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Couch's Corner: Teaching pickleball to youths in Lamont

Spring is around the corner and we all hope outdoor activities may be arriving with it. To do our part, the District 4 office staff and I have taken an opportunity to teach some local kids a relatively new recreational sport called pickleball. Working in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Bakersfield, the Lamont Boys and Girls Club hosted its very first tutorial of pickleball with a very enthusiastic instructor: Me. It was quite the experience because despite the deficiencies in their instructor, the boys and girls did great, had a great time, and taught me a thing or two as well.

The idea initiated last year, before the pandemic, after the Lamont community had to deal with safety concerns from some gang-related deaths in 2019. In March 2020, the community of Lamont was still grieving over the death of three young teenagers. At the time, the community came together to discuss solutions, and increased recreational activities was identified near the top of the list as ways to help keep the youth engaged and out of gangs.

Community leaders, members of the public and District 4 staff and myself met at the David Head Center in Lamont to talk about the issues of safety in Lamont. As our District 4 staff was well versed in pickleball and aware of its simplicity and popularity, we set up a plan to introduce pickleball through the Boys and Girls Clubs. Then COVID hit, and all was delayed, until now. I am happy to report that we have been out there the last two weeks playing pickleball with the youths, and it has been a blast!

If you don’t know about pickleball, it’s the fastest growing sport in America due to its simplicity and fun. It’s a cross between tennis and pingpong. Anybody can play. We borrowed some paddles and nets from the Bakersfield Racquet Club (thanks BRC) and chalked some lines on a basketball court on their back lot and as simple as that, we were playing.

What I loved most about our experience is how the kids of all ages were giving it a go and getting better instantly. And you could see they were having a lot of fun. Of course, the older kids got a little competitive, vowed to get better, and challenged us to a rematch. We look forward to our many continued visits and rematches.

We are delighted to report that our District 4 office was able to deliver on its promise after COVID-19 restrictions eased up for outdoor sports. We’re glad to see how well-received this has been and are excited to challenge any community’s youths to an instructional match or two. If you are interested, we’ll bring the game, the nets and the paddles to you.

Almost immediately, pickleball has become a favorite among the Boys and Girls Club. Its popularity has encompassed people of all ages and genders. In fact, an administrator of the Boys and Girls Clubs for Kern has personally donated brand-new equipment to the Lamont Boys and Girls Club, which includes new rackets, pickleballs and nets. The members of the Boys and Girls Club have been playing the game every week since being introduced to the sport.

Pickleball is not the solution to gang violence. Really, it’s the least we as a community can do. But it’s a start. And while we continue to search for ways to reduce this senseless gang violence, let’s all find ways to engage our youths in activities like this.

Want to learn how to play or get your group involved? Give us a call at 661-868-3680 or email us at district4@kerncounty.com to have your pickleball question or any question related to District 4 answered. Have a safe week.

David Couch represents Kern County’s 4th District.