Global Games: a Multicultural Experience

Jacob Standerfer
Jake Standerfer

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In a traditional gym course, athletics are paired with an emphasis on teamwork and competition. However, in the elective course Global Games, these classic values are coupled with a multicultural perspective brought by a slew of unique games not usually played in typically physical education.

“Global games is an elective PE class with the purpose of playing non-traditional PE games,” said Stacy Steensma, an instructor of global games at FHC. “Traditional games would consist of basketball, football, and others like soccer, but non-traditional games would be multicultural games that aren’t played here as much.”

Global Games came into existence through the work of Pat Hartsoe, the health teacher at FHC. According to Steensma, Hartsoe was “just trying to get different games into the high school” with her creation of the class.

“If you’ve taken PE kindergarten and onward,” Steensma said, “it’s like ‘I’m gonna do volleyball again, and then soccer again, and then basketball again,’ and so on, so [Hartsoe] was just trying to mix things up and make fitness more interesting [by creating the class].”

The consistency of games chosen by Steensma and her coworkers varies. Some games, like sepak takraw and rugby, are sports played primarily in other countries and do not hold a high degree of popularity in America. Other sports, like broomball, dodgeball, and foursquare, are more typical American games, but not usually exhibited in gym classes. Steensma also likes to make up her own games, such as scooterball, a full contact game entirely of her own design.

Students engaging in a game of scooterball.

Within the class, every game is organized into a tournament, which orchestrates a high degree of competition among students. According to Steensma, students “play hard and get sweaty just for the sake of winning, just like they’re trying to play for a state championship.” Winners of tournaments are rewarded with items of food and drink, such as Gatorade or ring pops, so their incentive to win comes pretty much only from the internal drive of students to win and get their picture on a poster board in the hallway. Yet, the class still holds a quite competitive nature.

A tournament poster in a hallway by the gym.
A tournament poster in a hallway by the gym.

Despite the competitive nature of the class, the environment holds a degree of openness as well. According to FHC junior Brendan Juarez, the class is much more welcoming than traditional gym classes.

“[Global games holds] a very relaxed, very inviting environment. It’s easy in a gym class to have anxieties about getting out there and trying, but in [global games] it’s so easy to just get out and play and be yourself. No one is out there to make fun of you and everyone wants to try. It’s great to scramble around in the gym and get a good gym class sweat.”

To take the class, students must first take the required classic gym course. This, according to Steensma, creates a separation between freshmen trying to obtain a gym credit and those who actually want to take the class.

“I love the fact that it’s mostly junior and senior boys,” Steensma said. “Playing games, like full contact games, you just have to worry about freshmen being so little. So I think it’s kind of a right of passage having to take fit for life first. Global games should be a special class that you want to take.”

Overall, the benefit of the class extends past just the fitness and teamwork brought by athletics. According to senior Hugh McDonald, the class brings not just new athletic ability, but new perspectives as well.

“I like the whole international experience [of global games],” McDonald said. “I like how you get to experience different cultures with the different games you play. You know, sports are just so important that they allow you to fully connect and be a part of that culture.”