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National conference at Clemson to focus on everyone's need to play

CLEMSON,SC – February 17, 2012 – It is well documented that play is important for children interms of physical and psychological development. But is it just asimportant to teens and adults?

Fran Mainella, visiting scholar at Clemson University, would arguethat it is. And this year’s US PLAY Coalition conference, to be heldFeb. 26-29 at Clemson, will offer research to back up that claim as wellas strategies to open up opportunities for people of all ages,backgrounds and abilities to incorporate play into their lives.

Mainella, who served as the first female director of the NationalPark Service (2001-2006), and is co-chairwoman of the US PlayCoalition, says “play is essential for success and a great quality oflife.”

Psychiatrist Stuart Brown’s research starkly supports the importanceof play. A featured speaker at the conference, Brown first discoveredthe importance of play by discerning its absence in a carefully studiedgroup of homicidal young males, beginning with the University of TexasTower mass murderer, Charles Whitman.That research broadened into thousands of interviews that concludedplay can act as a powerful deterrent, even an antidote to preventviolence. “Play,” according to Brown, “is a powerful catalyst forpositive socialization.”

More than 200 experts from around the world — health professionals,educators, parents and park and recreation practitioners — will gatherat the Madren Conference Center for three days of lectures, discussionsand — you guessed it — play.

The conference’s theme is “Multi-Generational Actions and Strategies,” and speakers include:

  • Stuart Brown, M.D., (Tuesday, Feb. 28, 1:45 p.m.)former clinical director and chief of psychiatry at Mercy Hospital andMedical Center and founder of the Institute for Play, on “From Play toInnovation: Play as a long-term survival necessity.”
  • Weiting Li, Deputy Director of the ShanghaiMunicipal Sports Administration, speaking on “Better Sports, BetterLife,” (Sunday, Feb. 26, 7:30 p.m.).
  • Michele Smith, (Sunday, Feb. 26, 4 p.m.) two-timeOlympic gold medalist in softball and ESPN commentator, on “HowChildhood Play Influences Athletes.” 
  • Geoffrey Godbey, (Monday, Feb. 27, 8:15 a.m.)expert in the field of aging and parks, professor emeritus inrecreation, park and tourism management department, Penn StateUniversity, on “Taking the Benefits of Lifetime Play Seriously.”
  • Bernard Griesemer, M.D., (Tuesday, Feb.28, 8:15 a.m.) world-renowned pediatrician, on “Decades of Play:What Your Doctor Learned So Far.” 
  • James Rimmer, (Tuesday, Feb. 28, 7:15p.m.) Lakeshore Foundation Endowed Chair in Health Promotion andRehabilitation Science, University of Alabama at Birmingham on“Building inclusive Play Environments One Community at a time.”

The conference schedule includes an hour for the conferenceparticipants to play on the lawn outside the Madren Conference Center at2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28.

The US Play Coalition
The US Play Coalition, madeup of individuals and organizations that recognize play as a valuableand necessary part of a healthy and productive life, is housed atClemson University in the College of Health, Education and HumanDevelopment. The coalition was born of The Summit on the Value of Play,which took place at Clemson University in the summer of 2009. Attendeesat the summit made a commitment to create a coalition whose purposewould be to bring together organizations and individuals in support ofplay and to open up opportunities for people of all ages, backgroundsand abilities to incorporate play into their lives.

Fran Mainella
Fran Mainella, a visiting scholarat Clemson in the department of Parks, Recreation and TourismManagement, is champion of a movement she calls “No Child Left Inside,”begun during her tenure at the National Park Service. “We believe playis a basic human need and the foundation of strong intellectual,physical and emotional development,” Mainella says. “Play is essentialto a person reaching his or her full potential.” Mainella was invited tospeak in China in September, which resulted in a large delegation fromthat country attending this conference. She is co-chair of theconference with Brett Wright, chair of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at Clemson.