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The Alfonso Perez Learning Center in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) recently held a pickleball clinic featuring USAPA Ambassadors Beverley Vigil, Mary Barsaleau, Rosie Roper and Jeaney Garcia. With assistance from the Adapted Physical Education teachers from Alfonso Perez—Alex Cabral, Rigoberto Sanchez and Marcelino Acosta— the group was joined by members of the Unified Sports Leadership Committee for LAUSD, Patrick Merrill, Susan Woo, and Menh Vong.
Over 75 students of varying abilities, including student athletes in wheelchairs, participated in learning basic pickleball skills, including ball handling, dinking, serving, volleying, ball machine drills, games, and a mini tournament. All in all, it was a clinic that spanned nearly four hours.
The pickleball demonstration and clinic was coordinated by Vigil, herself an adapted physical education teacher. “The opportunity to introduce pickleball to these students was simply marvelous. I couldn’t have asked for a better day and really need to thank all who helped us stage this wonderful event. We hope to do many more within the school district in the foreseeable future,” she said.
After watching a demonstration and participating in modified ball handling with foam balls and balloons, the students with different levels of abilities were split into five groups and rotated through five stations.
“The smiles on the faces of students who were able to achieve basic skills, from serving over the net to hitting winners off the ball machine, were enough thanks for us as Ambassadors. We learned just as much as the kids that day,” added Vigil.
Following the clinic was a positive motivation presentation coordinated by the Dodgers Foundation-sponsored Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA). The interactive and fun workshop
for the students and staff taught everyone important tools, like the “tornado spiral,” where being welcoming and making people feel valued are essential to creating a caring environment. PCA research behind positivity was also shared and why positive communication, both verbal and non-verbal, provides for connection and inclusiveness.
“I fell in love with the game a year and a half ago and figured out a way to bring it to my students and co-workers in the elementary and high schools,” said Vigil. “We need to continue at the regional level to reach out to school districts to provide free demonstrations and clinics, to get the word out that pickleball is open for people of all abilities. The USAPA is eager to share their love and passion of this sport with others. This activity and interaction with students of varying abilities is an invaluable experience.”