PASO ROBLES — All of the elementary schools in the Paso Robles Joint Unified District converged on Paso Robles High School Friday afternoon to play out the basketball finals for
The district provides students in fourth and fifth grades the ability to participate in sports after school completely free of charge. Each of the schools: Georgia Brown, Bauer Speck, Pat Butler, Kermit King, Virginia Peterson, and Winifred Pifer played each other at their schools over the past two months and the top teams earn the right to play at the high school.
This year Kermit King dominated the fifth grade winning both boys and girls championship. In fourth grade, Virginia Peterson won on the girl's side and Pat Butler won on the boys.
Both of the gyms were packed wall to wall, standing room only, checkered with pockets of fans donning various shades of reds, blues, greens, white and black. The sparkle from all the smiles was enough to illuminate the gym without fluorescent lighting. Most of the games ended with around 10 total points on the board, but these championships are about much more than wins and losses.
These programs introduce kids to worlds of sports that may have been previously inaccessible to them. Some of the boys and girls playing basketball in the district championships grew up in basketball like Aleah Johnson a fifth grader from Georgia Brown.
“I have enjoyed basketball a lot,” Johnson said. “My cousins play basketball and my uncle is a coach so I have kind of had basketball around my whole life.”
However, many students wandered out to the basketball courts for the first time and have grown to love a spot they hadn’t previously considered.
“At first I didn't play basketball,” Gaby Verduzco, a fifth grader at Georgia Brown and fellow teammate of Johnson said. “But I realized that it was going to be really fun, all my friends were doing it, so I said, ‘why not give it a try? And if I like it I will do it next year.’”
Aside from just providing a way for the kids to play these sports, the program provides the best structure for building strong athletic programs at the high school level. Both the boys and girls Bearcat head coaches were in attendance on Friday, they help implement their system and ensure that the kids get the very bests coaching available while they are still young. Not just the kids, but the families get acquainted with the high school and its faculty long before they are forced to enter. But most importantly, it builds lifelong memories.
When asked what one of their favorite memories is, Verduzco and Johnson quickly look at each other and begin beaming at one another indicating they just thought of the very same story.
“Last season we were playing in the championship game here, and we were tied up,” Johnson said. “We had to pick a shooter from our team to go against a shooter from the other team.”
“So we were tied and they chose me out of the 20 girls there was and I was really scared,” Verduzco continued. “I didn't really want to do it. But the coach said I have to do it, so I did it.”
Verduzco shot it, made it, and the gym erupted in cheers. Parents and players were crying and embracing each other and it is a memory that will stick with both girls for a long time.
Next up the elementary kids will get to experience and compete in the world of track and field which will begin on Tuesday, March 6.