Sports are a huge part of many children’s upbringing. Not only do kids tend to love having a team back them up while playing a game they love, but sports keep today’s youth fit and active in a technology climate that greatly encourages staying home and binge watching television. However, traditional sports are becoming a bit cliche for many children today, and a little barbaric in classic practice; tackling, pushing, and other physical confrontation that takes place in more traditional sports settings. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with these sports, but more and more kids are reaching for alternative ways to get their physical activity in. Alternative sports are often looked at as more of an extracurricular “club” activity, however, let’s not discount the many teams that started as a simple after school program and the positive impact these “extra-curriculars” have on both a child’s mental and physical health.
Sports/physical activities with a fixed set of rules and regulations cause kids to focus and build their skill in a particular way that will become beneficial in terms of the game. It promotes just as much mental stimulation as it does physical, so regardless of what the activity is, it’s most likely benefiting your child in more ways than one. Ping-Pong or table-tennis, has become one of the most popular alternative sports, that is now officially a part of the Olympics. What’s popularly known as a “basement sport,” table tennis provides a more relaxed yet just as skillful version of contained tennis for children to work on skills such as hand-eye-coordination, and reaction timing. The game is already widely known, as it would be pretty surprising for a child to have never played the game while at a friends house or after school program.
Along those same lines, badminton is another sport with a casual stigma that’s growing in competitive popularity. What’s known widely as a “backyard” sport, badminton is now regionally and nationally recognized in the competition circuit and many kids are picking up their thin rackets and birdies and taking to the court. Alternative sports that have birthplaces in more casual settings tend to gain momentum and popularity rather quickly due to the casual association made with them. Table tennis and badminton both have a backyard party type of reputation, but don’t be fooled when it comes to competition these athletes mean strict business as any would when entering into their given sports competition.
Rugby may seem like a very traditional sport, but in reality it’s pretty widely recognized as football’s “club sport” alternative. The difference? Well, not much in terms of game play, but in terms of competitiveness this sport seems to be a little more relaxed in comparison to its nationally ranked alternative. There are thousands of children’s flag rugby leagues across the country that ensure parents their kids are protected from the traditional dangers these physical contact sports hold. Instead of tackling, participants must grab the flag from the other players belts. In general, this greater protects children from major injuries such as broken bones and concussions.
Fencing is a little more of an underrated alternative sport for many kids but it’s actually widely popular. Many children don’t realize that this is actually an Olympic sport but it has been for over 100 years! Fencing is a great sport for any child who sees all of their friends starting sports at a relatively young age, as many fencing institutions start training for competition with kids at the age of 5 the youngest! Traditionally kids start fencing around 8 to 12 years old, as with any sport.
Alternative sports don’t mean that the participants are putting in any less effort physically or mentally, in comparison to their national league counter-sports. These are just the sports with a more “underrated” presence about them, but these options are great for any child looking for a physical means of endurance and release. Rock-climbing, fencing, golfing, table-tennis, bike riding, etc., these are all options of ways to get your kids out of the house and moving, and most of them have clubs either within your child’s school system or after-school programs/community centers. The benefits are massive, and there’s a lot less pressure to be competitive and the best at a particular craft, when there’s so many more options outside of what’s traditionally accepted as a “real sport.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.