Moorman promotes recreation as fun, social and vital


Moorman photo on bicycle
UNK professor Marta Moorman teaches and encourages others to see recreation as an important part of life.


KEARNEY — When Marta Moorman was a kid growing up in a small town in Oklahoma, the community started a summer recreation program with everything from archery to badminton, swimming and children’s theater. Which was good for the Moorman clan, because her parents had decided there would be no TV in the house.

She easily became hooked on recreation as a way of life.

Moorman said her community and family “forced us to find other things to do. And so we tried everything. You have to have something fun to fill your mind. If it’s fun you stick with it.”

Moorman, a professor of recreation at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, teaches others who are passionate about recreation to identify and develop organized or individual sports, fitness, wellness and other community recreation activities. For her teaching and leadership, CHI-Health Good Samaritan recently gave her the Healthy Community Award in the area of Recreation. Moorman was nominated by Kearney Parks and Recreation.

Recreational activities that Moorman grew up with have been her life, she said. Games, music, sports, cooking, exercise, reading — she teaches that recreation isn’t about just the body, it’s about the mind and also about being around others.

“It’s about the whole person. It’s a lot about being social. We need to be around others. Recreation is so good for that because you are not just sitting in a room with somebody. Suddenly you’re playing with them and you’re seeing how their mind works and you see that they have skills that may be way better than yours. And you think ‘this is somebody I really need get to know.’”

Moorman came to teaching about recreation first by studying physical education, which she found rather limiting as a scholarly and creative endeavor.

“P.E. is education of the physical: ‘How do you throw, how do you run, how do you jump, how do you play basketball’,” she said. “But I love music too. And that wasn’t part of P.E. There are all of these other sorts of things that happen outside of the school, which is where P.E. happens, and those things are important too. Things that people undertake when they have time, when they’re not otherwise occupied with work or other obligations: hobbies, spirituality, music. It’s all good.”

Moorman enjoys adventure. She joined the Peace Corps in 1984 and was sent to Guatemala where she led a Youth Development program. She said even communities in third-world countries need recreation, to help youths stay active and away from bad influences.

“We solve a lot of our social problems by providing good options of activities for people to do. Recreation is not trivial. People don’t consider all of the benefits that come with it,” she said.

“That’s what we found in Guatemala. Here was a third-world country with rampant poverty, very high unemployment, alcoholism, drugs that were readily available, and youth who went to school half a day. The Guatemalan government requested help with a Youth Development program. The job description said, ‘…teach basketball, volleyball, swimming and track.’ Our recreation program did not solve all the drug and alcohol and unemployment problems, but we gave people choices of more positive activities.  And we made our community a much better place to live.

“Through the Peace Corps, I learned a lot about the world. And I learned that people are wonderful everywhere you go,” she said.

Moorman has been on faculty at UNK for 21 years and over that time, she’s seen changes in recreation and how U.S. culture, families and communities recreate.

“Historically, the focus of community recreation was on team sports, but we have seen an increase in the number of individual activities and commercial providers. As well, it seems to me that recreation has become more intentional: we’re doing it for a reason. People are conscious about being out and active, and staying healthy. I think we will see an increase in the number and variety of outdoor and adventure activities. These areas of the professional have shown dramatic increases in the past few years. Kearney has the new water trail in the canal and Turkey Creek. UNK has a new rock climbing wall. These types of activities are very popular.”

Over the years she also seen changes in Kearney, especially its variety of activities, and how Kearney comes together to solve problems. Twenty years ago she said there was no trail system – the hike-bike trail to Cotton Mill was a single dirt track. Parks have evolved and more options for organized sports have developed. Activities like Community Olympics and Senior Games, adventure races and trail walks. Getting her UNK students involved in planning and organizing events is just as important as being involved herself, she said.

“Kearney is good at deciding what they want and going for it. When the community decided that we needed more ball fields, we figured out a way to make it work. When Kearney decides what it wants, we make it happen. We’re progressive in that way. I like that a lot.” She helped as part of the Patriot Park Development Committee to help develop those ball fields, and has been on the Park and Recreation Advisory Board, Rowe Sanctuary Committee, and is a member of the Nebraska and National Recreation and Park Associations.

Her advocacy on a local, state and national level includes elevating the importance of recreation as a community and individual need.

“I find it kind of interesting that recreation people always have to justify what they do. It’s easy to justify health and exercise. We see the importance of those things, yet people look at recreation as ‘oh, that’s just for fun.’ But if it’s not fun people won’t participate. Fun is the point. And social is the point. Activities that are fun and social are very important, both for individuals and the community.”

The Healthy Community Awards program celebrates the good health of Kearney and Buffalo County citizens and the people and groups who, through their leadership, education and assistance, help make the community a healthier place to live.


WRITER: Kelly Bartling,

SOURCE: Marta Moorman,