Many of us have logged hours on the sidelines watching our kids compete in one sport or another. Some of us are passive spectators, others…not so much. Although it’s rewarding to watch your child excel in their chosen sport, there is something that you may find even more rewarding. What if you could be out there with them?
I’m not suggesting that you dust off your old baseball mitt and try to squeeze into a little league uniform. There are a lot of sports and activities that you can do alongside your children. Here are some sports that allow you to compete together–as equals.
Tae Kwon Do
“Our sons started Tae Kwon Do first, but we jumped in when we saw what a great workout it is,” says Crystal Clark, a student at Kim’s Yong-In Martial Arts in Holly Springs. “Our family has trained here for almost five years and the teachers (Masters) and other students have become like one big family to us. We love that family atmosphere.”
Students in Tae Kwon Do advance to the next belt level when they have mastered certain skills and been tested on those skills. Therefore, there are people of all ages in your class training together. It is even possible that a young person, who is a higher belt level, will be teaching you skills. Tae Kwon Do is a defensive martial art from South Korea that emphasizes blocking, punching and kicking techniques.
“My 10 year old daughter Erin earned her black belt in May, and now she is helping me prepare for my black belt test,” says Sara Kempin, who has been taking Tae Kwon Do for almost four years. “It has brought our family together and given my daughter so much confidence.”
The Casper family started biking together several years ago, and would incorporate going to dinner or desert afterwards to help motivate and interest the kids. The bike rides have gotten longer, and Alex, now 14, rides on charity rides (some over 100 miles a day) with his dad, Jim. “We started with 5 or 10 mile rides to get ice cream or have supper,” says Jim Casper. “That has grown into regular, family mountain bike rides with Judy, Anna, Alex and myself, as well as longer road rides with Alex.”
The family rides not only for exercise, but to benefit local and national charities. Alex and Anna now ride with The Spiritual Spinners, a group Jim has ridden with since its early days in 2008, as a way to train for and ride in charity events with other local cyclists. Alex and Jim together have participated in Bike MS, to benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and the Ride Without Limits, to benefit United Cerebral Palsy/Easter Seals. “We started because we had the equipment and it was something we could do together,” says Casper. “It has grown into a passion, a way to make friends, and a means to benefit others.”
Blake Green started racing in BMX bike competitions with his twin sons, Grady and Tyler (almost 8 yrs old) about three years ago. “I wanted to be involved in their sport, but racers are divided into groups by age and ability, so although all three of us love racing, we aren’t together in races,” says Green. “But, we spend the day together at competitions and last year participated in about 70 or so events.”
The family goes to the Daniel Dhers Action Sports Complex to work on skills together. “The atmosphere is very non-competitive and riders help each other with their skills. My sons often give me advice,” says Green. “We go as a family and spend time working on new moves.”
Green says the biggest benefit besides family time has been the boys’ increase in confidence. “In BMX you have many obstacles to overcome, and as they learn to conquer their fears by trying higher jumps, etc., that translates into confidence beyond this sport.”
CrossFit Dedrick Gaddy started CrossFit several years ago, and then gradually got his three sons, Deyan (14), Jace (9), and Miles (8), involved as a way to improve their performance in other sports. His wife Kier joined in, and the whole family has been training together for about 10 months at CrossFit South Wake and loves it. CrossFit training is a variety of exercises, performed at fairly high intensity, with the goal of increasing overall fitness.
“There have been so many benefits,” says Gaddy. “When I was growing up, we climbed trees, rode bikes and increased our core strength through play. CrossFit emphasizes those basics and that translates to better fitness and increased performance in other sports.”
Gaddy says that the family is closer because they work together and cheer for each other during workouts. The boys have become more disciplined and are now interested in the science of how the muscles and the body work. All of them have improved their diet and often participate in other activities together, such as going for a run.
Sometimes participating together in a sport can fuel a child’s love for the sport. That was the case for the Spaine family. Nicholas began running 5k races with his dad when he was in fourth grade. “We enjoy running together and finishing the races together,” says Scott Spaine. “We would always try to improve on our previous times.”
This year, Nicholas took that love of running to a new level. “He is a member of the Middle Creek High School Cross Country Team and loves it,” says his Dad.
Whether you are interested in a 5k, trail running, or a muddy obstacle course, there are many ways that families can run together. The Big Muddy Challenge is an event series designed for children and adults to share the adventure race experience. Families and friends (ages six and older) utilize each other’s strengths and spirits to reach the finish line. The series recently held a race in the Raleigh area, and time doesn’t matter on the obstacle course as much as how your team meets the unique, muddy challenges.
Any type of exercise can be rewarding when done together with your family. Michael Bozzano has walked his three children to school for a total of ten years. He started when his oldest, Christopher-now a senior in High School, was in elementary school and now walks his youngest to school. “The mile or so walk is great exercise for both of us and gives me time with each child to listen to what is going on with each of them.”
Each of these sports can be done casually or on a very competitive level, but they all allow you to participate as equals with your children. So, although you will never fit into your little league uniform again, you can still get off the sidelines and spend quality time–getting active with your kids!