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 Rio, 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.
Go for gold!
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, in partnership with the the Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing Program, offers junior sailing lessons for kids 8-12. 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.
Sailing 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 multiple public classes. 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.
Archery 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 and up. 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.
Judo 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, kids who have a good grasp of swim strokes learn how to combine the movements of dance with swimming skills.
Synchronized swimming 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).
Fencing 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 and Chicago Park District offer programs for kids who know how to swim and are looking to change it up a bit.
Water polo 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 offers lessons and friendly tournaments to keep that spin move in top form.
Table tennis 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.
Handball 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.
Rhythmic gymnastics in Chicago