Why Every NYC School Needs a Recess Program

Growing up in the comfort of the Midwest, there was nothing I looked forward to more in elementary school than hitting the playground for recess time. At Central Elementary, we had an entire city block of space for the recess yard, and there was little issue heading outside with hundreds of kids at a time. Usually the younger kids stuck to the swings, sand, and playground structures, while the older kids formed competitive football or basketball games. As a frequent quarterback during our 4th and 5th grade football games, I’d tell a friend in the huddle the usual directions—“Dude, go long.” He’d have no trouble running 20-30 yards before turning to see if I had thrown it. After he caught it, another 20-30 yards of open Midwest field. Touchdown. The other kids would jog down behind him for the high fives and to get ready for the kick off.

Recess in the boroughs of New York City comes in all shapes and sizes. A 5-minute walk to the public park, recess in the courtyard, recess on the roof, recess in the gym, recess in the “yard,” and most commonly, recess in all of the above and wherever else there’s room. If you were to tell your friend to “go long,” he or she may end up running onto the Westside Highway. Organization in the yard is a challenge that principals and parent coordinators face every year. Recess is inherently an active time of day—and when you throw that in with space constraints, you have a recipe for utter chaos.

The Kids in the Game program, Recess SPORT (Safe Play Organized at Recess Time), sets out to solve a couple of clear challenges we hear over and over again from school staff:

  • We don’t have enough space and we have a lot of kids.
  • Too many nurses office visits with injuries or principal office visits with disciplinary issues.
  • The better athletes dominate any organized games that are played, leaving too many kids excluded.

Recess SPORT is a program designed to address these problems that we continue to see in NYC schools. By utilizing high-energy and experienced coaches, the kids can quickly get set up in separate “zones” (call it Zone A and B) with a choice between several inclusive yet competitive games to play. In the last zone (Zone C), kids can continue to play their own games, many times ones they had previously learned from the coaches. By clearly defining the space for each game, it adds natural structure to the recess period and kids learn to control where they are supposed to play and not play. With coaches monitoring the games, bullying and injuries are quickly reduced as all kids are encouraged (and have an outlet) to play games together.


Just as science, math, and social studies are all important parts of every child’s day, recess is an important time during which kids develop social and physical skills needed to perform well as they grow older. The Recess SPORT program gives NYC’s schools an effective way to ensure all of their students are continuing to develop during their time outside of the classroom. PS 39 in Brooklyn calls it “transformational”—let us give it a shot in your school!

Matt Murphy is the CFO & Co-Owner of Kids in the Game. Matt is a serial entrepreneur and graduate of University of Rochester, where he was a member of the nationally ranked men’s basketball team. You can reach him at