“One thing about table tennis that’s interesting: it’s the only table game that’s also an Olympic sport,” said Isle ALC instructor Joseph Covert. “They say it’s the second most popular sport in the world after soccer.” Covert is a new teacher with the Isle Area Learning Center, and alongside his new band program, Covert has brought one other new activity to the ALC: table tennis. Due to previous work connections, Covert will also be able to take these students to compete at the Minnesota State Table Tennis Tournament, held Feb. 2, 2020.
Covert had previously taught at Sobriety High School in Edina, Minn. He described it as a unique environment with the kids having all been through treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Covert had been both a P.E. and a social studies teacher with the Sobriety High School program. “One thing I got into with the students deeply was that we played table tennis every day,” he explained.
It was a program the kids were able to have a lot of fun with, Covert explained. The environment encouraged them to get very good, as there were several kids who could play well. After Sobriety High School, Covert again started the table tennis program at his next job, Metro College Prep, and he was able to convince the principal to let his students compete, taking them to the state tournament twice. “We just had so much fun with the competition,” he said.
Covert has now brought table tennis to the Isle ALC as a P.E. class. Due to his past connections with Mitch Seidenfeld, the manager of the state table tennis tournament, Covert is also able to give his students the opportunity to compete at the tournament on Feb. 9, 2020. Covert saw the tournament as an opportunity for the kids to learn and increase their skill level.
“I’m happy for the kids,” Covert said, “and proud of their courage to compete.” He noted that the competition at the state level would be fierce. Covert’s P.E. class meets for a daily, hour-long session, and he noted the kids are starting to develop their skills. “Some of the kids are really starting to get good,” he added. “It’s like anything else. You start to get good, and you get hooked on it.”
Whether it was the table tennis or his band program, Covert also wanted to credit ALC administrator Kris Schmidt, who had been with Isle’s program for six years. Both Covert and Schmidt are working to bring a new atmosphere to the Area Learning Center, offering new activities in both athletics and the arts. “We don’t want them just sitting on the computer all day,” Covert said.