Play nice

One of the unexpected perks of where I live now, is that there's a playground and basketball court right beside my block, and every evening there are boys playing soccer or basketball there. Even though I live on a really high floor, I can hear the ring of kids' voices every evening --- I can hear them now as I type this --- and it makes the neighbourhood feel lively and lived-in more than a dozen "grassroots activities".

To my knowledge, there are no rules about having to book the playground or the basketball court for games. Every evening, kids and teenagers just show up with their mates, and they knock a ball around for a couple of hours. There are no referees, supervisors or security guards, but there is some form of organisation. The boys have figured it out themselves --- they play in teams and it's not a wild free-for-all. One weekend there were more than 30 young men at the basketball court, playing in some kind of tournament of their own. I have yet to see or hear of any fights, though sometimes the younger kids will squabble lightly among themselves.

Build it and they will come?

* * *

Last week I passed a beautiful wide plain in the middle of a residential area. It was the kind of wide plain you can imagine dogs bounding across, which I hear is what you'll see there on weekends. There are no paths, no benches, no "landscaped areas", no signs because there's nothing to point to. Just plenty of space for all to run.

Is the place havoc on the weekends, then? From what I understand, no. People walking their dogs make sure the animals don't bother people out for a walk or a jog. There's even a regular coterie of hobbyists who show up with their remote-control planes and conduct themselves over in one section of the field, without endangering any passing cars or passersby.

Space. If you've got it, use it (nicely).

* * *

Given all the recent hand-wringing about race (ethnicity) and social integration in Singapore, it's also nice to see that the main group of soccer-playing boys (primary school-aged) in my neighbourhood is an ethnically diverse group. Nobody appears to be forcing them to play together; they just are.

On the other hand, the basketball players are pretty much all Chinese (by which I mean their apparent ethnicity, not country of origin). They're also older --- at least 16 years old, if not up to 20 or so.

The older you get, the more you stick to your own kind? I hope not. Plus I wonder: where have all the girls gone?

* * *

Of course, I'm not advocating that someone march up to the basketball players with a Golden Baton of Racial Harmony and force them to "integrate" their games. They're not doing anything socially disruptive, and if hanging out in a monocultural group were ever considered disruptive behaviour in Singapore, there'd be many larger groups (and some of them less tractable) that would need policing too.

Mostly, I think, it's such a novelty to find such dedication to play --- particularly from young people of school-going age --- that it'd be great if they just carried on. They're not going jogging because it's good for their health. They're not taking up a sport because they might win gold medals for their school or want to "learn to work as a team and to be resilient". They're just at play, 'cause it's fun and they like it.

Play on.



At 9/30/2009 3:01 am , Blogger cole. said...

I play basketball quite often. There are unspoken rules when it comes to the use of the court. The group that comes first get priority, if it's a decision between soccer and basketball. Or if you're there to play basketball and there are others there already playing basketball, you can ask to join in if it's not too crowded. They'll normally let you play.

The race issue is quite simple really - only a minority of non-chinese are interested in basketball. I've no idea why though.

At 9/30/2009 1:46 pm , Blogger Adrenalene said...

love your blog!


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