Katag Winning Playground Battle

Public-school-yard monitor Virginie Gobeil knows how wild young kids can be. So she's not surprised both pupils and teachers are crazy about Katag, a rough-and-tumble outdoors game she and two colleagues invented and now market in Quebec. “All the kids love it,” said Gobeil, co-owner of Animation la Forge, a two-year-old company whose only product is the foam-sword-based game.

Combining a variety of elements from popular kids' games like capture the flag and ball tag, the concept of Katag is to get kids moving in a safe, team-spirited environment, while learning how to resolve conflicts in a constructive manner. Played with specially made foam swords, daggers, shields and safety glasses, Katag involves entire classes in schoolyard battles, orchestrated and controlled by more than a dozen company-trained monitors. “There are well-defined principles of honour and sportsmanship,” said Gobeil. “It's highly intense and involves hitting people with swords, but no one's ever been injured because players respect the discipline [of] the game.”

First introduced in fall of 2003 at two schools where Gobeil and partners François Moffet and Éric Dugal work, the game was played by some 10,000 kids at 90 schools in the provincial capital in the past year. “It allows kids to use their imagination and assume leadership roles,” explained Gobeil, whose company supplies both the materials and monitors at an hourly cost of $3.50 per student–more for daylong adventures.

“All the kids want to play this game,” says Clément Robillard, principal of École du Parc d'Orléans in the Quebec City suburb of Charlesbourg. “Even the most troubled kids respect the rules of the game, which puts emphasis on qualities such as honour, discipline and justice.”

Comments like that–and a rash of recent orders from schools in the Montreal area–have Gobeil and her partners thinking big. “We want to expand,” she said. “It's not just kids that like this kind of thing. A 60-year-old with a sword in his hand wants to whack somebody with it, too.”