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Learning to be good sports

Grand Rapids Gold visits Central Kelloggsville

Kelloggsville — Two groups of students ran to the circle in the center of Central Kelloggsville’s gym, with a debate quickly starting over who was the winner of the Kings and Queens of the Court game.

Teacher Melissa Sweers blew her whistle.

“It is not about winning,” Sweers said to the students. “It’s about the fact that it is simply time to end the game.”

She turned and asked a student who sat on the floor, “Aiden, did you have fun playing the game?” Fifth-grader Aiden Randle gave Sweers a thumbs up. “That’s what it is all about,” she said.

Teacher Melissa Sweers hands fifth-grader Aiden Randle the Coach of the Year award, a basketball signed by the Grand Rapids Gold members

Fifth-graders have been learning about sportsmanship since the school year began, connecting it to the school’s positive behavioral intervention and support program, called SOAR, and social-emotional learning.

“This is my first year at Central, and I … wanted to create something that would give the students a goal to work toward (and) get them motivated to achieve, but also (to) understand that playing a game is not always about who wins or who loses.” 

Sweers hosted a competition in October with the school’s fifth-grade classes. Those that followed SOAR expectations — safety, ownership, achievement, and respect and responsibility — earned a star. Sweers saw each of the fifth-grade classes three times a week, so each class had 12 opportunities to earn a star. The class with the most stars at the end of month would play basketball with Grand Rapids Gold players, which also would wrap up the fifth-grade basketball unit.

Classes could demonstrate SOAR expectations by entering the gym and going directly to their assigned spots, helping each other during class and lining up to leave. 

Sweers also tied lessons to the social-emotional learning class she teaches, helping students work to set goals and discuss what sportsmanship means.

“The competition was so the students could see how hard work pays off while being good sports and teammates with their classmates,” she said, adding that students learned or refreshed skills such as dribbling, passing, and shooting during the basketball unit.

At the end of the month, Sweers announced the winning class, which was Julie Wieber’s class for earning 11 out of 12 stars.

The Reward Was Golden

“Honestly, I was surprised my class won,” fifth-grader JaJa Canales said. “At the start of the school year, we did not listen. People would be dribbling the ball as Mrs. Sweers gave instructions.”

Grand Rapids Gold player Au’Diese Toney talks to Central Kelloggsville students

But JaJa said the class really wanted to win, and after a heart-to-heart with Wieber they began to focus on the SOAR goals.

“I think it’s great,” said Aiden. “Having the competition helped, because now as a class we know what is expected.”

Before hitting the court on the day of the Grand Rapids Gold visit, they asked players Zak Irwin and Au’Diese Toney how much they practice, what they like about basketball and the importance of being a good sport.

After game tips from the players, it was time for Kings and Queens of the Court.

Just as the music stopped to end the game, two groups of students ran into the circle, but this time instead of debating who won or lost, they were quick to find pens for autographs.

Passing On the Lesson

Aiden held the basketball in front of him as he talked to a third-grade student.

“When you go to shoot, if your dominant hand is your right hand, you want to take your left and place it on the side of the ball, and then your right hand in the middle on the top,” said Aiden as he demonstrated.

The student followed Aiden’s advice and took a shot.

Sweers has selected students from each of the fifth-grade classes to work with third-graders on their basketball skills. The goal, she said, was to re-emphasize to the fifth-graders that it is not about winning or losing but about the third-graders having fun, working hard and being a team. 

For this game, Aiden and Lu along with fifth-graders Chris Caspaneda and Da’mariyon Wilson-Sanders served as coaches. During the first half, Aiden noticed one student was open but no one was passing the ball to her. During a break, he went to each of his team members to remind them the importance of making sure everyone gets the ball.

Fifth-graders with members of the Grand Rapids Gold

“It feels good to teach them basketball because if they become very good, then it makes me feel good,” Aiden said. “Plus, I am able to share the importance of good sportsmanship, because if they have respect for the game and the players, the coaches and players will have respect for them.”

Read more from Kelloggsville: 
District builds bridges of understanding through Grow Your Own program
They boomeranged back to being Rockets

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma is a reporter covering Kent ISD, Godwin Heights, Kelloggsville, Forest Hills and Comstock Park. The salutatorian for the Hartland Public Schools class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism. Joanne moved to the Grand Rapids area in 1989, where she started her journalism career at the Advance Newspapers. She later became the editor for On-the-Town magazine, a local arts and entertainment publication. Her eldest daughter is a nurse, working in Holland, and her youngest attends Oakland University. Both are graduates from Byron Center High School. She is a volunteer for the Van Singel Fine Arts Advisory Board and the Kent District Library. In her free time, Joanne enjoys spending time with her family, checking out local theater and keeping up with all the exchange students they have hosted through the years. Read Joanne's full bio


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