Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior High School (SMPRJ) is bringing back the “good, ole days” of fun at recess by hosting the first-ever Marble King Tournament, which began on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 under the supervision of Albert Jones, SMPRJ Vice Principal.
Forty-eight boys signed up to compete in the tournament that will take place over the course of five days featuring the best marbles of all sizes and colors such as Steelies, Cat eyes, Aggies, Comets, Bumblebees, Jaspers, Clearies and Onions-kins.
According to Jones, “The Marble King Tournament derived out of a need to have our students interact with one another in a fun and friendly manner during break and lunch time at the school.
“Sadly, SMPRJ campus does not have a basketball court, which would help to keep our boys preoccupied with fun athletic activity and many of the boys during break and lunch time would try to gain access to our “big sister” school, St. Georges’ High School to play on the court with the seniors.
“Oftentimes this would cause a bit of a tiff as the older students did not want to interact with the younger ones so we desperately had to come up with an alternative that would be fun.
“Last October following the passage of Hurricane Matthew, which caused a long delay in students returning to school, many of the boys began playing marbles at home to pass the time.
“Upon returning to school I noticed that during the morning break and afternoon lunchtime periods the boys would seek out any area available on our campus to shoot marbles.
“Of course this brought about much excitement on our campus especially for teachers and administrators like myself who were avid marble shooters in our school days and so we decided to fully support the students engaging in the game.”
The SMPRJ vice principal with the assistance of Senior Master Jason Thompson and Head of Campus Security (HCS) Ezra King began challenging the young boys in marble games too, which helped to further pique the students’ interest.
As a matter of fact, the students soon learned the rules of marble shooting and began calling out Vice principal Jones, Senior master Thompson and HCS King to see who had the best ringer skills between them as well as which student could take all their marbles.
“Of course as “old school” marble shooters, we were not going to back down from the young shooters so we engaged in games with them and soon we began to see this as more than just breathing new life into a beloved pastime of people from my generation but a tool to help connect us all.
“Considering the fact that children barely venture outside to play games like marbles, spinning tops, flying kites etcetera, as they seem to always be glued in the front of a television, computer screen, cellphone and/or video game; we thought this would be the ideal way to get them to really interact and socialize with one another.
“Not only would they be having fun but it would help to develop their communication skills and teach each one valuable life lessons such as critical thinking/ strategy, team building, conflict resolution and maintaining proper hygiene habits.
“Now I know that the latter may sound silly but let us face the facts these boys are playing in the dirt so they would need to remember to always wash their hands after marble shooting.
“With so many boys signing up to participate in the first-ever Marble King Tournament I decided to clear an area in the school putting sand down to create shooting pits, divide the shooters into eight groups with six members and let the them play for all the marbles.
“Over the course of the next two days we will have double elimination rounds until we get down to our final four who will compete for the title, bragging rights, all the marbles along with other gifts, surprises, trophies and lunch donated by the staff and Principal Dominique McCartney-Russell,” said Jones with a grin.
Based on the success of this Marble King Tournament, Jones hopes to conduct a tournament every academic term with the hopes of getting other schools to consider establishing a Marble Ringers Club and having their students engage with SMPRJ students in friendly competitions.
Hopefully, the love of marble shooting catches on and those students at the primary school level as well as the junior high school level would exercise serious focus on the game and other “old school” pastime favorites that would also give girls an opportunity to get involved like jump rope (Double Dutch/Chinese), hop scotch, jacks and ball, yo-yoing as well as checkers and chess.
“Definitely, we want to get our students socializing with one another and take a much-needed break from being cooped up inside texting, playing video games or involving themselves in mischief on social media.
“Again we are happy to do this and while they are having fun, expand their communication, social and critical thinking skills as well as develop new person-to-person friendships.
“All teachers administrators and staff members are on board with this, it is keeping the students well occupied and we might even have a Marble Lady (Queen) emerge to challenge the Marble King once another tournament is organized.
“The rules of the tournament is basic and quite simple as each competitor is starting off the game with six marbles and a taw, a no bumming rule is strictly enforced, which means once you do not have a marble to put in the ring in a round you are out.
“Out of the groups, the top two who win the most marbles would move on to the various stages of the tournament; quarter final, semifinal and championship final round.
“The Marble King will be crowned on Monday May 1, 2017 with the runners up receiving trophies and other gifts.
“These “old school” games are considered the best tactile sports to be involved in and while we may not have known it then, it helped us to develop a myriad of skills that serve adults well today no matter what career path they have taken.
“These kids are looking forward to myself and some of the other teachers competing against them and hopefully, they would win our marbles, as they think our skills are rusty but I want them to know Mr. Jones still got it, so they better continue practicing because my “schooling” of them will be real,” the SMPRJ vice principal exclaimed.
FUN MARBLE FACTS: The National Marbles Tournament in Wildwood, New Jersey enters its 95-year this June and is held over the course of four days between students ages seven to 15 years old.
Cathy ‘The Marble Lady’ Svacina of Kansas, Missouri has a collection of over 500,000 marbles and has played in the Marbles Tournaments for Adults held in cities across the United States of America.
Marbles has been around from the early 1800s with several discovered in ashes of Pompeii, the tombs of ancient Egyptians and Native Americans; the earliest examples of marbles were simple stones that had been polished over time by running rivers until smooth but however, for centuries artisans made them by hand from clay, stone or tempered, recycled glass.
Marbles are also know as Mibs and to “knuckle down” means to put your hand in a position to shoot your marble, keeping at least one knuckle on the ground at all times.
“Fudging” means you crossed the line on your shot, which is a minor form of cheating; if you are about to take an easy shot with your taw, you can say the marble you are aiming for is a “dead duck.”
Playing “for keeps” means that any competitor’s marbles you knock out are added to your personal collection. Oddly enough, the origin of the phrase, “losing your marbles” cannot definitively be traced back to the game of marbles, however, if you were to lose all your marbles in a “for keeps” game, you probably would go a little bit crazy.
Marbles range in size from Itty Bitty, which is 10mm to Whopper that is 25mm and to learn more about the game as well as other “old School” games parents and teachers should consider purchasing the Encyclopedia of Play in Today’s Society by Rodney P. Carlisle.