Leisure theorists have made specific distinctions between play, recreation and sport. Describe this differentiation and illustrate your answer with specific examples. ‘One of the chief problems of defining leisure is that it is very difficult to take an objective approach to the subject.’ (Parker, 1983, p3) ‘The word leisure is rarely used without invoking other words and concepts, the most frequent being ‘sport’, ‘art’, ‘entertainment’, ‘recreation’ and ‘play’.’ (Torkildsen, 2001, p5)
Generally ‘leisure is the opportunity and the time outside working hours to choose and take part in activities or experiences which are expected to be personally satisfying’ (Advanced Leisure and Tourism, 1998, p5) This essay addresses three leisure aspects; play, recreation and sport, their characteristics and their differentiations. ‘Play begins at birth and continues until we die. For adults its perhaps more comfortable to call it sport or recreation, art or leisure, but at some level and some degree, we all play’ (Bonel, 1993 cited in Torkildsen, 2001) ‘Through play, children develop their physical, intellectual, emotional and social ability’ (Torkildsen, 2001, p13) The roots of play reach far back into ancient times into the classical era of ancient Greece – although child labour was common the children still held an important place in classical society and were allowed to play. (Torkildsen, 2001)
Play can include playing fields, parks, adventure playgrounds and play schemes (Advanced Leisure and Tourism, 1998) but in many countries play is undervalued and provisions are under resourced. (Torkildsen, 2001) ‘Play is a powerful instrument of socialisation for both adults and children; as people grow older they find it hard to release and take part in pure play activities. An adult teaching a child to play can indulge that anarchy which maturity has untaught them.’ (Critchner et Al, 2001, p62) An activity that demonstrates play is a child in the bath playing with the water and toys or an adult dancing around the room to their favourite song on the radio. ‘Individuals begin to leave childhood behind when they start to play independently, usually with the approval of their parents and teachers who know what young people must learn to make their own ways into adulthood.’ (Roberts, 1999, p118) These give some indication to the characteristics of play; it is wholesome development that can aid social education and learning (play methods work in particular situations in the classroom (Roberts, 1999)), physical development, motor skills and creativity. (Torkildsen, 2001)
The two major psychological functions of play suggested by Giddens (1964 cited in Parker, 1983) are cathartic – dissipating tension accumulated in other spheres and ego-expansion – satisfactions of achievement and self-realisation which are frustrated elsewhere. Huizinga (1950 cited in Holowchak, 2002 Ed.) adopts the opposing view that play ‘must not be analysed purely from a scientific point of view. Any attempt to scrutinize play biologically or psychologically loses what is essential to play – fun.’
‘One of the distinguishing signs of the play world is its strict coherence to invented rules, which suspend the ordinary rules of real life.’ (Torkildsen. 2001, p16) It is a complex set of rules and has intrinsic value and personal meaning for an individual.