Zyaire Strowder, community coordinator from United Way of Racine County, encourages her young players by saying, “Become one with the pickleball.”
At Knapp Elementary School, located in Racine, Wisconsin, students are steadily progressing in their pickleball skills through weekly sessions in a new club.
During Wednesday’s session, students warmed up with jumping jacks before practicing ball hitting in pairs. They also dedicated time to perfecting their serves, a favorite aspect of the sport for third grader Aniya Williams.
Williams, who played pickleball last school year, has been enjoying her practice this year.
Currently, 11 students from third to fifth grade are participating in the pickleball club, which is open to these grades at Knapp.
According to Ryan Patterson from The Journal Times, the club convenes every Wednesday after school for approximately 30 minutes. Its inception at Knapp this fall was catalyzed by a pickleball clinic organized by the Racine Area Pickleball Club the previous school year.
The United Way of Racine County and the Racine Area Pickleball Club generously contributed a pickleball net to the school. Zane Navratil, a native of Racine who held the world’s top ranking in pickleball last year, donated the paddles.
The club welcomes donations and volunteers to further its activities.
Strowder, acting as the community school coordinator at Knapp and the pickleball club coach, expressed, “It’s super fun, and once they come in, I’m sure they’re not going to want to leave.”
Pickleball is a relatively new venture for Strowder, who learned the sport at the clinic alongside the students. She reflected, “We were making mistakes together, and we’re still learning. I’ve grown to like it.”
Leigh Ann Martinez, the community schools director at United Way, disclosed plans to initiate a pickleball club at Mitchell K-8 School next month and another at Julian Thomas Elementary in the upcoming calendar year.
Martinez emphasized the sport’s role in providing an active outlet for elementary schoolers, stating, “These kids are excited to get out there and try something new. It gets out some energy.”
Open To Third Through Fifth Graders
Participation in the pickleball club at Knapp is open to third through fifth graders and requires meeting attendance and behavior goals.
Strowder lauded the impact of the club on the students, noting, “It gives them a sense of pride to feel like they’re a part of something.”
She also expressed satisfaction in seeing students internalize the importance of accountability and leadership within the school community, saying, “They’re literally repeating back the things that I tell them. That makes me feel pretty good.”
Paving The Way
The pickleball club at Knapp is in its nascent stages, but it may pave the way for similar clubs in other Racine Unified schools.
For further information about Knapp Elementary School, you can reach them at 262-664-8000. The school address is 2701 17th St, Racine, WI 53405.
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