With school winding down, a lot of kids and families are looking for fun and physical activities to rev things up. Whether it’s dribbling a basketball past your defender, hitting a double or swimming a personal best—consider signing up for a team sport!
While working on those skills that go with the game, experts in the field say the learning extends well beyond sports when you’re part of a team. So hopefully, you’ll get the opportunity to join a team!
“Just in the Valley, I think there are tens of thousands of kids who haven’t had the opportunity to play organized youth sports and who need that opportunity because of the impact we can make through youth sports,” says Garrett Brolsma, district executive director for the Valley of the Sun YMCA.
And it’s not just the kids and teens who grow from playing organized sports. “The impact of youth sports is wide-ranging—for the students who are the obvious participants in the program, but also for others, like the coaches and parents and whatnot,” Brolsma points out. “But for participants, there’s a lot of great benefits to youth sports.”
Working with others toward a common goal, making a CONTRIBUTION by playing your role, respecting others, mastering how to better communicate, how to handle failure (and success), and taking instruction from a trusted adult are just some life lessons you can learn by playing on a team!
“I think there are tens of thousands of kids who haven’t had the opportunity to play organized youth sports and who need that opportunity because of the impact we can make through youth sports,” says Garrett Brolsma
Haven’t Played a Sport? No Problem!
When it comes to picking up a new sport, Brolsma suggests starting off with something like soccer or basketball.
“I always direct first-timers into a soccer or a basketball type program because those are skill sets picked up fairly quickly, and they also are played in a very team-oriented environment,” he explains. “We want to be able to set them up for success by putting them in a program that will be very positive for them along the way.”
Having teammates who can support you, especially when you’re new to the game, can really help!
YMCA Offers Sports for All Ages
The Valley of the Sun YMCA serves around 100,000 people at its 16 locations throughout Phoenix.
“The Y has been doing organized youth sports for over 100 years now. And most of our sports activities are part of our youth programming!” Brolsma says. The Y invented basketball and volleyball!
Most Y’s have a basketball gymnasium and some offer outdoor soccer and flag football fields, too. There’s even a YMCA that’s connected with a Miracle League field, which is a safe, very special Tee-ball field for kids with disabilities.
“We start with basketball, volleyball and swimming as our three mainstays,” Brolsma says. “But then depending on the Y that you go to, there’s also soccer, flag football, Tee-ball, even hockey, indoor soccer and futsal (a variation of soccer, played with a bigger, heavier ball for indoors).”
And for the really wee ones, the Y offers Itty Bitty Sports—an introduction to several sports for kids ages 2–4. It’s Brolsma’s favorite program and requires a lot of parent involvement!
The Y also offers clinics on all sorts of sports, dance and cheerleading. Clinics let young people experience a sport without having to commit to being part of a team.
But one of the biggest draws to the YMCA is swimming. There are 11 aquatic centers staffed with a lifeguard whenever they are open. While their most competitive swim team may be out of the Southwest Valley Y, there are many different levels for kids, teens and families to enjoy. “We do anything from lap swimming to group swim lessons to swim team and also have recreational swimming,” Brolsma says. There are recreational swim teams that compete against other Y’s during the summer (registrations are going on now). There are also competitive and USA Swimming teams that are more year round.
Being on a team also gives you the opportunity to play with kids from other schools and to make new friendships. For Brolsma, kids can be taught a whole lot by being on a team. For example, “Teaching our children how to win with grace and lose with grace—positive sportsmanship. How to handle success and how to handle failure! Those are life lessons that we try to teach,” he says.
Boys & Girls Clubs Offer Variety
Kids can stay healthy and keep active through participation in sports.
But sports contribute to more than physical strength, stamina and dexterity—there are benefits like improving social skills. Team sports, in particular, help build CAMARADERIE and can teach valuable leadership skills.
Boys & Girls Clubs give families a low-cost way for kids to try a team sport. When it comes to “instilling a sense of belonging, what easier way to do it (than) through sports,” says Daniel Miranda, club director at the Frank & Edith Morton Clubhouse in Tucson.
“Sports is a great way to build leadership, it's a great way to build camaraderie, it's a great way to build team...the essentials of belonging,” says Miranda. He says the kids in his area crave basketball, so “basketball is the majority of what we do.” The Boys & Girls Clubs have leagues for high school, middle school and even elementary school students. Registration for basketball leagues starts when the new school year begins.
Miranda says that school sports are also a great way to get involved. School teams can expose kids to different sports, he notes, and with the emphasis on club teams and with kids specializing in one sport, the chance to try other sports is valuable. “I think it's definitely important to keep them open to different experiences,” says Miranda. He notes that playing different sports year round can also help kids avoid injury by keeping them moving.
“Sports is a great way to build leadership, it's a great way to build camaraderie, it's a great way to build team...the essentials of belonging,” says Daniel Miranda
Kids with different levels of experience playing on a team together is a good thing, according to Miranda.
“It's a benefit to those kids that have not played a whole lot, because they'll grow and they'll grow in that sport much faster than if they were just doing a beginning league,” he explains.
The variety of programs offered at Boys & Girls Clubs (including, but not limited to sports), helps kids be well-rounded, says Miranda.
How to Get Started
Valley of the Sun YMCA • valleyymca.org
Phoenix Salvation Army Kroc Center • www.krocphoenix.org
Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix • bgcmp.org
Phoenix Parks & Rec • www.phoenix.gov/parks
Mesa Parks & Rec • www.mesaparks.com
Tucson Parks & Rec • www.tucsonaz.gov/parks
Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson • www.bgctucson.org
YMCA of Southern Arizona • tucsonymca.org
The Tucson J • www.tucsonjcc.org
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