While many still lay in their beds, others made their way to the gym at the Pleasantville Recreation Center, a mecca for young children and athletes. For a group of local youth, Saturday mornings are not for sleeping in - they are for good old-fashioned kickball.

A half-hour before the match, young boys and girls started filling the benches, preparing for a morning of Just For Kicks - a 4-year-old kickball program instituted by two PRC staffers who say they played the sport as kids.

"This is what we grew up with," recreation attendant Larry King said.

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"And it's funny how a percent of the kids didn't know how to play. We had to present it to them like baseball with your feet," coworker Sterling Duncan Sr. continued.

On a recent Saturday morning, players lined up as randomly chosen captains picked their teams. With the start of the match, players moved to the outfield, anxiously awaiting the first move. A rare silence lingered as the first pitch was rolled. The first team to score 15 points would take the win.

King and Duncan, employees of the PRC for 12 and 13 years, respectively, join in on the game as well, to encourage but also to get competitive.

"Move out!" King yelled to his outfield as a big hitter stepped up to the plate, preparing to kick a home-run ball.

The group of about 18 kids turned to 20 and then nearly 30 once the clock read 10 a.m. Latecomers simply jumped in line to join in.

Just For Kicks is in its third week of the season, the coaches said. But they encourage any kid, young or old, to come out and get active.

"We tell them to bring friends," Duncan said.

The club usually sees a significant turnout because it starts up just as football and cheerleading season comes to an end, Duncan continued.

"They can come whenever they want, but we encourage them to come each week. … We'd love to have them every week," King said.

Alicia Maldonado, 17, a student of Pleasantville High School, makes it a point to be at the center each week. Monday through Friday, the older teen takes part in kickboxing classes, but Saturday mornings, she brings along her younger brother, Christian Izaguirre, 9, for a morning of Just For Kicks. She's responsible for escorting her younger cousins, Ariana Suazo, 8, and Yohany Suazo, 5, to get active as well.

"(I bring them) so they can have fun and so they can play," the Pleasantville resident said.

The coaches also stressed that kickball club and all of the center's activities - from the Move UR Feet dance program to etiquette classes - are not exclusively for Pleasantville residents.

"We don't isolate them. We don't chase anyone away," King said of kids from outside Pleasantville's borders. "We want to bring the kids together. … That's how we do it here," Duncan continued.

The coaches, who see shy kids bloom, including Izaguirre, encourage hesitant children to give the Saturday morning program a chance, saying the sport promotes good health and new friendships.

"It gets them active," Duncan said. "It allows them to have teamwork. It's not an individual sport; it's a team effort."

And both Duncan and King, who put in their time as outfielders that day, work to create a welcoming environment for children to participate and show what they can do.

"(We want to) get them out, Duncan said. "Get them out, get them involved, because you never know what they are capable of doing."

Contact Caitlin Honan:


If you go

What: Just for Kicks

When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays

Where: The Pleasantville Recreation Center, 400 W. Brighton Ave.

Cost: $10 registration fee

For info: call 609-484-3608 or email pville-recreation@comcast.net.

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