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Kids in Motion: How to Be a Team-free Athlete

Not every athletic kid is drawn to the team-sport life. Find some alternative choices for your active child!

All children need play. And exercise at every age is vital for optimal health. Getting our kids outside and running around in the fresh air can be challenging in the age of electronics, when gaming virtually replaces actual live motion. But with schools and neighborhoods organizing sports like baseball, field hockey, and soccer, team athletics seem like a natural way to make sure our kids are physically active enough to be healthy, and engaged enough with peers to be socially developed and connected. Along with the chance to build friendships and keep our children active, athletic teams foster opportunities for learning fair play, how to lose gracefully, and how to push a little harder for a win, all worthwhile and lifelong benefits to playing on a team.

But while some children thrive in a team atmosphere, just as many aren’t the team-sport kind. Maybe they have social anxiety. Maybe they feel physically awkward. Maybe they aren’t into competing. Maybe they simply aren’t drawn to the sports on offer or to what we consider “sports” in general. For these and so many other reasons, some kids would rather do anything else besides spending afternoons at practices and weekends at games chasing a ball and high-fiving teammates when the ball lands in the point-winning place.

There are other options for kids to be active, without the format or feel of a team sport, where they can perform as individuals and experience the joy of a healthy body in motion.  Start him in figure skating or her in rock climbing camp, at age four or fourteen and beyond.  With individual athletics, kids learn to achieve without competing, and that staying active can be its own reward.

Check out these local options to keep your kiddos off the couch:

Ice Skating

If grace, strength, speed, and flexibility are in your kiddo’s purview, getting your child out on the ice is an incredible way to keep fitness and fun in his life for years to come. And while figure skating is a known pastime, you probably haven’t considered option of synchronized skating. Yes, that’s a thing! Kids are grouped together by age and ability to learn routines involving complex footwork and intricate formations. Both ice skating styles can be pursued competitively, if your child chooses. And if your child is no expert skater, lessons are available at most rinks.

Philadelphia Skating Club 

220 Holland Avenue, Ardmore

Exton Figure Skating Club 

701 Haywood Drive, Exton

Valley Forge Cadettes Synchronized Skating Team 

87 Brower Avenue, Phoenixville

Ice Liners Synchronized Skating Team 

700 Lawrence Drive, West Chester

YMCA Running Clubs

These well-rounded, ten-week programs have little in common with school-oriented track teams. Focused on fostering self-esteem and mental wellness along with physical health, these programs intend to increase self-awareness and build character. Instead of just running, groups are encouraged to engage in discussion on various topics in a safe safe space.  They practice positive self-talk, play games, participate in a community service project, and learn how to set personal goals, with the real-time example of a 5K at the end of the program. Kids can walk or run to the finish line! Note to parents: these programs are currently organized to place boys in STRIDE and girls in Girls on the Run. 

Girls on the Run Chester County

Montgomery and Delaware Counties Girls on the Run 

Girls on the Run Philadelphia 

STRIDE – Chester County

Circus Arts

Yes, you can actually drive your children to run away to the circus! Starting as young as age three, kids can begin their study of circus arts, from contortion to acrobatics, and even flying trapeze, these classes deliver excitement, strength-training, and increased flexibility in a unique setting. 

Philadelphia School of Circus Arts 

6452 Greene St., Philadelphia

Indoor Rock Climbing

If you’re hoping to help your kids build physical and inner strength in one go, working towards conquering a towering rock wall is a good start. Rock climbing, an easy look from the safety of the ground, provides opportunities for the development of problem-solving skills, patience, and determination, with a huge payoff when the wall is bested. Training is provided, and kids start easy, with a gradual increase in difficulty. A great confidence-booster for all, rock climbing helps kids understand the concept of working towards a goal, and the satisfaction of making the effort to get there. 

Photo by Sarah Bond

The Gravity Vault 

175 King of Prussia Road, Radnor

Downingtown Rock Gym 

462 Acorn Lane, Downingtown

Philadelphia Rock Gyms

Locations in Malvern, East Falls, Fishtown, Oaks, Wyncote, and Coatesville

Parkour

Have you heard of parkour? This method of negotiating obstacles by running, jumping, climbing, and other bodily maneuvering is already second nature to some children! While parkour challenges for adults can take place in urban settings, parkour gyms have been opening around the world so the sport can be learned safely, encouraging more and more of us to give this energetic, acrobatic, ever-in-motion activity a try. 

Pinnacle Parkour Academy Philadelphia

3500 Scotts Lane, Philadelphia

iCore Fitness

300 Lawrence Drive, West Chester

Upper Merion Dance and Gymnastic Center 

530 Hertzog Boulevard, King of Prussia

Yoga 

The definition of non-competitive movement, yoga is so much more than striking poses and stretching. Yoga is a lifelong practice that teaches self-acceptance, compassion, focus, and the ability to still the mind while also building physical strength, balance, overall wellness, and flexibility. Children who practice yoga can gain a connection to body and mind that will serve them throughout their lives.

All Kids Yoga

Balanced for Life Yoga Therapy Studio, 45 Berkley Rd, Devon

Super Kids Yoga 

John Anderson Cultural Center, 5301 Overbrook Avenue, Philadelphia

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