Peñitas rolls out summer athletic programs for youth

This article originally appeared in the Friday June 21, 2019 issue of the Progress Times.

Aiming to promote wellness and positive active habits in young people in the city, the Peñitas Parks and Recreation department has been busy with their summer athletic programs.

Summer activities are in full swing within the Peñitas track and field, golf and cheer and dance programs. Registration for track and field is still open through July, with 89 children already registered and competing for the city so far.

City of Penitas logoParks & Recreation Director Omar Perales, who served Rio Grande City for over 20 years, has been in charge of the department since it was officially created in January.

“It’s never had it before,” Perales said. “It’s the first time that the city of Peñitas mayor and commissioners gave the approval to implement a youth program for the community.”

The majority of young people participating are enrolled in the La Joya Independent School District, with some outliers from McAllen and Edcouch. Participants practice daily on practice fields provided by LJISD in the mornings.

“We’re registered with the TAAF [Texas Amateur Athletic Federation] organization,” Perales said. “And they go compete locally in communities. Recently we were in Rio Grande City, this week we’re going to be in Weslaco.”

In his experience, Perales has seen students improve by continuing athletic activities in the summer months.

“I’ve seen an improvement in the fundamentals and participation in the middle schools,” Perales said.

According to Perales, providing programs like these keeps kids active and healthy, which is a benefit to themselves and their parents as well.

“First and foremost, it helps the kids do something instead of being out on the street,” Perales said. “It’s good to have these programs for our kids.”

Peñitas is hoping to grow the Parks & Recreation program even more. In the spring, 73 kids registered for their basketball program, 100 kids registered for their soccer program and they are gearing up to launch flag football and volleyball programs in the fall.

“We were also going to have a swimming program, but it was too late for that,” Perales said. “We hope to have it next year.”

The city of Peñitas does not currently have a building to house their Parks & Recreation department, but Perales said that they were hoping to eventually get one to streamline accessibility for the area.

“Right now we’re utilizing the La Joya Independent School District for their facilities,” Perales said. “In the future we’ll hopefully have a location, a building with soccer fields and baseball fields.”

Perales loves his work, and was happy to start Peñitas’ fledgling program so more kids can have the opportunity to participate in the summer and throughout the year.

“You see the kids develop a lot by the end of the summer,” Perales said. “I’m just glad to be part of an organization that has these youth programs for kids in the community. I love what I do.”

Before the city officially designated a Parks & Recreation program, track was all that was offered.

Perales said they were eager to implement a more diverse variety of sports opportunities in Peñitas.

“It’s nice to see some of these kids learn as they grow, especially when they visit you and say ‘hey coach, remember when you taught me this?’ It’s pretty neat,” Perales said. “It gets them to stop playing video games, and the more they’re out there it helps with their wellness and developing healthy habits.”

Enrollment is $65 for the summer season, with meets held throughout the months. For more information about the track and field program in Peñitas, the department can be reached at (956) 600-9021 or (956) 222-6362.

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