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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.