Sports are flourishing in area elementary schools
Published: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 at 2:41 p.m.
When Eric Hoppes left his position as vice principal at Petaluma High School and took over as principal of Wilson Elementary, a new door opened for the school, and other small schools as well.
“After I became principal at Wilson in 2008, the Two Rock principal, Frank Simpson, called and we talked about doing sports in our schools,” Hoppes said.
Hoppes has a sports background from his time as head basketball coach at Petaluma High and also Petaluma Junior High, where he served as vice principal for seven years. He wanted to bring a sports program to the smaller elementary schools in the area for kids that don’t have an easy opportunity to play for CYO or Boys and Girls Club teams.
An after-school program for kids to play sports was created. The program is for fifth and sixth graders, and if teams need extra players, some fourth graders may play as well.
“I go into the classrooms and invite every student to play,” Hoppes said. “Everyone is invited and they just need to fill out a flyer with their parents that allows them to play.”
The same year, a Little League baseball field was created. Parents rallied together to create Petaluma National’s main practice field, with a dirt track around the field. Craig Machado and Chris Overton were key contributors to making the diamond. Hoppes hopes to start making an all-weather track next Summer.
When the program first started, Cinnabar, Corona Creek, Dunham, Harvest Christian, Liberty, Meadow and Two Rock joined Wilson to form a league. Each year, all the schools are invited to play and most join.
The first year, Harvest Christian used its own printing press to make shirts for the kids to represent their school.
So far, basketball, flag football, soccer, softball and volleyball have all been played. Games are usually on Thursday after school at 3:30 pm for about an hour. Coaches are PE teachers and school administrators, with PE and school equipment used.
Hoppes creates the schedule, trying to please each school and administrator.
“I make the schedule as easy as possible for everyone. I want it to be really flexible so each school can play a fair amount of games,” Hoppes said.
The program has blossomed in its five-year existence. Kids have taken a real liking to representing their school.
“Kids are making new friends from opposing schools and really learning how to compete and have great sportsmanship,” Hoppes said. “They love to play for their school.”
This school year, basketball, flag football, softball and volleyball will be played. Softball will be the first sport played, followed by football, basketball and finally volleyball to end the school year.
Fields do not have to be the perfect size, and Hoppes adapted his intramural football rules from college to develop the flag football field. The field is divided into quarters and the team has four chances to get to the quarter line or the other team gets the ball. There is also no kickoff to help ensure safety, and the visiting team starts with the ball.
Some of the kids have played sports their entire life, while others are enjoying being on a team for the first time.
“Watching the kids develop on the field is really cool. You can actually see a quarterback learning how to lead his team and run a play,” Hoppes said.
The program was intended to teach kids sportsmanship and to make new friends for when they enter junior high. Students of the schools now have three different events to get to know each other better and meet new friends.
“I think it’s a nice compliment to the West Side Relays and outdoor education,” Hoppes said. “They are making a stronger community together.”
Hoppes hopes the program continues to thrive and the five-year anniversary is just a small milestone.
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