Friday Inspiration – The Lessons of Play

Last weekend I went climbing with my young niece.  She took to it immediately.  With little fear, a lot determination, and weighing next to nothing, she did wonderfully.  There were times at the beginning when she got nervous – when five feet off the ground she asked me to lower her down.  But as the morning wore on, she got higher and higher, and more and more confident.  She kept at it, she got better and  I think I had more fun watching her scamper up the holds than I do when I am climbing myself.

My niece and I at the climbing gym.

My niece and I at the climbing gym.

Being in the gym with a child brought home that climbing is, at base, pure play.  Like all play, it can teach us things about ourselves without our even knowing it.   Sure we adults focus on ratings, hand strength, and how long we can hold a dead hang on the finger board.  But all of that is just an extension of the play.  We work the finger board, or watch what we eat, to make the act of climbing more fun.  To solve harder problems, to increase stamina, all so we can play more.

By working at the play, we learn things about ourselves.  My niece may not have realized it, but she was learning that to get good, you need to put in the time.  That because you failed on the previous attempt does not mean you will fail again.  That while the wall is high, you make it to the top one hold at a time.

Her first send!

Her first send!

These are the lessons that play and sport teach us.  Are they corny?  Perhaps.  But I often need to be reminded of them and the lessons go down easy when they are learned messing around in a climbing gym.

Speaking of working at play, here’s a video of some kids killing it at a bouldering competition.

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About seanv2

Scholar, gentleman, jock. I run the website Milo and the Calf. There you will find the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire where runners share their stories of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. You'll also find my thoughts on endurance sports, ancient history, Judaism, and hundreds of book reviews.
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One Response to Friday Inspiration – The Lessons of Play

  1. Adam says:

    You know, you’re so right saying that being around those kids would teach us alot about ourselves.

    It’s funny how children see things (actually it’s funny how we adults see things). To a child, everything is about pleasure and exploration while to us everything is about “coping” and “managing”.

    My 9 year-old niece saw me watching some weightlifting on TV and the guy was making that frowning angry face as the weight he was lifting was really heavy, and she asked me … “if he’s so annoyed why does he have to lift it?”. I was never able to answer. To her if something isn’t fun she would simply never try it. Pure freedom!

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