While team sports are oft-heralded ways to build character and strengthen cooperation skills, they simply aren’t a great match for every child. Rather than forcing kids to participate in a sport they hate—either because they’re too young or because, well, they simply hate it—it’s usually better to find an activity that won’t make them hide behind you at drop-off.
Fortunately for Westchester children, there are plenty of local opportunities that help kids stay fit, learn something new and have fun! We’ve rounded up some of our favorite sports for those individualist kids. While some may technically include participation on a team, these focus more on setting personal goals than on tallying wins and losses.
Looking for even more enriching ways for kids to spend their time? Consult our Classes Guide and check out our Event Calendar.
Martial arts can teach discipline in a fun and safe environment. Photo by the author.
My son has been enrolled in karate since he was 4 and is now just eight months away from testing for his black belt. While he hasn’t loved every second, even he can’t discount the amount of discipline and preparedness it’s brought (even when he’s grumpy about going). Whether your child is interested in karate, tae kwon do, judo, ju jitsui or any other martial art, take time to learn about the school and meet the teachers. Many schools offer trial periods or free intro classes to ensure it will be a good fit.
Held at Life: The Place to Be in Ardsley, the Westchester Circus Arts Center teaches kids everything they’d want to know about the aerial arts. In addition to trapeze arts and tumbling, kids can get schooled in the finer points of juggling, tightwire and even costumes. The Westchester Circus Arts Center offers camps during summer vacation and school breaks, providing a great option for curious kids.
There are no fewer than five towns in Westchester and Rockland that are eager to train kids in marine voyages. Week- and month-long instructional camps are held during the summer, and you need not be a club member for them to participate.
The Westchester Table Tennis Center in Pleasantville offers a Youth Development Program after school and on weekends. Whether new to the sport or a seasoned pro, players of all skill levels can work on their backhand, footwork and more. Lessons can be customized so your child takes them once, twice or three times a week, and you can even pay per day if you wish.
The Olympics are coming! Photo by Mommy Poppins' Roberta B.
Ski Racing & Figure Skating
While winter seems like a bad memory at this point, it won’t be long before the 2018 Winter Olympics chatter starts to pick up. Yes, both ski racing and figure skating typically involve hardcore amounts of training, but many locations in our area keep things at a sane(r) level with youth leagues or learn-to-skate programs. Has your child been torturing you with 5am wakeups since entering the world? These are the sports where that can finally pay off!
Like ski racing, swimming is another sport that’s technically a team sport but invokes a great deal of self-motivation. Kids who give up at the first glimpse of losing may be more motivated by the potential of beating a personal nest. Westchester is home to multiple places with swim teams, but if your kid simply has zero interest in competing, there are still lots of options that solely offer lessons.
There are two full-service climbing facilities in Westchester: The Cliffs in Valhalla and The Rock Club at Pine Brook Fitness in New Rochelle. Both offers kids classes and camps that teach how to safely scale and climb, encouraging kids to test their own personal limits. (Should your child change his or her mind about team sports, both facilities also offer competitive climbing teams.)
Fencing is offered at the YWCA in White Plains via the Sheridan Fencing Academy of Westchester. Classes are available for kids as young as 6 and focus on coordination, balance and reaction, among other things.
While some parents may be cringing at the thought of enrolling their child in a boxing club, Boxing914 in White Plains has a dedicated program just for kids ages 6-13 that teaches Olympic-style boxing. Kids learn such basic techniques as jabs, crosses, hooks and uppercuts in a fun and safe atmosphere in 45-minute classes on Saturday mornings. Each class also includes jump rope, pad work, technique training and circuit training.
Running, of course, only requires a pair of sneakers and perhaps a water bottle; there’s no saying you even need to leave your neighborhood. But if socialization with other kids is something you’re looking for, a running club might the right choice for your child. As with all of the sports on this list, it doesn’t have to be a team sport in order to be a super-competitive program. A look at the mandatory practice schedule is often a good way to judge athlete expectations.
Top photo credit: Pixabay