A blue rubber ball bounced off 9-year-old Clayton Wise’s foot with a boink.

“Run,” his Crain Elementary School teammates yelled.

The Hopkins Elementary School fourth- and fifth-grade students, whom Crain Elementary competed against Thursday afternoon, scrambled to get the ball.

Clayton said he likes playing sports, and he is glad Victoria ISD offers the kickball games. His team is allowed to practice an hour after school a week in preparation for its weekly game.

VISD has held these kickball games for the fourth- and fifth-graders at the 14 elementary schools since 2008. The games are scheduled every Thursday afternoon.

Clayton’s team is predominantly fourth-graders like himself, and they remind themselves of that when they compete against fifth-grade teams, such as Hopkins.

“I like playing with my friends,” Clayton said. His cheeks were rosy as he ate a snack cake.

Crain lost to Hopkins 24-2, but that doesn’t matter to Clayton.

He enjoys being outside and interacting with students from different schools.

Crain coach Belinda Mettey spends her days at school as an art teacher. She has spent some time during the past three years behind a clipboard as the kids’ coach.

“This gives the kids something to do and something to look forward to,” she said.

After the loss, she had the kids gather in a semicircle around her to discuss shortcomings and areas for improvement.

“Now we know what we need to work on,” Mettey said.

She said during next week’s hourlong practice the team will work on keeping the ball on the ground. She told the students to practice keeping their toe pointed when they kick. Mettey demonstrated what she meant to the 9- and 10-year-olds.

She pointed her toe to the ground making a flat plane on the top of her foot. This is how they would practice kicking.

“We’re a team,” Mettey said. “We win as a team. We lose as a team.”

Parents watched their elementary school-aged children hustle after the ball in their weekly kickball game.

When their child went up to the plate, a parent shouted, “Kick it on the ground. Don’t kick it in the air.”

Hopkins Elementary parent Juanita Diaz, 42, stood along a chain-link fence. Her 10-year-old daughter, Jazlynn, wasn’t there to play kickball.

She was part of the more than 20-member cheer squad rooting for the Hopkins superstars.

Jazlynn and the other cheerleaders chanted “Go, Hopkins, go,” and hoisted maroon pom poms in the air. A yellow star mascot cheered alongside.

Diaz said she remembers when her sons, now in their 20s, would play kickball with their elementary school team.

She is glad to see it is continuing.

“I’m glad they’re able to keep it going and willing to come out with the kids,” she said.

Diaz said for the kids to participate they have to maintain an A/B grade average, which she likes because it teaches the students responsibility.

As technology expands, outdoor activities are needed even more to get children outside and active, Diaz said. Kickball is a great outlet for that, she added.

“It’s important kids learn in the classroom and are able to come outside and grow and interact with each other,” she said. “Learning and growing happen in new and different environments.”

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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