If you grew up participating in activities at your local parks and recreation, then you probably have vivid memories of the people you met, lessons you learned, sports you played, camps you went to, etc. There is something about being a “park and rec kid” that many of those experiences stick with you as you get older and continue through your life. As part of NRPA’s 50th Anniversary, we have been challenging people to share their Park and Rec Kid story with us. It is these stories that serve as inspiration for people of all ages and walks of life to get out and use their local parks and recreation.
Dirk Richwine, CPRE, grew up as a park and rec kid in Kettering, Ohio. This photo is an actual photo from the city of Kettering Parks and Recreation Department about 45 years ago. Richwine is the little kid in the back with the glasses and guy with the dark hair in the middle is Tony Triola, the playground leader. Here is Dirk’s story…
When I was kid, my brother and I would ride our bikes over to the playground at about 8:45 a.m. to wait for Tony. He would show up around 9 a.m. in his orange Volkswagen Beetle with a Steelers and Italian flag on the back of it. He parked at the YMCA and walked over to the playground. He carried his baseball glove with him (he was left handed). He wore converse tennis shoes with the TTT written on them. That stood for Tony Thomas Triola. It’s been 45 years but I can remember walking across that field like it was yesterday.
He would open the door at the rec building, get the games out (knock hockey was the most popular) and then we would head out to the field to play ball. We never played with the same rules twice –pitcher’s hand, pitcher’s mound, left field closed, right filed closed, three teams, ghost runners. Whatever we had to do to create a game, we did and Tony helped us. The only consistent rule we had was that if you hit the ball out of play, you had to chase it.
Tony was the first adult that played with us and taught us how to play fairly. How to be a gentleman in winning and graceful in losing. He taught us how to make the rules that we needed to, to enjoy what we are doing and very rarely did he have to intervene. He let us figure it out. He made sure that it never got out hand and that we almost always had a good time. The way we figured things out on the playground turned into to skills I use today like problem solving, teamwork, census building, innovation, creativity and making sure everyone has a fair turn.
I am fortunate that I was a park and rec kid because of what I learned on the playground from Tony Triola. I am in the parks and recreation profession now so that I can help others create the same kind of experiences for kids that Tony provided to me when I was a kid.