At 6 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, there will be an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Game of Playing Catch. In order to officially set the record, which is currently held by Willow Creek Community Church, more than 2,000 people will be needed to play catch.
Rhett Grametbauer, founder of the Play Catch Movement, is the driving force behind the world record attempt.
In 2013, Rhett visited every NFL stadium traveling in a relatively-reliable VW Bus. While standing near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, passing time before a Thursday Night Football game, a stranger approached him and asked to throw a football with him. Rhett immediately experienced the joy and connection playing catch provides.
That serendipitous moment is the inspiration behind the Play Catch Movement. The Play Catch Movement “exists to improve the welfare of children and the quality of life for adults through the game of catch.”
Rhett has since played catch at the Golden Gate Bridge, the Grand Canyon, and all across the country.
It was Rhett’s idea to apply to designate one day of the year as “National Play Catch Day.” The official National Day Calendar turned down his request for a single day, however, believing the idea deserved an entire week. The third week of June, the week which begins with Father’s Day, is now officially National Play Catch Week.
Tim Flattery, the voice behind The Moonlight Graham Show, just released an episode titled, “Catch: It’s More Than a Game.”
Tim said, “We need to normalize playing catch…We need to normalize adults playing catch…A game of catch is perfect, it’s so simple…all you need is two gloves and a ball…In catch, you are dependent on the other person. It’s beautiful in its symmetry and balance.”
I, too, have experienced the incredible power of playing catch, how it brings people together to make new friends, how it sparks joy and hope and wonder.
For kids, playing catch is a fantastic way of strengthening bi-lateral coordination, spatial awareness, and proprioceptive sense.
For those more advanced in years, playing catch can help improve and maintain balance, and is a good daily activity for people struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia, helping them to maintain connections with others through physical play.
And playing catch is fantastic across generations. When children play with older adults, they experience an increase in self-worth, receive much needed one-on-one attention, and have their worldviews challenged and horizons expanded.
Older adults who play with children report having better physical health and lower occurrences of depression.
What if those who meet at Tom Hanafan River’s Edge Park see themselves as ambassadors of playing catch, going out from Council Bluffs with gloves in tow, committed to at least one game a week with friends, family, co-workers, or strangers?
What if social media timelines were filled with catch-playing stories instead of complaints about gas prices?
What if playing catch became a normalized form of therapy, stepping away from the harried hustle of life and intentionally connecting with another person to process the ebbs and flows of life, with digital distractions left on the sidelines?
I believe, like Rhett and Tim, what this world needs is more gloves popping and people laughing and connecting through not-so-fastballs and lifeless knuckleballs.
It really doesn’t matter if a world record is set or not, good things will happen in Council Bluffs on June 19.
I believe in the power of playing catch.