Friday after school at Evergreen Middle School isn’t usually as busy as it was last week. Students crammed into the school’s two gyms, dressed in bright colors, matching T-shirts and even capes, moving from volleyball court to volleyball court, waiting for their chance to dig and spike their way to victory.
The Rip-A-Shot tournament has been held for 14 years, and is part of the school’s High 5 program, designed to involve kids in drug- and alcohol-free activities. The volleyball tournament last week was the third of five activities the Central Valley District school will hold this year.
So far this year, the students – almost all students at Evergreen have signed pledge cards to stay off drugs and alcohol – have traveled to the YMCA for activities, had a skate night at Roller Valley and now the Rip-A-Shot tournament. Later this school year, there will be a 3-on-3 basketball tournament and the year will wrap up with a day at Silverwood Theme Park.
In the gyms last Friday there were 36 teams with six or seven students to a team. After a quick game of 3 minutes and 10 seconds, students rotated to the next court to wait in line for the next match.
“It’s organized chaos,” said Assistant Principal Janice Boyd. “The kids know exactly what’s going on.”
Mike Gharst, eighth-grade history teacher and the High 5 adviser, said students form their own teams and come up with a name and a theme. He said when he was first put in charge of organizing the event, they tried to assign teams, but the kids like to form their own.
Gharst gets volunteers from everywhere to help run the tournament. There were parents, teachers and even former students who came to help.
In fact, three of those former students from Central Valley High School said they had already fulfilled their community service requirement for their school, but were at Evergreen anyway.
Gharst said they told him, “We just want to help.”
Students design their T-shirts and costumes. Principal John Parker selects the best costumes and the students get a bag of candy for their efforts.
Eighth-graders Jenna Place, Jade Rockwood and Kristin Everhart were part of the Pink Zebras. Decked out in bright pink T-shirts festooned with zebra-pattern tape and puffy, hand-painted letters, the girls were having a blast playing in each game.
“We’ve done it since sixth grade,” Place said.
“It’s fun just to be with your friends and play,” Everhart said.
Parker said about 40 percent of the 630 students attended the tournament. The event not only shows students they can have a great time without drugs and alcohol, but it creates memories for them.
He particularly enjoyed the themes of the teams. One of them, the Neon Nerds, sported T-shirts with math equations, ties and pocket protectors painted on them. Eighth-grader Andrew Simpson said the equations on his shirt were all legitimate equations from his math class.
“They put some thought into it,” Parker said.
The winners get the candy, but Gharst said it’s about the experience of the game, not who wins.
“I really don’t make a big deal about that,” he said.