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Ryan Bakken, Forum News Service, Published October 26 2013

Ryan Bakken: Game of tag tagged for elimination in some districts

I understand banning the likes of “dodge ball,” a grade school gym class game of my youth that was a battle of the fittest, the bravest and the foolish.

Dodge ball, better known then as “battle ball,” was one of the first outlets for testosterone wreaking havoc on cowering 67-pound weaklings. The hard rubber ball could smack you silly on the kisser or leave welts with a round, red bullet to your shins, creating smiles on the faces of bullies.

Yes, dodge ball was often brutal.

But, tag? Is that playground game really so dangerous to be outlawed for elementary school children in Nashua, N.H., and other precincts across the land? Apparently, yes.

The Nashua principal said that a broken wrist, several concussions and other injuries prompted her to ban tag, emphasizing that she wants children to run, jump and play in a safe way.

Tag isn’t outlawed in local precincts, at least by my limited research in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

“It better not be banned because we played it today,” said Roger Morton, physical education teacher at East Grand Forks Sacred Heart for 33 years. “We played freeze tag, where you have to freeze if you’re tagged, but the other players can tag you to unfreeze you.”

So, freeze tag appears to be the playground version of being unfriended and friended on Facebook. It’s also a way to get exercise, sorely lacking among the computer-mesmerized youth of today.

Dangerous game?

Some school officials see tag as dangerous. Can you get hurt at it? Sure. You also can get hurt playing Monopoly, by getting nicked by your wheelbarrow token.

Injury is possible with any form of exercise. But tag offers far more good than bad, said Century Elementary’s Greg LaDouceur, a phy ed teacher for 25 years.

“Tag is a great workout for kids,” he said. “It’s very good exercise because everyone is engaged, especially if you have multiple people who are ‘it,’ so there are lots of reasons to keep moving.

“There also are many valuable things kids can learn from tag, such as spatial awareness, agility and dodging maneuvers. I’d be very disappointed if banned tag came to this area.”

One reason is that tag is usually spontaneous, not organized by adults, as is the case with many sports.

“A lot of games we used to play as kids now have adult supervision and organization,” LaDouceur said. “There’s not as much freelance playing anymore. Part of growing up is learning to solve problems. When they’re playing games on their own, they have to problem-solve on their own, too.”

Morton harkens back to his youth, when youngsters organized their own fun. Grade-schoolers who attended high school football games didn’t watch the game; instead they had their own “cough it up” game just outside of the field’s boundaries. Another popular, rough-housing activity was King of the Mountain, where muscle and grit decided who was ruler of a snow bank.

Those risky activities have mostly disappeared on school grounds. And, rightfully so, say the gym teachers. But tag?

“We’re living in a very protective world and some of it is justified,” Morton said. “For sure, the level of chaperoning and supervising has gone up.”