Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Outside In: Indoor Versions of Outdoor Games Introduce Kids to New Sports

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Outside In: Indoor Versions of Outdoor Games Introduce Kids to New Sports

Article excerpt

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Baseball, golf, tennis, and archery probably aren't the first things that come to mind when thinking about indoor sports for kids. However, thousands of children across the country are being introduced to these sports for the first time in the great indoors. Some games are held in school gyms during the school day as part of PE class, while others are held at after-school programs, in camps, in recreation classes, or as part of youth development programs.

10 and Under Tennis

Although tennis has been played indoors since its invention, 10 and Under Tennis makes it easier to fit more kids into a smaller space. The City of Macon, Georgia, uses 10 and Under Tennis for both physical education classes in schools and as an activity in after-school programs and summer camps.

"My job is to get anybody and everybody out onto the tennis court," says Robin Bateman, facilities coordinator for two Macon Parks and Recreation tennis facilities. "It is better if you can catch them when they're younger because the kids like everything.... Having fun is contagious."

10 and Under Tennis uses shorter popup nets that can set up in a perpendicular fashion across a regular tennis court (or a school gym floor), creating four smaller courts out of one. The U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) offers grants to help set up the programs and even to paint "blended lines" for the courts. Young children use shorter, lighter racquets and low-compression balls that don't bounce as high or as far as regular tennis balls and thus are easier to contain in an indoor space. Another advantage, according to Bateman, is that the young students learn to play the net rather than playing "moon ball" from the baseline as they tend to do with full-size tennis. The scoring is modified to be easier to understand and the format is suitable for other tennis-based games like tennis baseball or "king and queen of the court."

Bateman says that it took a while to build a relationship with the schools but now area schools offer 8 to 12 weeks of tennis during PE once a week during the spring and fall, with the parks and recreation tennis program rotating through each of the city's elementary schools.

"I've seen kids learn on the QuickStart format in the fall and by the spring I've watched them play matches in what I would call real tennis," Bateman says. "If you can hook them, tennis will be a part of their life because it is a lifetime sport."

InReading, Pennsylvania, 10 and Under Tennis allows Larry Zerbe to "take tennis wherever." As tennis director for the City of Reading, he not only offers tennis in elementary schools year-round with the goal of reaching every student by the fifth grade, he also takes tennis to Boys and Girls Clubs, swimming pools, and church basements.

"Kids just want to play," Zerbe says. "You can drop nets anywhere."

Quickball Baseball

"We call it controlled chaos," chuckles Jeff Breslin of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, describing a game of Quickball. "We love it because even for the little kid who can't play or doesn't have any skills, everybody's so busy running around and yelling and screaming that nobody notices if he or she misses the ball."

Quickball is a version of baseball using special equipment that can be played indoors or outside. Although there are several variations, in a typical Quickball game kids line up to hit as many balls as they can in a certain time period. No matter whether they hit the ball or not, the batters run the bases. The children themselves can set up the scoring rules for where the ball must be hit in order to earn points. Meanwhile, on defense, the kids scramble to get as many of the balls as possible into a bucket next to the pitcher before time runs out, thus determining the score for their side. The game uses whiffle-ball-type plastic bats but the balls are much softer and usually travel no farther than 50 feet, so gloves are not needed. …

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