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Intramural program provides sports, social skills practice

Central Kelloggsville students participate in the intramural sports basketball program

Editor’s note: In 2014, Kelloggsville Public Schools restored its intramural sports program because school officials recognized the important role the program played in students’ school careers. Except for the COVID pandemic, the program has been running continuously since and remains popular with students and families. SNN caught up with Ally VanOrden, Central Kelloggsville dean of students and intramural director, about the program’s expansion and impact within the district.

Kelloggsville— It was a Wednesday afternoon, and there were only a few open spots on the gym bleachers at Central Kelloggsville Elementary. Family members shouted words of encouragement while others were recording the action on their phones. And when third-grader Carter Nulty finally made a basket, everyone cheered.

The intramural sports program, open to third- through sixth-graders, has long been a part of the fabric of Kelloggsville Public Schools. Third-grade teacher Austin Jackson, a 2001 Kelloggsville graduate, said he remembers playing intramural sports on the field where Central Kelloggsville now stands.

“I think it’s great,” said Carter’s mother, Bridget Nulty, who participated in the intramural program, as well as her daughter, when they attended Kelloggsville. “It is after school, so it gives the kids something to do along with being a good opportunity to introduce them to a sport.”

That is one of the goals of the intramural program: to introduce students to the game so by the time they are at the varsity level they know the rules and expectations both on and off the field, said Ally VanOrden, dean of student services and intramural director.

“By getting the students started early, we hope that it is helping to build the middle- and high-school programs along with keeping students interested in the district and keeping them interested in the sports program,” VanOrden said.

Program Keeps Growing

To keep building interest in sports and in Kelloggsville, the district expanded the intramural program in 2021 to include sixth-graders. VanOrden said middle-school sports start in seventh grade, and that before the expansion there were few options for sixth-graders. 

The intramural sports program is year round. The fall has volleyball for girls and flag football for boys. In the winter, there is boys and girls basketball, and in the spring is co-ed soccer. Games are played either at Central Elementary or at the football and soccer fields next to the school.

“Depending on the grade level, it is cool to see very experienced players who have been playing for a long time and students who are just trying it out,” VanOrden said. 

Fifth-graders Aria Ward, left, and Markus Russau both said they have enjoyed participating in the intramural sports program

The program is free to families, and busing after practice is provided to in-district students. The program is five weeks, with the first couple of weeks being two-day practices and the last three weeks a practice and a game. Parents provide shoes and transportation to and from the games.

“I do like the program because the kids are playing together, making new friends and learning how to communicate with other kids,” said Elizabeth Lugo, whose third-grader George is participating for the first time. “He is so excited about being involved and looks forward to it, saying ‘Tomorrow I have practice.’”

The program has seen a steady increase over the past couple of years, from 503 participants in 2021-2022 to 659 in 2022-2023. VanOrden said from the fall volleyball and football programs, there has been steady growth. In 2021, volleyball had 92 participants, which shot to 136 in 2022 and 157 in 2024. In football, the numbers nearly doubled to 80 from 2021 to 2022, and were about 82 for 2023.

New Skills, New Friends

Fifth-grader Markus Russau has participated in flag football, basketball and soccer. His goal is to play soccer in middle school. 

“It is really energetic and competitive when it comes to the teams,” he said, adding that everyone is there just to have fun.

Fourth-grader Jiovanni Hernandez-Gonzalez dribbles the ball down the court

“I love it,” said fifth-grader Aria Ward, who participated in volleyball and basketball. “It is getting me out of the house and I get to make new friends.”

Aria admitted that her passion is basketball, which she has played with her brothers and hopes to one day play on a basketball team.

“That has been a dream for me, to be able to participate on a team,” she said.

VanOrden said Kelloggsville staff help with coaching and high-school students serve as referees, giving the elementary students a chance to interact and learn from older students. 

Also through the program, students learn what they need to do to participate in the middle- and high-school sports programs, VanOrden said, such as have good attendance, turn assignments in on time, and demonstrate appropriate behavior and sportsmanship, on and off the field. 

“They learn that student athletes get stuff done at school,” she said.

Read more from Kelloggsville: 
Learning to be good sports
Grand opening set to open new sports complex

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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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