The tennis courts at Irving High School were filled with children early Monday morning, July 24, to kick off the first week of the annual City of Irving Parks and Recreation Summer Games. The two week competition features a variety of challenges including softball, chess and dodgeball for people ages 11-17. Challengers are separated into two groups: youths (11-14) and teens (15-17). The top three winners from each age group receive a gold, silver, or bronze medal.
“Some kids will start to collect medals for every event they’re in, and they wear them all week long for whichever event they won,” Della Jones, a Senior Recreation Specialist at Lee Park Recreation Center said. “We really want the kids to communicate and socialize with other kids, but the main thing is to keep them very active in the summer and to keep them coming to the rec center. Once they get to a certain age, they think they’re too old for the rec center, and we want to make sure they keep coming back to us.”
All seven recreational centers in Irving were represented, as participants began training at the beginning of the summer for each game they signed up for.
“We practiced every week from 4-5 and 5-6,” Joshua Buckett, a Lee Park participant, said. “We practiced everything that we play in the summer games like volleyball, basketball, and dodgeball during the week. The summer games are a lot of fun, and the practice really helps prepare you for the actual tournament.”
Buckett has participated in the summer games for the past three years and has won medals in dodgeball, football and volleyball. This year, Buckett decided to try a new sport.
“This is my first year playing tennis. I didn’t know I was going to be this good,” Buckett said. “I wanted to try something new just to compete with other kids, and it sounded like fun.”
Day one of the summer games began with a tennis tournament with over 20 participants. Each player was guaranteed two rounds of play.
“We did not expect this many kids for tennis,” Jones said. “This is the biggest turnout we’ve had and have a lot of kids return each year. Some of the teens, once they get to a certain age, start working so they can’t participate and play like they used to. It’s mostly youths who are returning players.”
The games continued with dominoes and chess in the afternoon at Lively Pointe.
Mustang participant Tharun Sobanbabu (13) was one of the few tennis players that went on to pla chess.
“I liked tennis because it was more active,” Sobanbabu said. “It was also the hardest, because there wasn’t a lot of competition for chess like there was for tennis.
“I don’t really like just staying at home. I wanted to do something with my summer and I like sports. I’m good at sports, so I wanted to do the summer games.”
Sobanbabu placed second in youth tennis and first in chess. He is signed up to participate in every single sporting event except dominoes.
“It was a lot of fun because everyone got together to play sports, and there was a lot of good people showing good sportsmanship,” Sobanbabu said. “I would love to come and play again next year.”