Illustration of a laptop with a basketball, soccer ball and tennis ball on the screen.

Virtual Sports Give Richmond Kids a Chance to Play

Illustration of a laptop with a basketball, soccer ball and tennis ball on the screen.

(Illustration by Denis Perez-Bravo / The CC Pulse)

By Denis Perez-Bravo

Social distancing has robbed children of the opportunity to play and practice sports and, with it, the competition, joy, camaraderie and activity that sports can provide.

The Richmond Community Services Department decided to do something about it, introducing virtual basketball, soccer and tennis classes in August.

The classes, taught by Booker T. Anderson Community Center staff, are available to Richmond youth aged 6-13 who sign up in advance online.

The kids get a chance to learn sports skills and see or make new friends while staying safely at home.

A man standing in the middle of a room with large windows holding a neon yellow soccer ball.

Christian Tirado teaches a virtual soccer class from the Richmond Recreation Complex. (Hector Gonzalez)

“Some are in the hallway, and some are in their backyards,” virtual soccer instructor Christian Tirado said.

Tirado teaches soccer Mondays and Wednesdays. Courtney Coleman teaches tennis Tuesdays and Wednesdays and George Brown teaches basketball Tuesday and Thursday. The way the classes are scheduled, a child could participate in all three.

“I’m teaching beginners. We learn the basics like how to kick a soccer ball correctly,” Tirado said.

Tirado starts his classes with a warm-up followed by 30 to 45 minutes teaching fundamental soccer skills and performing drills. He talks with the children and asks them about their day while encouraging them to interact with each other. On a given day, his class has from seven to 12 kids.

“We are learning together. I recommend everyone that would like to learn the sport to sign up,” he said.

Tirado had never before instructed a sport virtually — or anything else, for that matter. Though being unable to communicate face to face is a challenge, he hopes to continue doing his best to provide educational and enjoyable classes to children looking for a way to spend their time.

“We are giving kids a platform to interact and not miss out on interactions,” said Booker T. Anderson Community Center program director Maurice Range.

Being stuck inside their homes stunts kids’ social skill development. The classes allow them to be active and interact with their peers. And students might already know each other or form relationships because of the program, Range said.

The first virtual class sessions from Aug. 31 to Sept. 26 gained interest from the center’s existing After-School Program participants. The first twenty students who participated were given equipment to use including soccer balls, basketballs and tennis rackets.

In the second session that started early this month and finishes Oct. 23, students from College Prep School were invited to join. The classes are open to all children from the community.

The third session will begin Nov. 2 and last three weeks, and the fourth session, also three weeks, on Nov. 30.

“We don’t have any sign ups for the third session yet. Anyone is welcome to sign up,” Range said.

Each session costs $10 to join. Registration and more information are available via this city activities page.

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