Well I see I have been getting a lot of visitors lately. Perhaps with the beginning of a new Awana year fast approaching everyone is looking for games to use, or at least relevant ideas. So here is my games philosophy sprinkled with a few helpful tips for starting the year.
Start with Ice Breaker games. Use games where people must remember names of the others or where they must to mingle and ask questions about others within their groups, it is not good to jump into fierce competition right away, I feel that if someone knows their opponents it is easier to feel for them, and helps to prevent the win at all cost syndrome, which is a good reason why friends should be put on opposite teams, most friends are not out to kill each other, but are out to help each other. Although, it does depend on the strength of their friendship and there are some who really good at emotional detaching themselves from their action, they are numb y, but hopefully you will not have to deal with too many of those type and if you should have to deal with them they should be asked to sit out and contemplate their actions, or leave and not come back until they can behave. Awana is not really designed for children that do not want to be there, and if they consistently refuse to follow the rules there is really no recourse other than to send them home.
When moving towards competitions, start with an explanation of sportsmanship, and explain the importance of following the rules. Also a discussion of following the spirit of the rules vs. the letter of the rules would not hurt. Another good point to make is that most anyone can win well and deal with winning, but how you deal with losing really says a lot about you. Are you a gracious loser or do you go stomping off with your head down? You should be able to maintain your dignity when you lose, because you gave your all. What else can you give besides everything you have? So, it is important for clubbers to put forth their best effort, but if that is not enough to overcome others so be it. If it is truly their best then there is nothing else that could have been done, and they can be satisfied. If the clubber become upset their best effort is consistently not yielding wins, then their focus should instead be directed towards improving each time instead of beating out the competition each time. This may eventually lead to wins, but if not they have improved in their skill and ability, and can be satisfied with that. It is important to have the unattainable standard as the ultimate goal and clearly obtainable objects to keep them pushing toward the idealized standard. Here is an illustration: we are commanded by God to be Holy as He is Holy, however this is unattainable in our earthly state, so do we quit trying or do we keep pushing on in small incremental steps. Hence, it is important to balance the realistic perspective with the idealist perspective, you got to have both. The realistic will get you though the obstacles, but it is hopeless without the dream of the idealistic, and on the other hand the idealistic will establish the ultimate dream, but is hopeless at getting there without the realistic steps.
Although friendly competition is helpful, it can often become frustrating when the competition goes beyond that point. All too often many want to toss out any friendly competition, which can actually be extremely beneficial between fairly even match opponents, in favor of having everyone win all the time. Do not fall into the trap that every child must win a price every time; all excel in different areas, so it is important not to give children a false sense of accomplishment in an area where they are not achieve. Rather we must look for opportunities to reward for improvement, for when we award all equally we also discourage them from pushing one another to achieve. We keep the bar low and they will all jump low, if we raise the bar some may not get over at first, but eventually they will, then we raise it again. We cannot leave the bar down low or they will stay down there where they are comfortable. Children should not be lead to feel that they are excelling in an area which they are really not, conversely we do not want them walking away discoursed. So what are we to do? Continue awarding the winners, while also searching for improvement and ways to encourage the improvement. Establishing most improved awards is a good idea. Perhaps have someone time clubbers in events so they can see if they can beat their personal best each time. I am not recommending taking the fun out of games their does not have to measurable improvement every time and often times there may not be measurable improvement, but searching for ways to encourage improvement, and leaving old ways such as friendly completion. While also not be afraid to implement some completely noncompetitive, team building, and lesson reinforcement activities amongst these are also important, but a topic for a different post. I hope I have given some good ideas and suggestions here, and do not be afraid to let me know your thoughts.