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8 Underrated Sports for Kids

Merida from Pixar's Brave and writer Whit Honea
Be Brave.

Between The Hunger Games, Pixar’s upcoming Brave, and Marvel’s The Avengers, archery is making a comeback (despite the fact that it’s been here for years). All of the films (and the books that may have preceded them) feature a hero whose chosen weapon is the bow and arrow.

Two of the three heroes are teenage girls (The Hunger Games, Brave), which has already started a firestorm of kids enrolling in archery programs — archery is going to be huge. The Washington Post reported that sales of archery bows have gone up, and the buzz created with characters like Katniss Everdeen, Brave‘s Merida, and Hawkeye from The Avengers is only going to get bigger as the 2012 Summer Olympics loom.

“This is our year,” said Jim MacQuarrie, a writer at Wired.com’s GeekDad and a certified archery instructor at Roving Archers in Pasadena, CA. “This is archery’s year.”

Jim was standing next to me on the campus of Pixar Animation Studios, hence the photo (that’s me and Merida, Jim can post his own photos at his site), and we both had a bow in our hands — his looking like an extension of himself, mine looking like some cyborg appendage unsure that it would take.

It took.

Turns out that archery, at least the very basics of it that allow learners some sense of instant gratification, is fairly easy. Sure, to do anything more than take a few shots with a light bow and hit the large target standing far too close would take actual training and commitment, but it is those first few experiences of watching your arrow hit the target you were aiming at that will hook kids (and adults) for years to come.

The recent interest in slinging arrows made me wonder what other under-the-radar sports might appeal to kids seeking a unique and empowering activity, so I asked around. It turns out that a lot of the parents I talked to (and their kids) are finding a renewed interest in some traditional sports. All can provide a new take on physical activity if your child is bored or frustrated by the typical offerings in gym class or games with the neighborhood kids — and on top of that, participating in these sports can foster lifelong skills of goal-setting, discipline, and overcoming challenges. If you think your kid is ready for something beyond baseball or basketball, try these offbeat activities instead:


  • Fencing 1 of 8
    Fencing
    Does your kid like playing with swords? Sure, fighting dragons is cool, but fencing is really cool. This is a great sport to promote agility of both mind and body. Also, neat masks! Olympic fencer Mariel Zagunis brings her skills to youth fencing workshops and has noted kids' enthusiasm for the sport: "They get really excited when you bring out fencing equipment."
    Photo Credit: Sport Development International
  • Rugby 2 of 8
    Rugby
    Rugby is what American football would be if the players were tougher. Don't worry, there are a number of flag rugby leagues for kids so they can see how they really feel about a good scrum without all the body blows.
    Read about Jason Avant's son and his awesome rugby skills over at DadCentric
    Photo Credit: Wikipedia
  • Lacrosse 3 of 8
    Lacrosse
    Lacrosse was invented by Native Americans as a way to settle feuds between various groups or tribes, and also for training warriors in focus and teamwork. Now it's mostly played for fun. Mostly. According to a graph from Laxbuzz.com, high-school level participation of the sport has leaped 528% in the last two decades!
    Photo Credit: Morgue File
  • Cricket 4 of 8
    Cricket
    Cricket is growing in popularity as a team sport for kids. I'm guessing the real supporters of this are the laundry detergent companies. Grass stains are big business, people. While cricket hasn't reached lacrosse levels of popularity, the presence of training camps in the U.S. seems promising.
    Photo Credit: Morgue File
  • Rafting 5 of 8
    Rafting
    River rafting may not come right to mind as a sport for kids, but it's never too early to get them interested. Family tours are a great way to show kids what rafting has to offer while spending some quality time together as a family. A very wet family.
    Photo Credit: Morgue File
  • Field Hockey 6 of 8
    Field Hockey
    Give a kid a stick and a ball, and stand back — field hockey is tough on unsuspecting shins. Many areas that offer field hockey leagues for kids have PeeWee divisions for children as young as 6-years-old.
    Photo Credit: All Star Activities
  • Water Polo 7 of 8
    Water Polo
    Marco Polo isn't the only polo game for kids that like the pool — water polo is the oldest sport still played in the Olympics, and the youngsters love it. Plus, what's more refreshing than diving into a pool instead of sweating in out on field? Find out if clubs near you offer clinics for interested kids.
    Photo Credit: Western Water Polo.org
  • Bowling 8 of 8
    Bowling
    Bowling isn't just about awesome shirts and drinking too much on a Tuesday night. It's also about the children. And those cool bumpers that keep them from throwing balls right into the gutter. Those things would be handy on Tuesday nights, too. Fun fact: kids love bowling. Plus, now that bowling alleys are revamping their look to attract a new generation, there's no reason not to hit the lanes.
    Photo Credit: Pin Buster Bowling

Read more from Jim MacQuarrie about the impact that these blockbuster movies are having on the sport of archery and its rise in popularity as an activity for children in Sunny Chanel’s Strollerderby post: ‘Hunger Games’ & ‘Brave': Creating a New Generation of Archers?

I was Disney/PIXAR’s guest on a really cool trip that included said archery training.

Whit Honea can be found writing about whatever he feels like at his personal site Honea Express (Honea sounds like pony) and DadCentric. If you’re really bored you can follow him on the Twitter or Pinterest (his opinions are his own and do not reflect those of Babble or most rational people).

Also from Whit:

A Note on Friendship

Downside to Kid Activities

Best Age to Visit Disneyland?

Instagram Family Photos

Top photo courtesy of Pixar

 

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