Originally published Aug. 3, 2022 by the Dallas ISD News Hub.

By Tina Pania

Dallas ISD students in grades four to six will have a chance to participate in voluntary, after-school sports through the district’s P.L.A.Y. Initiative (Practice Leagues for Active Youth).

The program offers any student, regardless of athletic ability or disability, the opportunity to learn more about and play the sports of futsal (indoor soccer), basketball, flag football, baseball/softball, outdoor soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey, and pickleball.

“The wonderful thing about this program is that it will address equitable access to learning and enrichment by providing opportunities for students to participate in a variety of sports and physical activities without regard for high-performance skill or ability,” said Barbara Johnson, director of the Health and Physical Education Department.

A P.L.A.Y. coordinator and “coaches/sponsors” will receive supplemental pay for their roles and responsibilities in administering the program. By signing up, campuses will receive equipment and training to facilitate all the sports offered throughout the school year during specified periods. There will be a tournament or culminating activity at the end of each P.L.A.Y. period for the students to use their new skills, have fun, and compete against other schools.

All equipment, practice uniforms, professional development for coaches/sponsors, and after-school snacks will be provided by the Health & Physical Education Department. Campuses will not have to incur any expenses. The Health & Physical Education Department is currently working on securing bus transportation home for students at interested schools.

The initiative, a part of Engage 360, went live on July 19th, 2022, with an email to all elementary and secondary principals. Within three hours, 36 campuses had signed up, with every trustee district represented. To date, 105 campuses have signed up to bring the P.L.A.Y. initiative to their campuses.

“We couldn’t be more excited about our response from the campuses,” Johnson said. “With a focus on increasing self-esteem, positive social interactions, and having fun while participating in sports activities, the program will contribute to an active lifestyle and enhanced physical fitness. It will allow students to participate and learn about sports they will have the opportunity to participate in as part of the athletics program starting in seventh grade.”

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