Chapter 1 – leading folks in fun
what make a leader popular?
Have you ever watched a recreation leader in action and tried to analyze what makes him well liked? You would find it interesting, and helpful too, to observe not one but several game leaders and to note what they have or what they do in common that makes the group have fun. See if you agree with these points that we have discovered about the usual popular leader:
He is well prepared. He doesn’t flounder, trying to think how to break the ice or trying to remember the rules of a new game. He knows that it takes not just practice and experience but hard work ahead of time to hold a successful party.
He is group-minded. He regards himself as a part of the group, even though he is the leader, and so he refers to himself and the group as “we” –thus identifying himself with the group. He does not try to “run” the crowd; he is guided by its wishes. He gets his goals from the group, giving guidance in the process, but he himself has certain objectives in mind for the event. His genuinely democratic attitude draws out the confidence and trust of the group members because they know that he respects them as persons.
He likes people. Therefore he is understanding and friendly. He is tactful and kindly in giving directions and in correcting the players—not sharp-tongued or witty at their expense. He knows that a desire for recognition is one of the basic needs of everybody, and so he expresses appreciation of things well done by individual players. He recognizes that people are different, and so he doesn’t assume that everybody will want to take part in all the games, but he tries to offer at least a few activities that they all will enjoy. He knows how to help others have fun. He is sensitive to the needs and moods of the group. At the same time he is pleasantly firm and does not allow the distracting activity of a few to disturb the entire group.
He has valuable personal qualifications or characteristics such as poise –he is not thrown off balance by little irritations; humility—he is confident by not cocky, and he is not afraid to reveal that he doesn’t know everything; creativeness—he like to try new ideas, new patterns, and he is constantly learning from the group. He is a hard worker and he asks no one to do something that he would not be willing to do himself. He has a strong sense of responsibility. (He is not like the counselor who puffed up the hill and asked everyone along the road, “Did you see a group of little boys go by here? I’m their leader.”) He is a fun lover himself—and that spirit is, of course, contagious. He has vision—he wants the persons in his group to learn and grow through the very activities of the group. He has religious faith—a code which recognizes the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, and so he carries out that creed in his relations with all members of the group, believing that they can grow and develop through the right kind of fun as well as through other means.
how do you begin if you are a new leader?
First of all, ask yourself these questions: “If I were coming to this party as a guest, not as a leader, would I enjoy this activity? What would be my state of mind? What would I want the leaders to do to make me feel comfortable when I arrived? Or after I had been there a while?”
With these thoughts in mind, line up your activities and decide your program in advance. You may want to start out in the simplest way with games that can be played with the group seated. It is harder to direct a group “on their feets than on their seats.”
If the group is large, it is well to break it up into small units or circles for at least part of the time, so that the experience can be kept personal. That is why square dances and relay races are such fun. Encourage all members of the group to join in the fun, but don’t force them to participate actively all the time. Remember that sometimes, especially for elders, it is possible to take part and have fun just by watching a game.
You may have been asked to lead a group over a long period of time—for example, as a club adviser. In that case, an interest finder is useful to discover what recreational activities really interest the members. Get a small committee from the club members to help draw up the questions or items to be checked and, later, to record the answers.
No matter whether you are somebody who has been asked to take charge of the games just one night at a church family party or at the grange meeting, or a scout counselor off on a hike with your group, or a chaperone at a PTA dance, you will benefit from an occasional recreation leadership training course. Ask more experienced leaders in your school, church, club, or agency whether such courses are available in your own or a nearby community. Sometime in small towns there are monthly voluntary meetings held for swapping ideas. You can start a small library of your own, too, on games, skits, and stunts as a dependable and readily available resource.
…to be continued…