Not surprisingly, the most popular fan sports are also the most popular participant sports, especially among kids. When someone screams “play ball,” most kids know what sport is about to ensue and many will have sampled some form of baseball in the course of their childhood. But for kids who aren’t drawn to participate in baseball, or in other popular spring sports like basketball, soccer, or tennis, but who still want to embrace the spring with participation in a sport or two, there are all sorts of less conventional options out there that might better suit a child’s interests and skills. Here are a few ideas to consider.
Passing, receiving, running, intercepting–flag football has all the fun of regular football but with absolutely no tackling. This version of football has been gaining so much traction in recent years that there are now lots of opportunities to play it in spring as well as the fall and winter. The big player is Yorkville Youth Athletic Association, with the largest league, all parent-coached. Asphalt Green also offers leagues and classes. Other places that have flag offerings include 14th Street Y, Bee in Motion, Chelsea Piers, and Fastbreak Sports.
For years now this sport has been trickling down from colleges across the country to high schools and now middle schools. There’s a wonderful organization called Disc NY that is a central hub for pick-up games and clinics for kids. Their offerings tend to skew toward tween and teen, but I think they’d still be a good group to talk to if you have younger children who want to take it up.
The most formal training and practicing for runners takes place in schools, but the New York Runners have a lot of programs and events to nurture young runners–and a really good cache of instructional videos, which are nominally meant for teachers, but there’s no reason why interested parents or children can’t use them to hasten their involvement in the sport. While a child might not want to take on an aggressive running regime without guidance, a little running can go a long way in helping your child stay fit.
I know that archery feels like it should be practiced in the woods, and that therefore it may not be the most practical option for a NYC sport. However, if you think it looks cool, there are few places in town that teach serious archery to youngsters, including Gotham Archery and Queens Archery.
You know that big beautiful river along the west side of Manhattan? Well, it has spawned a number of good sailing organizations with instruction for kids. So, if you have a city kid with an appetite for spending more recreational time on water, it can be done without leaving the island! Some of the leading programs include Atlantic Yachting, Chelsea Piers, Hudson River Community Sailing, Manhattan Sailing School, and New York Sailing.