In recent years, professional sport organisations such as the Football Association and the England Cricket Board have come to realise that if British sport wants to compete with the rest of the world, the professional bodies have to take kids sport and youth development seriously.
The good news for parents is that, from elite academy players down to kids who just want to play in a team ocassionally, there has been a massive increase in opportunities and facilities for children to play different sports at all levels.
Add in the growing awareness of the importance of keeping kids active and there’s every reason to inspire your kids to get out and involved.
Kids will often find out about a local team their friends at school are playing in, which is the easiest way to find and join a football club. But, in the summer holidays, every Premier League football club, and most Championship clubs, run subsidised football courses at local training grounds for kids aged 5 to 16, usually lasting from one to five days, and usually costing from £35 to £60 per week.
The easiest way to find out when and where they are is to go to the individual club’s website, for example:
Manchester United Soccer Schools
Chelsea FC Soccer Schools
Arsenal Soccer Schools
Liverpool Soccer Schools
Most Premier League clubs have special reduced price family day match tickets for certain games during the season.
The FA Tesco Football Skills Programme
The FA Tesco Skills Programme is a new youth coaching scheme for boys and girls of all abilities aged between 5 and 11 throughout England, which includes after-school coaching at local Skill Centres.
During the Easter and summer holidays, The FA Tesco Skills coaches are also running free taster sessions as an introduction to the programme to inspire kids to get involved.
The Football Association is fully committed to the development of youth football and is divided up into local FAs, all of which have listed development officers. Use them to find out about local clubs or anything to do with kids football.
There has been a big rise in popularity in girls football over the past few years and it is now the largest female team sport in the UK.
The England Cricket Board has a section on its website entitled ‘Get Into Cricket’ that pretty much gives you all the information you need to find a local cricket club. Most clubs run junior or colts sections, with coaching and matches throughout the summer, and many will be running camps during the summer holidays.
ASDA Kwik Cricket
Kwik Cricket is a simple game for all boys and girls from five years of age upwards and is an integral part of the ECB’s strategic goal of increasing the levels of participation among children. It is currently played in 8,000 primary schools and more than 4,500 of the 6,000 ECB affiliated clubs. It’s designed to provide children with an introduction to cricket and can be played either indoors or outdoors.
Over the past six years there has been a 55 per cent increase in participants in the girl’s competition alone.
The ECB, in conjunction with the 18 first-class counties and ASDA run a series of recreational local junior cricket festivals across the country. These festivals will be attended by professional cricketers who, as well as passing on coaching tips, will also talk to children about healthy living.
The first port of call for all budding tennis players is the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) website, which gives a list of all clubs and courts that offer mini tennis coaching, specifically designed for children. Mini tennis uses smaller courts, lower nets and lighter balls to teach kids the basics of the game and begins with Red for kids under 8, progresses to Orange for 8 to 9 year olds and then Green for 9 and 10 year olds.
You don’t necessarily have to be a member of a club for your kids ito get involved in their coaching or summer camps. Some clubs offer a pay and play scheme for their courses and lots of coaches run courses and camps in local parks on a pay and play basis.
Also check out the Allplaytennis section that gives a list of free courts in your area.
If you kids seriously get the tennis bug, the LTA can provide a list of competititons in your county, which are aimed at new to serious players.
And if your kids get themselves an LTA rating, sites such as Tennis Goat will, for a small fee, pass on the names of kids of the same age with a similar rating who live in your area. They can then compete among themselves on any courts nearby.
SAILING AND WATERSPORTS
Many youngsters get their first experience of sailing through family members who already sail dinghies or keelboats. Others find a way into the sport through RYA recognised sailing clubs or training centres, which offer courses for all abilities. Many also run junior and youth clubs to help youngsters stay keen and progress with their sailing.
Holidays which include sailing clubs and lessons can also provide a great introduction to the sport or an opportunity to develop skills further, while as the same time providing a great way for all the family to have fun together.
Traditional summer regatta weeks are also well worth considering as there is usually a special effort to involve children with dedicated racing, prizes, games and socials.
Whatever kind of sailing you are doing, the most important factor to remember in encouraging children into sailing is the fun factor.
Ask many youngsters about their favourite sailing activities, and aside from enjoying racing their friends and taking part in events, you will find that capsizing, water fights, pirate treasure hunts and sailing picnics feature high on their wish list!
Children don’t tend to approach sports like grown-ups – they like to win or do well but their mission in life is also to be with their mates and have a laugh!
Check out the OnBoard programme, too. OnBoard is about getting more children and young people learning to sail and windsurf.
Some local councils, such as Thames Young Mariners in Surrey, also offer outdoor activity weeks on water during the holidays.
Golf has worked hard in recent years to shrug off its stuffy, exclusive image and the number of adults and children playing in England is massively on the up.
Over the past 10 years, it’s become easier and more affordable to get kids involved in golf. Most golf clubs actively seek junior members and the first port of call for any parent interested in getting their child into golf should be the local PGA (Professional Golf Association) pro (coach).
Most club pros offer coaching, starter lessons, after school or weekend sessions and will be able to offer advice on how to get started in your area and give you information about equipment. You don’t usually have to be a member of a club to get coaching from the pro.
There are also short courses and driving ranges that are a good starting point for young golfers, either as a place to sign up for group or individual coaching or to actually go round the course and put into practice what you’ve learnt (or work out what you need to learn!). Most will offer kids golf equipment to hire.
There are also a number of initiatives with the aim of getting more children playing golf such as the:
The PGA say that golf is a sport that can be played at any age. “It is also a sport where kids can learn courtesy, discipline, honesty, respect and confidence all of which are applied on the golf course and which are also key values for life.”
Hopefully, most children will learn to swim at primary school if they can’t already swim by the time they get there. If not, it’s easy for parents to find swimming lessons at their local pool for babies and children.
Not only is learning to swim essential in keeping children safe by water, it’s also great for fitness since it exercises most of the body’s muscles without putting any impact on joints. It’s also great fun!
As part of their sponsorship of British Swimming at the Olympics, British Gas are offering free swims for kids and their parents at hundreds of pools around the country until the end of August 2012.
It’s easy to sign up – you put in your postcode, find your local pool, chose your offer (e.g. free taster session, two free swims) and off you go!
England Netball is the website to start with if you think your kids might want to try out netball at a local club. There are links to regions around the country, each with their own website, with listings of local development officers whose job it is to try to encourage more kids to play the sport.
High 5 is the massively popular entry game of netball. It’s a great way for kids to get active, enjoy themselves and make new friends. It’s designed specifically for primary-age children and uses fun and variety to get them into the game, polish skills and aid fitness. Rather than the traditional 7-aside, it’s 5-aside, with the aim that players rotate and therefore get used to playing a varitey of positions.
Teams can either be single sex or with 2 boys on the court at any one time.
England Youth Netball membership, £5 for under-9s, offers keen players
- A “I Heart Netball” pull out and poster
- An exclusive “I Heart Netball” stickers
- A collectable “I Heart Netball” England Netball wristband