To make a long story short, my daughters and their friends stopped running laps, and the program seemed—thankfully—to fizzle out.
But, after reading this newspaper article about recess coaches in schools in St. Catharines, Ontario, I'm beginning to realize that the problem of adult encroachment on recess is much more widespread than I thought. Below is the comment I posted about the article on the newspaper's website site. It pretty much sums up my thoughts on the issue:
I think this program is well-intentioned but ultimately wrong. Kids need some time and space to themselves, where adults are not interfering and organizing. Do kids not have enough organized activities already? And aren't self-organized activities better in the long run in terms of the skills they teach kids? If exclusion is an issue, that can be dealt with separately in empathy and anti-bullying programs. But for goodness sake, let's put a stop to the ongoing colonization of kids' space and time by adults (however well-meaning). When I was young, we played many, many self-organized games similar to Octopus; our large "street" groups were flexible, permeable, multi-aged and inclusive. My own daughters play games like Octopus and Four-Square during recess at school without any help from "coaches." Everyone is allowed to play—in fact, they modified Four-Square and renamed it Fun Square, so that it wasn't limited to four kids. Give kids the benefit of the doubt—and a little freedom—and they might surprise you!