Ellie Foster: ‘Play Is’

This story was published in the Commissioner for Children Young Creative Writers Awards: Winning Entries 2015 book.

Ellie Foster received a Merit Certificate in the 9-11 age category. Entries for the 2016 awards are now open

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Play is being at the pontoon in summer…

Bubbles pop next to my head. I can see the warm rays of sunlight beaming through the water. Muffled laughs above the surface fill my ears. I emerge from the water inhaling a deep breath, as if it’s the first breath I’ve ever taken. I climb up to the rusty ladder to be welcomed by a large splash. A foam surfboard floats on its own, gently tipping from side to side in the small ripples. I launch off the pontoon, landing, planting my feet on the board. I glide several metres before coming to a halt. The board wobbles under my feet and slips out from underneath me. I’m determined for a soft landing, just slowly fall into the glassy sea.


I land with a smack on my stomach. My hands are by my sides. I feel a tingling sensation, telling me, Yes, just do it. I enter the water gracefully. A dark figure the size of a large boogie board slowly but steadily swims toward me. Its barb, long and serrated, drags behind it. I feel a rush of absolute freedom and excitement and reach out my hand, fist clenched. I swim towards the bottom, eyes fixed on the figure. My hand is now only millimetres away…

Play is dribbling the ball up the wing…

The umpire’s whistle makes a harsh, discordant sound. An arm pointing towards the opposing team’s goal reveals it’s their free. They tap the ball slightly, readying themselves for a hard hit, the impact from the ball reverberating back into the stick. Before they can hit the ball, I run in, ready for a tackle, determined to get possession. I jab at the ball, realise that I’ll need more power. I push on the ball which is tightly pressed between two sticks. I push harder, my stick almost parallel to the ground. I use all my might, my heart set on winning the tackle. My force is too much for my opponent to handle and they quickly withdraw from the tackle.

My hands firmly grip my stick. I look ahead, only to see the wing deserted, ready for someone to run on it. I begin to run, the drops of Tasmanian winter rain running down my face, making it colder than ever. My feet are sinking into the turf. I feel a pulse in my head telling me, Yes, this is what I’m meant for. I feel a force of pure excitement and a powerful rush of adrenaline. I dodge around an opponent, making my way into the circle. The roar of the spectators brings me back to reality. The goals are open. The ball is in my power. I adjust my hands and lift the stick to my shoulder. I swing it down with momentum until the stick and ball come into contact. I feel my stick vibrating, and watch the ball glide across the turf. I hear the bonk as it hits the backboard. I smile. I’ve scored a goal.

Play is the sand in your hair and ears, and the saltwater on your skin…

Bright colours flash all around. I kick my legs, propelling me faster and further. I look ahead, to see a large sea-grass bed. I wish I could play underwater hockey there, I think to myself, millions of crazy suggestions swirling around my head. A soft brushing against my legs snaps me back into reality. The seaweed slowly swirls around with the current, making a subtle swishing sound. My mask soon fogs up and I swim to the surface to clean it out. The sun beams down on us, the warm lips of water seeking my skin.

‘This is the life,’ I say to myself. ‘This is what I call play, at the beach with sand and salt by my side.’

The wind blows softly through my hair. I look out to the point, the rocks disturbing the path of many waves. I see a good one out the back. Someone else paddles on it.

‘Damn it’, I say, then I realise that they’ve wiped out.

I begin to paddle, harder and harder until I catch the wave. I’m up, feet planted on the board, going across the face of a right-handed wave. I hear the yeewww sound as I pass multiple people, doing small turns as I go. It feels like the wave could stretch on forever. I feel the sand in my hair and ears. The salt water drips down on me, but I don’t want it to stop. I want it to stay, to remind me of the ocean.


Play is the ability to have fun…

‘Come on, let’s go and PLAY!’ are a few words that most toddlers will say to you, their small curious minds taking play further into their bold imaginations. When you play, there’s no one to tell you, ‘No you can’t do that’, because it’s just you and your willingness to use your imagination. You can do what you want, taking everything to a whole new level. It’s only yourself who creates your own world, no matter how outrageous. You could be running free, yelling and screaming with glee. You could be in a relaxed room, building with Lego, letting your instinct take over, to finish with a large, out-of-this-world structure, and say ‘I built that’. Whether you’re laughing so hard you have to gasp for air, or sticking your tongue out the side of your mouth with creativity, your imagination can be running wild. Open up your mind and let your thoughts flow out, even if they’re impossible, only one person can make them possible. You. No matter the colour of your skin, and where you’re from, everybody in the world should have the ability to have fun. Being with your friends at the pontoon is play, and so is everything else I wrote about. So respect that. Play is part of our lives. So go play.