Andrew Pena, a sixth-grade student at Vernon Middle School, is building up his strength and endurance to prove he has what it takes to join the school’s varsity football team next year.
Through Vernon’s Pre-Athletics program, Pena and other students in his grade are getting a preview of the upcoming UIL sports, which they will be eligible to participate in at the start of their seventh-grade year.
“I plan on trying out for running back or fullback,” says Pena. “To be effective in these positions you have to have strength and agility. This class is preparing me for all that.”
Since joining the program this year, Pena has learned about self-discipline, teamwork, and how to push his limits.
“This program has done a lot for me. On top of preparing me for UIL sports, I’ve learned to pace myself during cardio and strength training. I feel healthier and stronger overall.”
Laying the foundation for high school athletic careers, the pre-athletics class teaches values like sportsmanship, responsibility, leadership, performing under pressure, and teamwork across a variety of sports.
Kayla Flores, who hopes to join basketball in seventh grade, is working on perfecting her shooting technique.
“Our coach works a lot with us on our fundamentals,” says Flores. “I am getting better at dribbling and shooting. She helped me arc the ball more and shoot the ball higher so it will go in the basket.”
The students express that they enjoy the class because they are experiencing activities that go beyond their experiences in a regular physical education class.
Playing sports at any level can be a key part of the school experience and have an immense and lasting impact on a student’s life.
“Adding the pre-athletics class to the current curriculum has been very beneficial, and it gets the students excited about being able to participate in UIL sports next year,” says Coach Sergio Cavazos. “We’ve seen a big difference in our seventh grade program because of pre-athletics. The kids come in knowing what to do and the expectations we have for them.”
Along with developing the skills and knowledge to be physically active as part of a healthy lifestyle, students also learn about proper nutrition.
“In our health lessons, we have learned that we need to lay off the junk food,” says Flores. “Diet and exercise go hand in hand; a poor diet can decrease your stamina. If you give your body the right food and stay hydrated, you will feel more energized.”
The Pre-Athletics program, now in its second year at Vernon, offers students the opportunity to experience sports that coincide with sports being played during that particular time of the year.