a full game? Is this year’s collective attenuation of the traditional ten-to-noon time slot a problem?

The Freeplay Sunday Softball league remains an experimental design in practice. The Drs. Kolb have theorized the game mightily, while I have only partially theorized it. And, different than the Kolb’s emphasis on the game-as-learning-space, I’ve had to approach it in terms of its explicit pragmatics, and approach it also as the alignment of these (to a degree) within the concrete action space–out of which game play is evoked every Sunday. It would be accurate also then to state I’ve had to approach it as a once-a-week problem of repeatable organizational development.

My conscious role is to capture the projective identification collectively commensurate with having the minimum authority to assist the initiation of the game. This is an obtuse way to describe the flow of leadership features being pushed upon me and pulled away from me, ending up predictably as enough of a leader to help instantiate the game. This role is connected to predicates, and the most substantial four are: the equipment is stored in the trunk of may car; I make out the line-ups and have done so for nine years; I voice the necessary commands to shift the players to the next step of the initiation of the game; and, I am a willing and sticky enough egoic character with respect to those aforementioned projections.

I was away from the game for four weeks and the requisite authorities were recreated and put upon replacement characters, and this was accomplished without fuss.

After I communicated my entreaty about arriving on time or playing seven innings, a miniature discussion ensued. Several persons stated the noon ending time would remain their ruling assumption; one person stated there wasn’t a problem anyway; two people reminded that we often play six or seven innings in less than ninety minutes. I ended by reminding the entire group that “I could do in the future the experiment of starting on time with whomever was here.”

Whatever.

One player came up to me and suggested, “You’re the boss so you can do what you want.”

Well, yes to a degree, and, ‘no’ to a much greater degree.

I understand my temporary authority has to most rigorously attend to the minimal set of verities. I am one of the principal stewards of those verities. They are marvelously concrete too. The essential one reflects the truth of: commencing the first pitch, batter, play of the game!

After the first pitch, under normal circumstances, my authority fades away, having fulfilled the slim portfolio of duties.

Interestingly, this is given by my privileged perspective–after all, I am one of only a tiny group of participants who have implemented an intentional [1] third order [2] viewpoint; am one of the few who reflect on the game and step back from it and theoreticize about it.

I’m not the boss. Theoretically, my role can be described as mediating the practical Object Relations within the holding field of the game’s ritual space. This way of putting it captures theoretical concerns. What then could be told of the practical way projection works in the matter of holding group concerns together so that group objectives may be predictably achieved every Sunday? It’s OD.

The actual phenomena is much more complicated. None of our group wants me to disrupt the internalized flow of predictable anticipation to bring to their attention a problem of so-called organizational development. The status quo is partly primitive. Don’t bother ‘it!’

Oh, what’s he on [us] about now?

Actually, I go into this, knowing I am in a better position, as against the group, to voice my individual concerns. Nobody had come up to me to ask me to advocate for more group sensitivity to the game’s temporal parameters. My prior experience has been that we may complete seven, eight, nine or more innings of free play softball should we commence the game around ten o’clock. My own view is that more play is better than less play.

However, here is the gist of our case of organizational development: whatever I deem optimal for myself is just so, for myself. Although I could approach this soft need as a group problem–and I did so–what I found out was that it wasn’t a group problem at all. I didn’t smoke out any alignment [3] with my concern at all.


[1] implication of intentional is a determined, directed, effort, rather than the more informal ‘folk-psychological’ and tacit efforts presumptively deployed by players in directing their own efforts to make operative sense of the softball activity when experienced as a meeting of different other minds, so-to-speak

[2] selecting apt analytic/interpretive frames (3rd order) having reflective experience of (2nd order) direct experience (1st order)

[3] a minimus link: given by supposing any need to use organizational development for the sake of obtaining new optimal goals do require maximal linkages.

Learning to Play, Playing to Learn: A Case Study of a Ludic Learning Space, Alice and David Kolb, The Journal of Organizational Change Management (2010)[pdf]

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