When I was a kid, I developed a technique for running super fast. I would zip along on the balls of my feet, but the real speed came from what I did with my hands. Instead of making them into fists and moving them, runner style, in front of my body, I kept my hands open and stiff and moved them backwards and forwards beside my body about hip level.

When I did this, I could feel a power surge that ramped up my velocity to near light speed. I had a name for this secret technique, but no longer remember what it was.

The name doesn’t matter. It was my own special running technique, and the place it was of most use was in games of Red Rover. These were played almost every summer evening on a large grassy lawn.

Red Rover is banned from most schoolyards and youth camps today because of the risk of injury. (Heaven forbid that children should play a game that is in the least bit rough and tumble.) So for those who have never played, it goes like this:

There are two teams, each with a dozen or so members. Team members hold hands forming a horizontal line, and the two teams face each other with about 30 feet separating them.

One team calls out to a member of the other team (for example, Robin) by saying, “Red Rover, Red Rover, let Robin come over.”


Robin sets off at a run and aims at the hands of two of the opposing team, the object being to hit with such force as to cause the two members to unclasp their hands. If Robin succeeds, she can choose one of the two people she broke through and bring that person back to be on her team.

If, however, the two targets keep their grip and prevent Robin from crashing through, Robin must join their team.

Play continues until one team is down to a single member.

I was a runt of a kid, but there was nothing I enjoyed more than to hear, “. . . let Johnny come over.” I’d take off running and about halfway, jump to light speed using my special technique.

It’s important to realize that there is a strategy to the game. If you aim at the weakest links, yes you can bust through, but you are returning with a weak link. On the other team’s turn, they can aim at the same kid, easily winning him back.

No, the thing to do is go for the strong ones, the kids with firm grips that are hard to break. They are the players you want on your team. So I went for the strong ones.

Did I always bust through? No. But when I did, I brought a strong player back with me.

I can attest to the effectiveness of my special running technique. If you organize a game of Red Rover, choose me.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: