Since 2014, ParkLives from Coca-Cola GB has brought together a whole host of different characters from local communities. But there's been no-one quite like Richard before...
Richard Waithe, 45, an electrician and father of three from East London, is one of those locals who has found a soft spot for ParkLives. Now in its third year, and available across 10 different cities, ParkLives has given a number of people like Richard a reason to go outside and make the most of their local parks and green spaces.
A Newham native, where ParkLives first began, he's become a regular at its rounders sessions, and even brings along his family too. Watch the video to hear about his experience, and some of the memories which make him "crack up!"
If you didn't catch it from the video, Richard is one of those people who immediately makes an impression. He’s a self-proclaimed jack of all trades, and also a promoter of a national lyricist tournament, where rappers, poets and singers come together to and compete for lyrical and vocal excellence.
He recalls how he first heard about the scheme: “My sister phoned me up and asked if I wanted to play rounders. She told me it happened every Wednesday at Newham Leisure Centre from 6:30-8pm, and I thought that was wicked. I haven’t played rounders since primary school, so I brought my daughter and girlfriend along too.”
Richard has three children, aged 22, 19 and 15, and confesses to using ParkLives as a way to spend time with his youngest: “She’s the one featured in the video. I used to work twenty-four hours, seven days a week, so rounders is a chance for me to bond with my family and have a laugh. The only time we don’t go is if the weather’s bad, or if I get home late from work. Then they'll happily go without me.”
Remembering the first session
Trying a new sport or something you haven’t played in a while is undeniably a daunting thought. Richard’s experience was no exception. He grimaces when he talks about how there were loads of no-balls, and muscle strains from sprinting around the posts.
“I’m used to it now, but at first I was getting mad muscle pains. It really showed me how unfit I was. Rounders isn’t really a strenuous game, but my arms, elbows and legs were killing me after the first session. It actually encouraged me to start jogging, stretching and take up kickboxing again.”
“A lot of the time people aren’t getting points from whacking the ball far, it’s usually from all the mistakes like running team members out and throwing the ball to the wrong post. It’s a bit Laurel and Hardy, and Chuckle Brothers! Oh, and the session leaders definitely cheat, so there’s always banter with them!”
Making new friends
One of the benefits of ParkLives is that it’s free sport and games on your doorstep. In Richard’s case, it’s a 15 minute walk from his house (or a five minute drive if he’s running late). When asked how he felt about joining a new group, he confidently says: “I already knew my sister and her friends, and then I got to know the other people just by playing with them.”
“Everyone makes new friends when they’re there, and we all get talking. It’s almost like you become a little family or crew, full of different characters,” he adds.
“The games actually get quite competitive! There’s a lot of banter that goes with it, nobody wants to lose. It’s always friendly, but it’s definitely competitive. And with my sister there we’re always taking the mick out of each other. It’s all fun and jokes.”
Richard also agreed to let us film him at a rounders session, where he describes the moment everyone “cracked up” at a mother and daughter who accidentally came crashing head-to-head while running after the ball: “We’re all grown adults acting like children – giggling, laughing, scared of getting caught. It’s hilarious.”
In the video he opens up about the social aspect of ParkLives, and the impact it’s had on the community, including his family: “I didn’t really talk to my sister much before, as we’ve never had that much in common. So it’s really given us something to talk about and bond over.”
For those thinking about trying ParkLives this summer, Richard says: “Go along, check it out and enjoy yourself – it doesn’t even feel like exercise. Don’t come with any preconceptions and just be open. It’s a lot of fun and you get to meet people and have a laugh.”
ParkLives is a long-term programme of daily fun and free activities that encourages people across the UK to get outdoors and enjoy the parks and green spaces in their local community. It offers a range of different activity sessions available for everyone, and this year it’s operating in parks across ten cities nationwide, and a further 35 more locations through a partnership with our sports charity partner, StreetGames.
Find out more and register at: http://www.parklives.com