Berean Christian School Adds Pickleball To Its Physical Education Curriculum

Berean students play pickleball while the cameras roll.

Tuesday, Aug. 8 was National Pickleball Day. To help celebrate the occasion, Berean Christian School, in coordination with the national nonprofit PHIT America, invited WPTV’s roving morning show reporter T.A. Walker, the station’s “Shining a Light” correspondent, on campus to draw attention to the school’s adoption of PHIT America’s new “Play Pickleball” program.

The first shot from the Berean campus this past Tuesday morning on WPTV was just before 5:30 a.m. Segments aired throughout the morning on WPTV’s morning show until 7 a.m. After that, shots aired on WFLX/Fox 29. To add substance and content to each shot taken from inside Berean’s gymnasium, nearly 40 members of the student body arrived on campus as early as 5 a.m. to provide a setting of students actually playing pickleball.

Those interviewed on WPTV and WFLX included Luke Schartner, the head of physical education at Berean; Dean Hendricks, Berean’s athletic director; Jim Baugh, the founder of PHIT America; Lois Lantz, a third-grade teacher at Berean; and KaSandra Gehrke, PHIT America’s national pickleball ambassador, who is also a former PE teacher and currently a professional pickleball player.

Schartner and Hendricks were delighted with the idea of expanding their school’s PE program with PHIT America’s Play Pickleball curriculum.

Baugh said that PHIT America, which is based in Jupiter, is looking to promote its Play Pickleball program, specifically to schools in South Florida.

Lantz explained that when students participate in PE programs, they produce immediate learning dividends for the students back in the classroom.

“Students are more alert and ready to learn after returning to my classroom from a PE class,” Lantz said. “Playing pickleball and being physically active helps with academic achievement.”

According to Gehrke, roughly 40 public school PE teachers in Palm Beach County are interested in more information about PHIT America’s Play Pickleball program.

According to Baugh, PHIT America, which provides programming for school PE programs around the U.S., is dedicated to working with schools and school districts around the nation in order to enhance the amount of daily, quality PE programs.

Berean is the first school in Palm Beach County to implement PHIT America’s Play Pickleball program, but, hopefully, it won’t be the last. PHIT America is in the midst of publicizing the existence of its pickleball initiative with elementary school PE teachers throughout Palm Beach and Martin counties.

According to Baugh, expanding the focus on PE in schools is important because children in the United States are ranked last in physical health among 38 developed countries, according to a survey by UNICEF. In a separate study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, children in the U.S. are ranked 47th out of 50 countries in overall fitness. Meanwhile, 75 percent of all American teenagers are not physically fit enough to join the military, based on reports from the U.S. Army.

Another obstacle to expanding PE is the low amount of money that schools budget for PE. According to Shape America, the professional association of PE teachers, the average budget for physical education for elementary schools is $462 per year.

“If school districts understood the true academic dividends that PE provides, they would increase the emphasis on daily, quality PE,” Baugh said. “Fortunately, some schools and school districts are beginning to realize the importance of PE for all students.”