Outdoor brick wall. Photo by Katelyn Avery.
My elementary school years didn’t entirely revolve around recess, but those 15 to 20 minutes were amazing. At my school kids played a variety of games. Kick ball and basketball were really popular, but one game left the others in the dust. Wall ball was the kingpin of recess activities for those in fifth grade and below.
1 to 3 games would be going on at once. The walls were close together, so we had to stop the ball and then throw it, instead of slamming our hands against the ball like they were tennis rackets. Not many girls played. Sometimes it would just be me and the boys. I usually brought the tennis ball for that day’s game, but that wasn’t the only reason I was allowed to play. It wasn’t like TV, we didn’t believe in cuties or something like that. Boys and girls got along, and only a few recess activities, like football and jump rope, were gender separated.
Wall ball didn’t have any strength requirements. As long as you could reach the wall, and run when someone caught the ball before it hit the cement, you were fine. Even when you did get out it was all good. I would wait on the curb with all the other out kids. We loved to watch the game as well. The stakes were raised when it came down to the final two kids. They would both be really good, and we couldn’t figure out which one would win. Whoever won became the hero to all the out kids. Because of them we were released onto the court for a new game. At least two games would take place during one recess session.
There were days when we didn’t play for a win of course. Playing the game was enough sometimes. The end of fifth grade made outs and winners less desired. We were having fun and enjoying each other’s company. We knew sixth grade would rip recess out of our young hands, but we didn’t know about the other changes. The elementary schools were mixed together and split into two middle schools. Hormones went three steps higher and mingling became harder. Crushes had existed before, but now they were backed up with feelings. One of my classes was even split into a girls side and a boys side. It took a while to break that choice. That made me grateful for the time both genders spent together.
Wall balls physical form died at fifth grade graduation. However the memories still fill my heart with joy. It may have been just a game constricted to recess for some, but it feels like something greater to me.