Friday, March 6, 2015


When I was teaching in a boarding school in southern Arizona one of my duties was to supervise the swimming session during a recreation period. In that capacity I invented the game of Flip-Flop, which became very popular. Here’s how it was played:

Participants were evenly divided into two teams. Anyone who wanted to play was welcome to, so there was no set limit on number of players. The pool was divided lengthwise into three even zones: shallow, middle, and deep. In our pool these three zones were clearly delineated by the slope from shallow to deep, which occupied the center third of the pool. (You could use floating lane markers to delineate the zones, with a rule that it could not be touched.)  The “ball” was a flip-flop — one of those plastic sandals. The pool at the school had had a diving board, but it had been removed, no doubt for insurance purposes. But the supporting hardware was still in place, and the support nearest to the pool was conveniently shaped like a goal, so that was our goal. You really could use practically anything, and you could use goals of different sizes according to the skill of your players. You scored a point by throwing the flip-flop through the goal.

The team in possession of the flip-flop was on offense. The game began by a player tagging the edge of the pool on the shallow side with the flip-flop. The flip-flop could be thrown or “dribbled”. Dribbling was achieved by moving with the flip-flop but without touching it. The preferred technique was to splash behind it. The defense could — indeed, was encouraged to — splash the person with the flip-flop, but splashing other people was not permitted. (The splashing made it more difficult to pass the flip-flop.) You could only dribble within a zone, and you could only pass into an adjacent zone. You could not catch a pass in the air; it had to land in the water. (This rule helped even the playing field for less coordinated students.)  If a defensive player acquired the flip-flop, it had to be tagged on the shallow edge before a new offensive drive could commence. Other than tagging the shallow edge, players were not permitted to touch the sides of the pool. The offensive team could not have players in all three zones at the same time. After a goal was scored the opposing team began a new drive with a tag at the shallow end. The game ended when the swimming period ended.

It doesn't sound all that exciting in writing, but the students loved it, and they got a lot of exercise. (I think the splashing was their favorite part. Imagine five people around you splashing a wall of water into your face. You'd want to get rid of that flip-flop!)

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