For this month's junior Spotlight, we wanted to shine a light on Coach Ben Ollett, a physical education (P.E.) teacher helping to grow pickleball within our youth community, while developing team skills with his students. Coach Ollett has been a P.E. teacher for five years at Denver Academy, an independent school for diverse learners in Denver, Colorado, teaching grades 1 through 12.

The pickleball P.E. program is part of a racquet sports unit combining badminton, tennis and pickleball. Currently all middle school students participate in the program, with high school students having it as an elective choice. Plus, Coach Ollett is looking to expand the program to elementary students and start a Denver Academy team this coming year.

“Pickleball is a great unit because a lot of kids who may not typically enjoy traditional team sports really engage in the game during P.E. class,” says Coach Ollett. “All students at all athletic abilities play well together.”

Denver Academy has multiple pickleball courts inside The James E. Loan Learning Center, which was just built in the last year and provides the students with a great sports facility on the 22-acre campus set in the middle of Denver. It’s not only students who enjoy the opportunity to have pickleball courts on-site. Coach Ollett says many teachers also stay after school to get the chance to play with their co-workers.

With pickleball becoming a favorite of both teachers and students, Coach Ollett decided to make the unit more robust this year by adding a tournament at the end of February.

How did students enjoy the tournament hosted by Coach Ollett? Luckily, there was a Denver Academy student, Cortez Campos, who took an interest in playing a pickleball media role and showcasing his video talents by capturing moments and student interviews from the tournament.

“I look forward to playing pickleball every day because it gets the energy out and it’s really fun,” said Maddy W., one of the tournament medalists. “I think I would bring pickleball back to my family and get my whole family to play it.”

USA Pickleball was impressed by this exceptional opportunity for students to get to experience a positive, competitive environment and contributed to the tournament winnings by awarding each top medalist with a USA Pickleball official approved paddle, plus providing Coach Ollett and Denver Academy with a Youth Program Provider (YPP) membership—equipping the P.E. staff with the tools and resources they need to continue effectively coaching the students.

“The YPP resources that are provided are a big help in creating a dynamic, engaging class,” says Coach Ollett. “Just playing pickleball is great, but a lot of kids need the extra progression and basic skills to reach a beginner level of play. Games like pickleball four-square are a really fun way to get tons of quality repetition on important skills.”

To watch Cortez’s full coverage of the tournament, and for more details about how your school can purchase a $40 annual YPP membership, visit USAPickleball.org. The membership features a Youth Pickleball Playbook, laminated activity cards, access to discounted equipment and access to an instructional video series.

Thank you to Denver Academy and Coach Ollett for continuing to get students excited about pickleball!

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