play / 2015

Watts Ball: A Fun New Playground Sport for Kids and Cops to Play Together

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Wise Guys Events

A new alt sport played by kids and cops together. Each team contains young people and cadets from the police academy. Playing together builds a relationship to transform neighborhoods.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • South LA
  • Watts Towers

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Conduct research
  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Implement a pilot or new project

How will your proposal improve the following “Play” metrics?

  • Number of children enrolled in afterschool programs
  • Per capita crime rates
  • Number (and quality) of informal spaces for play (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to play.

With all the bad news in recent years about violence and strife between police officers and residents of poor or predominantly black neighborhoods, it’s clear that change is needed. Though bodycams, accountability, and better communication are important, there are no quick fixes. It’s said in a proverb that the best time to plant an apple tree is 20 years ago and the second best time is now. What if we could plant seeds now that would transform the way police officers interacted with residents in South LA for generations to come? What if, using play and community building, we could build the foundation for a better relationship between cops and the citizens they protect, starting right now?

WATTS BALL is a new playground game or alt sport. Each team consists of Blockers and Strikers, and the object of the game is to get the ball in your team’s goal. However, there are two things that makes this game very different: it is played around Watts Towers, and every team is made of an equal split of kids and cadets from the police academy.

For the cadets, playing with the kids will give them a new perspective on who exactly is in the community they’re protecting, and what’s at stake. For the kids, playing with the cadets will help them build trust and combat preconceived notions about the role of police in their neighborhood. For years to come, the players will remember their shared team experiences, victories, and challenges, and the spirit of good sportsmanship and team play will be a welcome new kind of interaction between these two populations that, historically, have been all too often connected only in tragic situations.

The added benefit of this proposal is that the game is played at Watts Towers to revitalize this LA landmark that is in peril of neglect and underfunding.

Once neighborhood and regional leagues are established and tournament play becomes regularized - culminating in a first-ever championship Watts Ball team! - we can spread the rules and practices of the game to other communities throughout LA and beyond, but it will always be heralded as a true Los Angeles original, like Hollywood and Fortune Cookies.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

We’ll play test the game with our network of seasoned new-game enthusiasts. We’ll debrief with the kid players and their families as well as the cadets via in-person interviews and anonymized reports to find out what we could do to make playing the game and participating in a team more appealing. But make no mistake, we want to build something that will last a long time and change the city in a meaningful way for good, so we want to always have an eye on the long-term success of the project: 5, 10, 15 years down the line. So getting feedback from the players is critical, but we must always remember that in the olden days, baseball was played without a glove and never at night. Sports change over time. Watts Ball will change too.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Community outreach