Recess Transformed My Life: How I Built Confidence and Became a Leader on the Playground

Months ago, clusters of kids I didn’t know in the hallways, in the lunchroom, and even on the playground would intimidate me. I’ve always worked hard to get good grades and had a solid friend group. But, sometimes, I just felt uncomfortable. My shyness prevented me from getting to know more of my peers.

This school year, I became a Junior Coach for Playworks, a nonprofit that works with schools to help kids become the best they can be through play. Everything changed. As a Junior Coach, I am one of a small group of kids who meet once a week with our mentor, Coach Ceria, who helps us learn how to become leaders on the playground. We learn how to speak in front of others, how to teach and play new skill-building games, and how to encourage younger students to get in the game during recess.

On Tuesdays, I lead recess for kindergarteners alongside Coach Ceira. I love playing basketball and teaching games, like tic-tac-toe relay. If I see someone sitting on the sidelines, I approach my classmate and ask: “What’s wrong and what would you like to play?” If I see people fighting over who can use the jump rope first, I help them play a game of “ro-sham-bo” to settle the disagreement so that we can all get back to playing and having fun. If I’m having a hard time getting a group of kids to quiet down and listen to instructions, I use one of the attention getters I have learned to help kids stay focused. We always high-five each other at the end whether we win or lose. We encourage each other to learn, have fun, and do the best we can.

Now, I have everyone’s name memorized. I can go up to kids in class, in the hallways and in the lunchroom to say “hi” or help if I see someone is having a bad day. And, after school, I take what I’ve learned about how to communicate and work together as a team, and bring it to volleyball and basketball practice. I also teach new games to my little brother and cousins at home. It’s hard for me to explain. But, I feel good, and I like helping others. It’s fun!

Becoming a Playworks Junior Coach helped me find my leader within. And, I have Coach Ceira and the kids on the playground during recess to thank for that.

Chyonne, 12

is a Junior Coach for Playworks Indiana. For more information, visit: