Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
One of Irving’s time honored summer traditions in the Parks and Recreation department is the recreation centers’ Summer Games competition – two weeks of diverse distractions such as chess, bowling and soccer for teens. This year’s games were held July 23 – Aug. 3 at many venues throughout Irving including the recreation centers and the AMF bowling lanes.
“The Summer Games consist of kids of 12 to 18 participating in events that we have at each recreation center. Each recreation center will bring a team to each of these events. We have basketball, volleyball, table tennis, bowling, etc, and we compete against each other,” said Daral McKnight, a senior recreation center supervisor at Senter Park and the organizer of this year’s games.
“Throughout the summer you have all the kids in the rec center just doing free play. So this helps them bond with each other and compete,” explained McKnight. “Each recreation center has a chance to get their group of guys together, go compete and wear your shirts representing your rec center. The kids can wear those shirts all year round. People will see them and say: ‘Hey, I remember you. You played for Lively, Georgia Farrow, etc.’
“It’s just camaraderie of individuals getting together having fun. But also it keeps the kids out of trouble. For three or four hours we have those kids and you know where they’re at, what they’re doing. It’s a good idea.”
McKnight shared that the games are part of a larger plan to nurture the kids throughout the summer.
“You have dodge ball for an hour at the rec center,” said McKnight. “So you know you have those kids coming for the dodge ball. During that time you know those kids are going to the gym at that time for practices, and a lot of times after that’s over with they’ll hang around the gym.
“We always say ‘keep them out of trouble’ – they’re teenagers they can get out there and be doing other things, but at least we know we’re doing something positive with them.”
One question is whether programs like these effectively in keep kids from getting into trouble during the summer months.
Officer John Argumaniz with IPD said that kids in Irving are, for the most part, on good behavior during their summer break.
“We haven’t noticed any spike in criminal activity in younger kids or youth,” Argumaniz said. “Typically during the summer months, kids are out more during the day which gives them an opportunity to get into trouble from time to time. We can see an increase in miscellaneous, smaller property crimes or being out too late – curfew type stuff. We know that it traditionally happens during the summer months and traditionally when there’s a Christmas or a holiday break.”
Regardless of the reasons behind the Summer Games, the kids enjoy it for what it is – a time to play sports and compete. Individual events like bowling and chess average 30 kids, and team sports are very popular with around 200 participants.
Jaquay Shells is a high school student in Irving ISD and has been attending the Summer Games for three years now and was looking forward to trying his hand at bowling.
“It’s about our community,” Jaquay said. “Just having fun and hanging out with our friends and winning.”
But the games are not the only sports Jaquay and his friends participate in during the summer. They play basketball in Irving ISD and take part in grueling four-hour team workouts starting at seven every morning. This was a common trend in the kids, many of them were doing other sports, and the games were an extension of the rest of their summer activities.
Kebon Strickland was representative of the kids involved.
“I’m OK. I wouldn’t say I’m the best. I’m good though,” Kebon responded when asked about his prospects of winning the bowling. “I just want to have fun with some friends, you know, and try to bring home a medal today.”