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Fun Sports and Fitness Ideas

Sports Ideas for Fun and Fitness

Individual and team sports teach kids valuable lessons about cooperation and provide constructive outlets for their chugging metabolism. Here's a quick primer on some of the sports you might be considering for your budding athletes.

Individual Sports

Tennis

At a Glance: Players hit a fuzzy yellow ball back and forth over a net, with one accumulating points when the other's ball falls short or sails beyond the court boundaries. Four points wins a game, six games wins a set (or seven, if you're forced to win by two), and two out of three, or three out of five, sets wins a match.

Top 3 Benefits:
1. It's terrific for developing hand-eye coordination.
2. It requires precision and anticipation equally.
3. It remains a game built around courtesy and decorum despite modern serves resembling heat-seeking missiles.

Wallet Factor: You should be able to pick up a decent-quality racket for between $60 and $100 at your local sporting goods retailer (even cheaper if you go to a discount store). Free public courts can be found just about anywhere, but if you're bent on private lessons or a club membership, the figure starts to climb.

Golf

At a Glance: Via a connected series of mini-landscapes featuring obstacles like sand and water, players attempt to persuade a small ball into a small hole in as few shots as possible. Lowest total score at the end of the round wins.

Top 3 Benefits:
1. It cultivates a steady, methodical approach to problem solving.
2. Confrontation and machismo have little place in it.
3. It teaches patience. (Boy, does it teach patience.)

Wallet Factor: A set of junior clubs will probably set you back about $150 (less if you buy via eBay or used). A glove adds another $20 or so. Kids' golf spikes (shoes) shouldn't cost more than $50. A typical round at an average course costs around $50 to $75. Costs for lessons (a good idea, especially if you don't want little Tiger or Annika to acquire your slice) vary widely, but expect to peel off a few 10s to get started.

Racquetball/Squash

At a Glance: Using all four walls of an enclosed court, players try to win enough individual points to win games (usually up to 11, 15 or 21), and enough games (two out of three or three out of five) to capture an overall match.

Top 3 Benefits:
1. They require not just athleticism or strategy, but both.
2. Virtually anyone can play and enjoy them.
3. They're deceptively great exercise.

Wallet Factor: A racquetball or squash racket costs between $50 and $150; protective goggles (a must), about $35; and balls, a few bucks.

Team Sports

Hockey

At a Glance: Teams of five skaters plus a goalie try to shoot a hard rubber puck into the other team's net. After three periods – usually 20 minutes each – the team with the most goals wins.

Top 3 Benefits:
1. By cultivating athletic dexterity at top speed, it's a major adrenaline rush.
2. It has both a rich history and a still-growing fan base.
3. As a workout, it has few peers.

Wallet Factor: Outfitting a junior player with standard equipment – skates, pads, helmet, stick – runs in the neighborhood of $350 (plus the costs of annual replacement as your Gretzky grows). Team fees can usually be expected to run a few hundred dollars per season.

Basketball

At a Glance: With games divided into four quarters, players dribble, pass and shoot in the attempt to score as many baskets as possible on the opposition while giving up as few as possible. The team with the most points wins the game.

Top 3 Benefits:
1. It's great for developing both slow- and fast-twitch muscles.
2. It rewards constant motion, quickly teaching those who stand still not to.
3. It's a "cool" sport whose global popularity is on the rise, so knowing how to play can only benefit your kid.

Wallet Factor: A backboard and rim to mount above the garage costs about $75; a stand-alone hoop, between $200 and $500. Professional-style basketballs are $30 to $75. You can sign Junior up for a community league if you want, but between school teams and pick-up ball with friends, he'll probably get all the basketball education he needs.

Soccer

At a Glance: On a large rectangular field, 11-person squads try to score in the opposition's net over two halves, usually 30 minutes each. The team with the most goals wins the match.

Top 3 Benefits:
1. It demonstrates the value of both teamwork and maximizing opportunity.
2. No other sport teaches you to use your feet in the same way – not to mention your head.
3. It boasts the unbeatable tradition of orange quarters at halftime.

Wallet Factor: Cleats (soccer shoes) can be as inexpensive as $20 or as much as $80 depending on your child's foot size. Beyond that, shin guards – and those adorable knee-high socks – are the only real expenses.

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