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Arts and Enrichment

Finding the Right Niche

Unique Sports Expand Horizons for All Ages

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April 01, 2010
The opportunities available to our kids are amazing. When I was growing up, sports were pretty much limited to football, basketball, track, golf and swimming, along with a few others. Today, it seems, kids can get physical in just about any sport of choice.

Central Indiana offers great opportunities for kids to get active in recreational or competitive sports outside of the activities that traditionally come to mind. I'm talking lacrosse, fencing, curling, hockey, you name it, it is likely available. There are so many opportunities that your child can surely find the right niche sport for his or her personality or strengths.

For instance, if your son or daughter would enjoy getting in on the ground floor of an emerging sport in the state there is a great opportunity with curling.

That's right. Curling. You may have caught it during the Olympics, which is how Jeff Heck, president of the three-year-young Circle City Curling Club, first caught the curling bug. "I saw it on the Olympics and thought it was cool."

Heck says the sport is great for young teenagers on through the retirement years. The sport can be tough for young kids because the stones that are shot weigh a heavy 42 pounds.

He describes curling as a "gentlemanly sport with a lot of history and tradition to it. It's a nice sport to learn. It's not cut throat. If I'm playing someone and they throw a fantastic shot, I'm going to tell them. The students that come out and play will improve their social skills greatly. They'll become fine young men and women."

While there is no formal league in the area yet, Heck, in no uncertain terms, intends to grow the Circle City Curling Club. "If anybody wants to come out they can and we'll teach them on the spot," he says. The club, which consists of people of all ages and walks of life, meets a couple times a week in downtown Indianapolis. He also recommends that families look online for upcoming curling clinics.

Curling is also a sport that Heck says kids can catch onto rather quickly. "Once you've got it, you've got it."

Another sport that may catch kids' eyes—often from watching the silver screen—is fencing—and it is worth a look. Described as physical chess, fencing develops agility, reaction speed, strength and respect for authority.

"Fencing allows kids to enjoy the same mental work as any video game while working physically very hard. It's a good combination," says Val Kizik, head coach of Indysabre Fencing. "There's a game happening. You are figuring the moves of your opponent and your own moves and then applying them."

While Kizik says no one type of kid is more successful at fencing than another, he does say, "The main requirement is to be intelligent. We don't have kids who are getting poor grades at school. It requires a lot of thinking."

Other than that, he says, "We have kids who are 5' tall and some who are 6' 5". We have a woman who came who was 53 and never played any sport and now she is an alternate for the national team. Go and figure. It's a lifelong sport."

Indysabre is one of several programs in central Indiana that offers fencing lessons. The organization offers programs around the greater Indianapolis area, though its main facility is at the Jewish Community Center. Kizik says he offers a beginners class that takes students from A to Z covering basic footwork, bladework, game strategy, tactics and protocol, sport history, safety issues and athletic conditioning.

Lacrosse is another niche sport that is taking hold of our youth and has an active and supportive community eager to grow the game. Approximately 2,500 boys and 500 girls in Indiana are already playing. Surely that number will grow as siblings join the fun and as lacrosse gains visibility throughout the media. Apparently, North Central is now letting student athletes letter in the sport.

"Lacrosse is still not like basketball or football or even soccer, but it is on its way," says Tim Clark, president of the Indiana chapter of U.S. Lacrosse and head coach for Northside Lacrosse Club.

A lifelong player himself, Clark wonders what's not to love. "You put a stick in a kid's hand and a ball to throw around and you are going to hit people. Kids love it," he says, adding that kids of all sizes, shapes and abilities can be successful at the game. "One of the beauties of the game is there is no iron clad kind of size for the sport. You see all different types of kids on the lacrosse field."

Eileen Mills, executive director of Indianapolis Youth Hockey Association, has a similar take on youth hockey. "We've got all kinds of kids. We've got kids that are very athletic. Kids that got the idea from watching 'The Mighty Ducks' movie and never played sports before." Despite the varied entry-level talent of youth hockey players, Mills advises kids to be comfortable on ice skates when starting out.

Once signed up for a program, kids can expect significant playtime too. "In our association, you don't sit on the bench—you play," says Mills. "We rotate our players. If everybody on the teams shows up on any given day, each kid is going to get about the same number of ice time minutes during the game." Plus, teams average about 12 players, so athletes get individualized attention from the coaches.

That specialized attention and character building can be found in soccer, too. Soccer Minikicks at Hamilton County Sports Complex (or on-site locations) was developed using 18 years of expertise and experience and is designed to provide a healthy introduction to physical and social development. Enrolling preschool-age children in a soccer program has tremendous rewards and benefits for young children and their parents. Children will build character by increased confidence and self-esteem, improve social skills, develop a healthy respect for active lifestyle habits and, of course, improve their soccer skills by providing a non-competitive environment with activities that include "individual and small-sided games to give lots of "touches" on the ball."

Like curling, fencing, lacross and hockey, soccer may not be a headlining sport as every school, but is giving kids another opportunity to get involved in a sport.

It's that opportunity that gets our kids active and engaged.
Carrie Bishop is a freelance writer and mother of two young sons, whose daily antics inspire her work and her life.

Tags: Enrichment

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