NUSD launches elementary school sports program

--- Published on September 22nd 2015 ---
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Ten-year-old Jamir said he signed up because he loves football and wants to be like his dad, a former Grant High School football player.

John, 11, wanted to support his school.

Tanay, 9, hopes all the running and blocking will make him a little tougher.

Natomas Unified expanded its district-wide sports program Monday by launching an elementary school sports program that will pit the District’s campuses against each other in after-school games featuring 4th and 5th graders.

The current fall season consists of flag football and volleyball, which will be followed this winter by boys and girls basketball, then boys and girls soccer next spring. The free program will bus participants to and from games.

NUSD 6th graders, now attending middle schools, can try out for school sports teams that include 7th and 8th graders or they can compete in a separate, intramural league of 6th graders that is being organized.

Organizer Dave Nickerson, a Director of School Leadership and Support, said that expanding sports to elementary grades is consistent with NUSD’s Board-approved goal to “create safe and welcoming learning environments where students attend and are connected to their schools.”

“There’s a lot of research that says the more involved students are in school — it can be chess club, it can be band – the better they do in school,” Nickerson said.

The new elementary sports program is meant to be fun, not high pressure, according to Nickerson.

Samantha, 10, said her favorite thing about Natomas Park Elementary School’s volleyball game Tuesday was playing on a team with friends.

Jade, 9, said it was fun to play volleyball with a net, for a change, not just hit the ball back and forth.

Emiliano, 10, said his favorite thing was when he got to serve in volleyball, then he added with a smile: “I kept on making it.”

Jamir said his favorite thing about Tuesday’s flag football game was that he intercepted five passes and scored four touchdowns.

Launching elementary school sports is consistent with an NUSD commitment in its state-required Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and is designed to benefit students of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

“What I want from this is that kids learn the basic skills of the game, they have fun in a competitive atmosphere, and they learn sportsmanship,” Nickerson said.

“The ultimate result, for me, is that they either participate in another sport this year or they  come back next year participating in a sport.”

Natomas Park Elementary School Principal Kendra Shelton said participants also will learn teamwork and discipline.

“The kids are really excited,” Shelton said. “We started with a volleyball team of seven or eight students – now we have about 20.”