Pickleball’s Return to Afternoon Program

Eva Yu, Staff Writer

October 20, 2023

Introduced last year, pickleball is an up-and-rising sport in the Nobles community. Consisting of an afternoon program, a club, and even a makeshift court in the outdoor classroom, pickleball has definitely gained popularity. However, despite its widespread influence, the afternoon program itself doesn’t seem to share the appeal.

To discover the reasoning behind the limited number of people on the team, four to be exact, the purpose and mission of the afternoon program must be explored. Faculty Advisor of the Pickleball and Walk afternoon program, Talya Sokoll, said, “The reasoning behind offering [the afternoon program] is to have more opportunities for athletics…that are not gendered so that if kids want an option that’s non-gendered, they now have one.” 

Although it started as Pickleball, Walk, and Climb last year, Sokoll said that rock climbing was hard to organize, so it became Pickleball and Walk this year. The walking portion is offered to promote mindfulness and allow for a more relaxing experience. Yisen Gu (Class I), who was a member of the afternoon program last year and served as former captain of the competitive team. He now leads the club, explaining that, while he enjoys playing pickleball, walking isn’t as interesting.

Rachel Zhao (Class III), who recently switched into the program, shares different sentiments. Zhao said, “I think the walking adds to the afternoon program, because walking is pretty nice. You get to go outside, get close to nature, touch some grass, be a kid.”

When asked why he started a Pickleball club despite there already being an afternoon program, Gu said, “It’s for people who are more busy in the afternoon because most people don’t want to commit their afternoon program to pickleball. So it provides a good way for people to enjoy pickleball during the school day or during a free block.” 

However, Zhao, states that for her, pickleball was actually a low-commitment afternoon program that provided her with enough time to get other things done in her day. She said, “I personally have a very busy schedule outside of school, and classes are hard at Nobles. I tried managing soccer for a while but I forgot how much work went into managing a varsity team. Pickleball and Walk only requires about 30-45 minutes of commitment a day.” For many freshmen and sophomores who can’t take an exempt, pickleball might seem like a great option for how relaxed it is.

For some juniors or seniors, who also have the option to take an exempt instead of playing an afternoon program, they might not want to dedicate a whole afternoon program season to pickleball. This may be the reason that there is a rise in interest in pickleball, but the decline in members of the afternoon program. However, from Zhao’s experience with pickleball, it becomes clear the importance of having such an afternoon program at Nobles. Not only does it provide a gender-neutral environment, but also a relaxed atmosphere for busy and stressed students. So while there might not be a lot of members on the team this year, pickleball remains a relevant and important afternoon program.

(Photo Credit: Zack Mittelstadt)

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