We've all heard the age-old expression: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But what about PVC pipes, plastic cups, fuzzy doodads, and other random tchotchkes found in any office setting? They too can be repurposed for a higher calling. In this case, it happens to be for the annual weekend of "Camp Culture" for the MIT (Managers in Training) Level II training class here in Dallas. Southwest plucks its biggest and brightest stars for Leadership classes throughout the year, and the MIT Level II group is one of the most well-respected. This year's class of sixteen will be flown in from all over the country to take part in a six week-long leadership course--culminating with a Team camping trip in the Oklahoma wilderness.
How did this all come about? Five years ago, Cheryl Hughey, then the director for MIT, was looking for a Teambuilding exercise for that year's class. Something a bit off the beaten path. Something a little more fun than trust falls or blindfolded Twister, and slightly less dangerous than Paintball wars. Thanks to online happenstance, she was introduced to Bernie DeKoven's site: junkyardsports.com. A quick phone call to Bernie, founder and creator of the site, confirmed that Junkyard sports had exactly what she was looking for: an encouragement of Teams, open communication, and rules that were made to be broken.
So just how did Bernie DeKoven come up with this idea to play with discarded materials? "The idea of using junk was inspired by the street games of the 1930s through 1960s--especially in Philadelphia and New York. I used sports because these are games that people already know--so they could understand how to make the game work. But, since they were using the 'wrong' equipment, they could also feel that the game was theirs for fun, not to be taken seriously."
Bernie has written several books on the subject, and has been preaching the positive effects of non-competitive play for both kids and adults alike for over thirty years. He believes the test of a good game is to teach it, and then leave the room. If you come back and the kids are still playing it, it's a success. He also believes wholeheartedly in adults rediscovering the games of their youth, so with Southwest's Fun-LUVing attitude as one of their Core Values, it was a match made in junkyard heaven.
I asked Cheryl just how they came up with all the, well, junk for the golf game. Turns out they didn't have to look far. "We went to people's offices asking for their junk. It was a trick-or-treat of sorts. We took anything: coffee cups, paper goods, anything non-perishable and random."
No surprise there, considering Southwest's knack of acquiring various flotsam and jetsam throughout the years. Go into any storeroom in Headquarters. and you will find odd memoribilia dating all the way back to 1971.
The MIT Team then set off to the woods of Oklahoma for their three-day weekend retreat. The off-site Camp Culture was the perfect setting for an intense game of junkyard golf. Teams were divided up into nine groups of four. Each team was designated a hole, and had fifteen minutes to create their miniature golf hole. As you can tell by the pictures, it was a roaring success, and a nontraditional way to end their time together.
Bonnie Endicott, now the manager of Leadership Development MIT, has kept the tradition alive. "It lets them have fun, be creative, and it's low budget. It's a terrific Teambuilding exercise." And with all the recycling of junk going, it's green as well. So gather up your discarded office supplies and head outside for a little bonding experience with your own workmates. Just be sure to provide your own golf balls. And check out a clip that aired on CNN of Bernie at the Redondo Beach Junkyard Fest last year: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zy11rfpVE8c