Recreation Board adding adult programs

Tue, 11/23/2021 - 5:45pm

Recreation Director Dave Sniffen promised the Recreation Board his report would be “short and sweet.” At 8:15 in the morning, which is the board’s preferred meeting time, “short and sweet” is what everyone is hoping for. While Sniffen’s report was both short and sweet, it was also full of useful information on activities to keep Block Islanders busy throughout the winter months.

Sniffen reported that pickleball is happening twice a week for adults. For the uninformed, pickleball was invented by Congressmen Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum in 1965 as a way to entertain their children, who were suffering from boredom on Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge Island is located a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington.
To give the kids something to do, these congressmen lowered the badminton net to tennis-net height, grabbed some ping pong paddles and a Wiffle ball, and made up the game of pickleball. To the untrained eye it looks like tennis with a Wiffle ball, but pickleball has its own set of rules and strategies. From these humble beginnings, pickleball has spread across the country, and possibly the globe, being played by millions, according to Pickle-Ball, Inc., the company founded by McCallum in 1972.
On Block Island, Sniffen reports he has strong participation in the Rec-sponsored pickleball games. He says there are even some people on the island bringing their
own nets and organizing their own games in addition to the year-round Rec department offerings. He said pickleball stayed outside all last winter, with robust participation, but this winter the school has agreed to let the pickles into the gym as long as there is mask wearing.

In addition to pickleball, Sniffen has organized an adult indoor soccer league for Monday nights from 8 to 10 p.m. He is hoping to get an adult volleyball league up and running again this year. Last winter Block Island School varsity volleyball coaches Rob Martin and Ben Foster “spearheaded” the league, according to Sniffen. He told the board he would talk to the two coaches about having the volleyball league again this winter, and hoped it would start up soon. Last year the league played games on Sundays in the gym.

Sniffen has also spoken to Block Island School Athletic Director Matt Moran about juggling gym time with the school programs. Varsity and Junior Varsity in boys’ and girls’ basketball will soon be competing for time in the gym. Sniffen already organizes Friday Night Games for fifth, sixth, and seventh graders, and holds Open Gym for high schoolers on Friday and Saturday nights. After the school basketball practice schedules are finalized, Sniffen hopes to organize adult basketball on one of the open nights. He is also planning to organize youth basketball for the kids too young for JV, starting in December.

The Recreation Department is not focused solely on sports, however. Sniffen reports that he was approached by some middle school students about organizing some after-school activities for them. The kids had created and conducted their own survey amongst themselves, and reported to Sniffen that a baking and cooking class was the most popular choice for an after-school activity. Weight lifting came in second, followed by photography. Sniffen is working with the school to look at getting these activities off the ground.

Additionally, Sniffen plans to start the Rec Center on weekend nights over at Harbor Church, once his new assistant comes on board in December. The Rec Center will be open during the Open Gym times on Friday and Saturday night to give the island kids a non-sports option.

If it seems like Sniffen is extraordinarily busy, it’s because he is. But not to worry. The new recreation assistant, Kim Starr Dugan will start in December, which is also the month Sniffen says he has to use up his vacation days. Trial by fire and pickleball will be in order for the new assistant.