As a kid your imagination is filled with toys, video games, monsters, sports and a room full of blank canvases to allow your brain to explore. When I was a kid growing up in inner-city New Jersey, most of my afternoons and weekends were surrounded by family members and friends.
The first thing I can vividly remember doing as a kid was learning how to play football from my mother and father, who in his past was a 2x all-state high school selection. Early on, I would be out in the neighborhood with my cousins and friends playing street football with my mother watching nervously from the side, praying I didn’t get hurt playing with teenagers three times my size and 10 years older than me. Football remained a love of mine until 7th grade.
My grandmother bought me a mongoose bike, black and orange interior design with black rims and wheels with orange handlebars and pedals. Riding that bike was my favorite thing to do after school, besides throwing the football. You could bet your top dollar I was gonna be riding down the biggest hills, curviest roads, and most dangerous turns every single day.
I once had a bad experience in my playful childhood. I had sandals on, and I was about 6 years old, speeding down the hill on my bike. I noticed I was going too fast and tried to use my brakes, but the speed was overwhelming. I ended up using my sandals and scraped all of my toes and blood was everywhere. I remember sitting in the middle of the street crying and my grandmother picking me up, cleaning me off, and giving me a lollipop. Once I recovered from my gruesome injuries, I did not ride my bike for weeks.
On weekends, I would play video games with my friends and cousins, but my favorite thing we did was play hide and go seek and tag until the street lights came on.
Playing outside and being away from my room was the cool thing to do when I was a kid, and I took every advantage of being active, free, and young as much as I could. Being outside taught me my love for sports and what it meant to be full of life and imagination.
Aamir Simms is a junior at Clemson University and an intern for the US Play Coalition.