Summer Olympic sports for kids around Chicago

We all know swimming, diving, gymnastics, and track and field. But what about those little-known sports that only get their moment in the sun when the Olympics roll around every four years?

As you watch the torch head to London, it may be time for your kids to explore some of the more obscure summer Olympic offerings, all right here in Chicago. The next thing you know, they could be the ones on the podium.

 

Sailing in Chicago

The ultimate water sport is the perfect fit for those near the lake, even if your kids weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouths. The Chicago Park District offers junior sailing lessons for kids 10 and up at Northerly Island, with a promise to take your kid from "landlubber to sea lover." And you don't have to be a member of the Chicago Yacht Club to take part in its Sailing School, which is open to kids as young as 5. Little ones won't be hoisting any riggings on their own, but they will become familiar with all the sights and sounds, not to mention the feel, of sailing.

 

Archery in Chicago

Bows and arrows aren't just for summer camp anymore. Thanks to The Hunger Games, archery is more popular than ever. World Sport Chicago's goal is to introduce Chicago to archery in a safe and fun way, which they do through weekly public classes for kids 8-17. If you've really got your eye on the prize… er, medal … they also work with the Chicago Park District to offer youth archery classes at Pulaski Park. All youth programs enable archers to participate in the monthly Junior Olympic Archery Development qualification rounds.

 

Judo in Chicago

Even if you don't know the difference between your hiza and your hiji, you can still learn this ancient Japanese sport, one of the most widely practiced martial arts in the world. POW! Kids offers Olympic Youth Judo classes and camps for kids 4-12, taught by an actual 2012 Olympic hopeful, Aaron Cohen, and his brother, RJ. And kids with special needs don't have to be left out of the fun. Menomonee Judo Club offers one-on-one, individualized instruction and camps for kids of all abilities. Nearly 150 members have visual, physical or intellectual disabilities, making the club one of the the most accessible dojos in the country.

 

Synchronized swimming in Chicago

If you've got a water baby at home, but they're more interested in style than speed, maybe this is the sport for them. After all, it was once called water ballet! At the YMCA of Metro Chicago, girls 6 and older (at the Olympics, it's not a co-ed sport) who have a good grasp of swim strokes learn how to combine the movements of dance with swimming skills. Or head to Wright College, often considered the birthplace of synchro, whose team, the SeaStars, has nationally-ranked athletes.

 

Fencing in Chicago

The Three Musketeers may have lived in 17th century France, but their sword skills are oh-so-modern. Your kids can en garde with the best of them at Windy City Fencing, which has the region's largest youth program. Classes give a fun, noncompetitive introduction to the typically cutthroat sport (pun intended). Kids 5-7 can practice with plastic weapons, while those 8 and up use the real deal. The Midwest Fencing Academy offers classes and camps for kids and also teams up with local schools and park districts to provide afterschool programming.

 

Water polo in Chicago

No, we don't mean "Marco Polo." This other pool sport involves swimming and treading water-all while tossing around a heavy ball (and wearing swim caps). Plus, it's the oldest continuous Olympic sport! The Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, Chicago Park District and YMCA of Metro Chicago all offer programs for kids who know how to swim and are looking to change it up a bit.

 

Table tennis in Chicago

Ping pong isn't just a sport for your rec room anymore. While it might seem like the ultimate low-key game, it can get pretty intense on the competitive level. Chi-Slam Table Tennis Club devotes Friday and Saturday nights to the under-18 set and offers lessons, training with the "Newgy" robot and friendly tournaments to keep that spin move in top form.

 

Handball in Chicago

What do you get when you combine football, basketball, soccer and lacrosse into one mega-sport? It's handball, a popular game in Europe that kids in third grade and up can pick up on at the Lattof YMCA in Des Plaines. The Illinois Handball Association claims it's the best youth program in the country and it has produced several national champions.

 

Rhythmic gymnastics in Chicago

Twirling ribbons and soaring hoops might not seem ready-made for stiff athletic competition, but those tools of the trade are harder to master than you might think. The Illinois Rhythmic Gymnastics Center in Highland Park offers classes for tots as young as 3, with afterschool programs for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. Without even realizing it, they'll be developing their flexibility, gracefulness, coordination and creativity.

 
 
 







 
 
 
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