Since birth, humans are taught to love to play. From playing peek-a-boo with Mom and Dad, to running, dancing, and jumping – humans live for leisure. Elementary school kids can’t wait to get outside and play, just like college students and working adults long for the weekend. The roots of recreation can be traced back to the beginning of civilization, when people specialized so they no longer had to forage and hunt all day to survive. Free time was a luxury that only the privileged were able to experience. However, recently free time has become more and more replaced by work voluntarily, causing negative effects on modern society. The bottom line is that recreation is an extremely important part of life, yet in the United States especially, children play less, adults work more, and recreation is often put off and forgotten. Recreation is a vital part of a healthy life and should be a higher priority than it currently is in the United States.
Americans Need Recreation.
In the book Take Back Your Time, Juliet Schor talks about the increasing working hours for adults. In 1967, the average annual working hours for the general public was 1716 hours per year. In 2000, the average working person worked 1878 hours per year (Graff, 7). While these numbers are staggering, they become even more staggering when productivity is also considered. According to Schor, “between 1969 and 2000, the overall index of labor productivity per hour increased about 80 percent, from 65.5 to 116.6… … indicating that the average worker in 2000 could produce nearly twice as much as in 1969.” (Graff, 10) Therein lies the problem. Americans are working more and producing more, and the trend of increasing hours does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Besides working more, Americans are also vacationing less. Schor says that Americans gave back on average “175 million days of paid vacation to employers last year – time they already had coming.” (Graff, 23) The increasing pressure on the working adult to perform and to work extended hours has contributed to the substantial rise of depression. An article in the New York Times wrote: “The World Health Organization reports that suicide rates have increased 60 percent over the past 50 years, most strikingly in the developing world, and that by 2020 depression will be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world.” (Luhrmann)
While the information presented deals mostly with adults, there are also several studies about “overscheduled kids” and the negative effects a full and rigorous schedule has on children. (see Take back your time ch. 5). Needless to say, time is precious. It often feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be accomplished, and it’s no surprise that recreation is the first thing to be cut when short on time. However, in an article written in 2005 by the California Outdoor Recreation Planning Program which works with California State Parks, the positive effects of recreation on one’s physical, mental, and social health are examined. In short, recreation:
- reduces obesity
- diminishes the risk of diseases such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and others
- relieves stress
- reduces depression
- overall improves the quality of life
(The Social and Health Benefits of Recreation)
What Recreation Management is Doing to Bring Leisure to America
In the industry of recreation, there are many different facets that focus on different aspects of recreation and leisure. However, all facets work together to educate society about the importance of leisure, and enable the general public to better their quality of life, build relationships, and enjoy themselves. The recreation industry can include travel, hospitality, therapeutic recreation, event management, and parks and recreation. Each aspect of recreation specializes in one area of leisure and provides a different experience to the consumer.
Event planning is an important part of recreation. Event planners help the client to tell a story at their event, therefore themeing is extremely pertinent to the successful event. The more immersive the theme, the more transformative and memorable the event for the guest. Rhetoric is also extremely important because the recreation industry is so diverse and extensive that the consumer is all powerful. Like most other businesses, recreation must persuade the consumer that their summer camp, their theme park, their sporting event is the best, all while competing with other businesses trying to do the same.
Besides attracting customers, there are aspects of the recreation industry that explicitly work to educate the public about the positives of recreation. For example, movements such as Nickelodeon’s “Get Up, Get Out, and Go Play” strive to teach kids about the importance of active recreation, while organizations such as the Workplace Fairness Organization work give adults time for recreation, and ensure that employees’ rights are protected.
Therapeutic recreation also falls under the title of recreation management, and is extremely important in the lives of those who are struggling physically or mentally with disabilities. As a therapeutic recreation specialist, one would help his or her client to enjoy their life with their disability, also helping them to improve certain skills that their disability affects. For example, a child with Asperger’s may have a hard time communicating or over coming anxiety, through leisure and recreation, a specialist would design a plan filled with activities that stretch the client, while developing his or her social and leisure skills.
Communication is especially important in this field, because of the nature of recreation. Recreation can often involve safety risks, and if communication is not effective, the well-being of the participants can be compromised. Communication is also extremely important in event planning, specifically. Each event or campaign must have a theme or a story to tell to the guests. In therapeutic recreation, communicating well with the client is important to build client-therapist trust.
Recreation is an extremely important part of life. While in the US it is often neglected as necessary for a healthy life, those who have careers in the recreation industry try to show society just how beneficial it can be for their lives. Leisure allows people to relax, to learn, to bond, and to enjoy their lives.