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Pickleball craze reaches an elementary school in Tampa


Photo courtesy of Barbara Chrimes
Some teachers at the school wanted to play pickleball as well.

The pickleball craze has long reached young and old alike. It has even made its way to Mitchell Elementary in Tampa.


Initially, fourth- and fifth-graders were introduced to the sport by teachers Barbara Chrimes and Gayle Lambert. Not long after a pickleball club was implemented for 30 students, some of the teachers wanted in.


“They came to us and said, ‘Don’t put the nets away,” Chrimes recalled.


“Barbara is the pickleball queen,” Lambert said. “We had the idea and I said, ‘We can do this.”

Photo courtesy of Lauren Hackworth
Lauren Hackworth, the school’s PTA president, and her son, Mark Stephen, a fourth-grader, have a pickleball net in the family’s yard.

As part of the after-school enrichment program, Chrimes and Lambert arranged for the pickleball sessions. It became the most popular club for students to choose from and a waiting list quickly formed, but none of the boys and girls opted out.


“We were surprised it was the first (club) to fill up,” Chrimes said. “It’s just caught fire.”


The club met on Mondays from February through April, closing out the first-year program with a round-robin tournament.


Chrimes and Lambert are already discussing expanding the pickleball program for second- and third-graders in the fall with two days per week being another consideration.

Photo courtesy of Barbara Chrimes
Mitchell Elementary students play pickleball during an after-school club.

“We wanted to test it out in the beginning,” said Chrimes, adding that “younger ones are still working on their coordination.”


Both teachers lauded the school’s PTA for its support.


“They were all in,” said Chrimes, noting that the PTA helped provide full- and half-sized nets, along with 80 pickleballs and optional T-shirts for sale.


Like many parents, PTA president Lauren Hackworth was thrilled with how well her son, fourth-grader Mark Stephen Hackworth, took to the sport. He was, however, familiar with pickleball since Lauren’s mother, Glenna Schnebly, has played for a few years.


“He loves it,” she said of her son, who also plays baseball. “Adding pickleball is really nice, only because he can play with his friends.”

Photo courtesy of Barbara Chrimes
Fourth- and fifth-graders play pickleball at Mitchell Elementary.

Aside from learning to play games, Chrimes and Lambert kept the youngsters busy with conditioning and various drills while they awaited their turns to take the court.


“We’re very organized teachers so we had stations,” Lambert said.


Chrimes and Lambert marveled at the young players’ development as the weeks progressed.


“It was amazing watching those kids who could barely get the ball over the net. Then they were able to call the score and get up to the line,” Chrimes said.


“Kids who had never played before, (were) getting out and holding a paddle. (We were) just seeing their growth,” Lambert added.


BY STEVE LEE

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos courtesy of Barbara Chrimes and Lauren Hackworth

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