Lincoln Middle School came into last week’s Alameda Education Foundation (AEF) Middle School Volleyball Championships with a comfortable number one seed, but strong challengers turned the matches into nail-biters.
In the A (varsity) team championships, Lincoln took the first game over the Academy of Alameda 25 - 7. But the Olympians tamed the Lions’ roar to a soft meow in the second game, 25 - 16. A rally in the third tie-breaker set looked like it might last all night, Lincoln finally pulled out a win at the end, 16 - 14 (third sets are played to 15, but a team must win by 2 points).
In the preceding B (junior varsity) match, it was a similar story. Lincoln eked out a first game win against a charged up Wood, 28 - 26 (first and second games are played to 25, but teams must win by 2). Wood ruled the second game 25 - 16, but then Lincoln regained control with a final 15 - 8 win to take the match over the Beavers.
According to Rebecca Baumgartner, co-coach at Lincoln, “We had an amazing group of kids this year. They were active learners who concentrated and absorbed everything they were taught.”
The Alameda Education Foundation Middle School Sports program is in its fourth year and the skill among these young student-athletes has grown significantly. Alameda High School volleyball coach Steve McAdam said he was “very impressed with the level of ball control, quality of serving and, especially, the composure on the court of these middle school players.” He added that the number of students trying out at the high school level has doubled since the advent of the AEF program.
The student-athletes are improving their skills in the classroom as well. The program requires a minimum grade point average in order to be eligible to participate. Schools support struggling students with tutoring. At Wood School, for example, Coach Roan Kees has established a peer tutoring program.
According to Coach Kees, just about every student participates in the program. “Many of our players give up several lunch periods every week to tutor teammates who are struggling,” said Kees. Added Baumgartner, “Middle school sports continue to have a very positive impact on our community. Our students are better able to balance the demands of academics, family responsibilities and community obligations because they have experience managing busy schedules. They learn skills for working well as a team which are directly transferrable to the classroom, community, and workforce.”
AEF took over managing middle school sports in 2009, two years after the Alameda Unified School District had to cut it due to loss of state funding for the program.
AEF’s program also includes boys and girls basketball in the winter and track and field in the spring. Schools participating include Lincoln, Wood and The Academy middle schools and a combo Nea/ACLC team. Bay Farm 6th graders will be joining the league starting with basketball. AEF actively seeks donations and grants to help support the program. More information may be found at www.alamedaeducation.org.