Students learned to balance a ball on their tennis rackets this morning as a new wellness program swung into action for third-graders at Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District.
Lee Means Elementary students were among the first to participate in HCISD’s new Tennis and First Tee Golf Program, which will introduce third-grade students across the district to the game of tennis and golf as part of their physical education class.
“Students are gaining a basic understanding of tennis,” said Physical Education Teacher Suzanne Aranda. “We talked about the different parts of the racket, safety, how to grip the racket properly as well as different techniques and drills before they get into a game situation.”
“I like tennis. So far, we learned to balance the ball on the racket, and it’s kind of tricky because it tends to move around,” said third-grader Maya De La Pena. “I’ve never played before, but my sister and I want to be in tennis, so it’s good that we get to try it out.”
The tennis component will be taught in fall whereas golf will be taught in the spring during the pilot year of the program.
Along with the great exercise these sports provide, students will develop valuable skills that will benefit them in the classroom and beyond. Participants learn responsibility, discipline, perseverance, problem-solving, and mental strength among other things.
“We are excited to see the transformation of the elementary learning experience continue to take shape for our HCISD students with our new Tennis and First Tee Golf program,” said Superintendent Dr. Art Cavazos. “This new program supports our efforts in promoting healthy lifestyles and is a great complement to our SEAL program that was launched last year for our second-graders. I am excited about the positive impact this program will have because not only will students benefit from the wellness aspect of the game, they will also learn life-enhancing values.”
For most students, this will be their first exposure to tennis and golf. Coordinator of Athletics and Wellness Luis Solorio expects this program to be a game changer that will create interest for these sports at an early age.
“You’ll be surprised how many kids don’t know about these sports,” said Coordinator of Athletics and Wellness Luis Solorio. “After third grade, I believe some [students] will be saying that this is the sport for them. Our tennis and golf coaches at the high school level are super excited because they know that they will reap the rewards down the line.”
HCISD has purchased four tennis kits, which include tennis rackets, tennis balls, activities, and games. These kits will initially be rotated among campuses as more tennis kits are on order and golf kits are set to arrive in the spring. By the end of the 2016-2017 school year, each of the district’s 17 elementary campuses will have its own tennis and golf kit that will give teachers the flexibility to teach the courses indoors or outdoors free from weather restrictions.
The United States Tennis Association (USTA) and The First Tee National School Program will provide everything schools need – curriculum, training for PE teachers, and equipment – to easily deliver the program in a variety of settings.
Earlier this summer PE teachers received training on USTA School Tennis, “The games were so fun that even our adults got a kick out of it. It’s a great time to be a third-grader at HCISD,” said Solorio. Training for The First Tee Golf is expected to take place in October.
Solorio stated that, ultimately, the district’s goal is to incorporate “thematic units” at each elementary grade level.
More opportunities for elementary students are in the works as HCISD pursues a grant to help fund a course to teach first-graders how to ride a bicycle as part of their physical education class.