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Coming soon to a playground near you: recess coaches

Here's the latest in a long string of uber-managing everything our kids do: Schools all over the country, according to a column in the New York Times, are now hiring "recess coaches" to make sure kids play nicely together. These coaches make sure there's no bullying, fighting and - who knows - arguing over whose turn it is at four-square.

And why not have a designated specialist who protects playtime? We've got coaches for everything else - ranging from pre-birth (labor coaches, lactation coaches) to toddlers (pre-school prep!) to those ubiquitous prepsters for the SAT. Then there are all those coaches in between (soccer, cheerleading, voice, birthday parties - OK, they're called "planners," but really, what's the difference...). What's next? Conception coach, anyone?

I should have known this was coming. Ever since "going out to play" morphed into meticulously arranged "play dates," childhood's been co-opted by planners, doers, movers, shakers and PFWTMM (People Finding Ways To Make Money).

The column's author, David Elkind, will take what he can get. He's just happy recess still exists. "To the extent that the coaches focus on play, give children freedom of choice about what they want to do and stay out of the way...they are likely a good influence," he writes.

That's a lot of "if's." And even more wishful thinking. In my book, Beyond Smart, I talk about how to help kids "survive the social scene." Part of learning social skills is understanding how to relate to peers, learning to stand up for yourself and finding ways to solve your own problems. If these coaches really "stay out of the way," just what are they being paid to do? And about that "freedom of choice." What are the chances?

Let's keep these kids playing outside at recess and move those coaches back where they belong. On the football field.

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