I approached half term feeling over-tired and snarky.  My friends and colleagues (most of them) are too nice to point this out (those who insisted, know who they are), but I was beginning to irritate myself with my self-inflicted pity party.  You’d think by now I’d have something in my armoury to pull out when I’ve reached peak bleh or peak black dog, but on this occasion it was watching BBC’s Mike Bushell that reminded me that the Ministry of Fun needed dusting down and taking through a warm up.

For those who don’t know, sports presenter Mr Bushell, is unique (it says so on his BBC bio so it must be true) for he has profiled and personally sampled nearly 400 different sports activities during his Saturday  morning BBC slot – and that’s a world record.   You’ve only got to watch this man to know that if he ever got tired and snarky or circled by a black dog, he would go and look for something to make himself – or his viewers laugh. ‘Get over yourself, Mike, ‘ he would say before his friends and colleagues could even think about warming up their vocal chords to nudge him into action.

Through good times and bad – over my morning bowl of porridge – Mike has introduced me to nurdling, whip cracking, bog snorkelling and shin-kicking.  Mr Bushell has been on a personal mission to prove that there is a sport for everyone.  My personal favourite, which actually resulted in porridge being projected in all directions across the kitchen, was Mike joining a synchronised swimming team.  You have to love anyone who is happy to be filmed under water, wears trunks rather than speedos and  paddles his flippers in such an unsynchronised fashion that he nearly wipes the whole swimming team out. It wasn’t Little Mermaid but it was BBC clown fish gold.

Notice that I’ve enjoyed watching all these sports immensely, but none have so far inspired me to track down a venue or club where I can participate. You will have also noted that while I love exercise, I’m not confident of my value in any team sport – hence my frequent apologies to my boot camp buddies if ever a competitive team element comes into force.  “Sorry you’ve got to carry me’, ‘Sorry I’ve fallen out of the stretcher and our team will have to turn back’, ‘Sorry, you’ve had to pick me to make up numbers’.  If I do have to play on a team, you can usually find me skulking on the side lines, overlooked by any ball-holding team mate because they know instinctively that a pass to me will result in the stretcher being reinstated.

But stop, what’s this import from Canada that I see our heroic Mike showcasing on the BBC?  Kin-Ball?  Ministry of Fun I hear you waking up from hibernation. Metaphor overload, I’m unapologetically on my way, for there is sport to be had after all.

What’s not to love about a game whose objective is for any team to catch the ball with ANY PART OF THEIR BODIES before the ball touches the ground?  Even better, the ball is 48” in size with a weight of 2.2 lbs (you can’t miss, dragonfly) and comes in a range of colours including PINK! No, wait, I haven’t finished yet; unlike almost any other game on the planet, this game is not played in the traditional one-versus-one team or individual format, but it is played with three teams, all competing against each other to win at the same time. I’m still going: there are 5 in a team, and 4 have to be touching the ball before the fifth can ‘serve’.  Think about this, I’ll finally be wanted by a team; they’ll need me to have a hand on the ball so that they don’t score a foul.  I may not be a king maker, but I will no longer be the loser in the corner (#dodge ball memories), Kin-Ball is the way to go.

So, before I leave my desk for half term, I manage to get our sports prefects together to show them a Kin-Ball clip.  Fortunately these Year 13 students self-branded themselves as The Ministry of Fun early in their prefect career so this is a project they have trained for –  Dodge Ball was just their warm up act. Mission Kin-Ball is accepted through their  sheer relief that I have broken into a public smile for the first time in weeks.

They love the Kin-Ball clip.  They love the fact that the game involves a rigorous work out for anyone playing.  Most of all they love the thought of a bright pink beach ball being brought out to obliterate any pre-A Level exam stress.  We look up the cost of a ball.  Smiles drop a little – the cost is approx £200*.  ‘Don’t you worry miss, we’ll crowd fund it; the ball can be our legacy when we leave Sixth Form.  We’ll speak to the Business Department, we’ll hold a cake bake, we’ll sell tickets to see you star in the first game’. They are out of my office before I can query why they feel the ticket sale option will be our best money spinner.

Now I find myself quite excited about returning after the half term break.  This week, as I’ve bimbled through marathon training (London, folks) and stretched in yoga classes (definitely needed after all those miles, she says in a shameless yoga teacher plug), I’ve been musing on the acquisition of this big pink ball.  My English teacher brain tangents  into metaphors about working together as ‘kith and kin’ to both fund the ball and to play the game together. It’s a metaphor for life when more than two teams are involved – spinning plates, chaps, we all have to.  I can’t help myself rhyming kinning with winning and wondering if we can get some t-shirts printed.  I’m choosing not to focus on where we’ll store the flipping thing.  Surely a huge pink ball (other colours are available) should never have to be deflated, however – just looking at it will raise students’ sense of wellbeing.  They’ll be truly nurdled.

And this is where I inflate the metaphor to its limit; indulge me – it’s my way of saying thank you to people (you know who you are).  The last couple of years have felt a bit like playing  continuous keepie uppie and that’s simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting .  Sometimes it’s been quite a giggle keeping this old dragonfly afloat, and at others it has felt that I’d have come smashing to the ground if it hadn’t been for those other hands involved in the game.  I’m discovering that sometimes when I’m too tired and snarky to keep bouncing upwards, my kin are only to happy to kick, nudge or deflect me from crash down, until I’m ready to get back in the game and serve properly. It has not been pretty but it’s been effective.  Perhaps they’ve been paying more attention than I have to Mike’s advice on shin-kicking, bog snorkelling and whip cracking.  I hope I can be as good a team mate to them now that I’m coming back off the bench (figuratively, I’m trying to walk away from the metaphors, but it’s not over until this lady starts singing).

I’ve decided that everyone needs a Kin-Ball in their life, metaphorical or physical.  In my excitement I forgot to mention that the game is played in three periods of 15 minutes each, but you can scale this down to 7 minutes for younger players (believe me, I’ll be scaling down further for older players).  Best of all, you get a one-minute break between each period of play.   Everyone needs an option to scale down. Everyone needs a breather.  Everyone needs a team talk.  Thank you Canada for giving us Kin Ball.   Thanks to you, I’ll be coming back refreshed and pretty in pink after the break; the students will be very grateful.

*Omnikin, if you wanted to donate a ball, my students would look great in your promo shots.



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