Janet and I decided play a little tennis recently to get a cardio workout. The last time we played was almost 30 years ago when we first met, so we knew the fundamentals but were, to say the least, a bit rusty! At 56 and 66 respectively, Janet and I aren't exactly Serena Williams and Roger Federer!

So we went to our local Wal-Mart, bought a couple of inexpensive racquets, some balls and a tennis bag, and off we went to the community tennis court to test our mettle. We began by volleying back and forth awhile, we still could hit the ball pretty good, and then we began to play a game. But we just couldn't get ourselves to play the regular way. Whenever we hit a smash that the other person couldn't return, we felt bad instead of triumphant. Trying to make the other person miss the ball seemed completely foreign to us now, not like when we were younger, so we ended up counting points against each other when we didn't hit the ball so that the other person had a chance to return it! This doesn't mean that we hit the ball easy; we hit it hard and fast, but we tried to put it where the other person had a chance to hit it back.

Well; this complicated the scoring no end, so we decided not to keep score at all and only keep the ball volleying back and forth as many times as we could. It was a cooperative thing rather than a competitive thing, and we found interesting contrasts coming up regarding the feelings we had those many years ago when we competed vigorously, compared to what we were feeling now. Trying to hit the ball so that the other can return it has a completely different feel about it rather than trying to make the other person miss.

When the "game" was over, we were smiling broadly and felt closer than ever, because for an hour or so, we were helping each other again, which we have become used to doing for many years. There were no feelings of victory or defeat, competitiveness, superiority or inferiority, just a warm feeling of cooperation.

This feeling of cooperation intrigued me, to the point of checking cooperative games out on the internet, (Learning for life, and Cooperative games (dot) com), and I learned that "Cooperative games emphasize participation, challenge, and fun rather than defeating someone. Cooperative games emphasize play rather than competition. Cooperative games are not new." "Teamwork, fair play and nature is (the) theme. These are educational games for children of all ages, the entire family or school... outdoor playthings... also emphasize cooperation instead of competition and are fun for large gatherings." "We feel that playing a game cooperatively brings out the best in every player. Our games contain one simple concept - all players' work together to attain a mutually desirable goal. Strategies, resources and decisions are shared. The challenge and enjoyment is in the teamwork. Think of the important message this is giving to children." Cooperative games are a variation on the more familiar competitive games. These games encourage teamwork, creative thinking, problem solving, and helps players realize that everyone can win.

They are full of surprises and challenges, but most of all; they are fun! The basic 'rules' are: Everyone plays i.e. no one is excluded, and the games are structured so that everyone can join in. No one gets hurt. Everyone has fun, and everyone wins. If a game (makes) it difficult or impossible for players to meet those criteria then it needs to be modified."

I also discovered that there are wonderful children's board games that are cooperative, and I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't video games as well. Just a thought during this Christmas gift-giving season.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers.