Students in LAUSD's Beyond the Bell summer program celebrated Olympic Day with games of handball at Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School on Friday, June 21. (Photo by Kara Smith)
Los Angeles Center For Enriched Studies

Olympic Day encourages youth physical activity

Sporting jerseys of the Olympic colors to match handmade posters of Olympic rings, dozens of elementary and middle school students played handball at Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School on Friday. 

Students studied Olympic history and sports through LAUSD’s Beyond the Bell program last week in celebration of Olympic Day on June 23 — a day founded by the International Olympic Committee to encourage physical activity and sports education.

Beyond the Bell, sponsored by the LA84 Foundation, provides access to sports, academic and recreation programs to students in underserved communities. 

“Specifically in our communities, access to sports is not available to everybody. Students within communities of low income and of color are unfortunately the ones that are sometimes priced out or do not have the means, or sometimes the parents may not have the ability to be aware of what’s out there,” Beyond the Bell Regional Director Rafael Acosta said.

The students spent a week learning about different Olympic sports, including handball — a sport that combines elements of both soccer and basketball. 

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“Our kids love soccer, and soccer is similar to handball, just with different rules,” Stephanie Sanchez, the Beyond the Bell site coordinator for Robert Louis Stevenson Middle School said.

Sanchez said she aims to provide inclusivity by catering to students with different interests. Students with a love for art created banners, flags for different countries’ teams, and the Olympic rings out of paper plates, tissue paper and paint. 

Students living in low income communities have a harder time accessing sports, and the LA84 Foundation supports Beyond the Bell in bridging that gap, Oscar Delgado LA84 Vice President of Partnerships and Events said.

“The goal of Olympic Day is for kids to learn and move and discover new sports,” Delgado said. “We concentrate on African American and Latino neighborhoods in Los Angeles, who we believe need the most money, support, and access to sports.”

Beyond the Bell’s coaches follow a “train the trainer” model, Acosta said. In order to properly teach a nontraditional sport like Olympic handball, coaches go through a training and research process before teaching the students the game.

“I think a lot of us (at Beyond the Bell) had outlets such as sports to keep us on a positive pathway from the beginning, and for us as adults, we would like to pay it forward just like somebody did for us,” Acosta said.

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