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Columns

Beyond the game

Early childhood sports programs develop skills to last a lifetime

With so many options for early childhood sports available at the St. Charles Park District, parents shouldn’t stress about which sport to choose for their child.

Because, it’s really not about the sport.

Sure, they’ll kick soccer balls, throw footballs, bounce basketballs or do all of the above, but most importantly, they will be reaping the social and mental benefits that will last a lifetime.

“During our early childhood sports programs for ages 2-7, our main focus is teamwork and sportsmanship,” said Cayla Greenfield, supervisor of Sportsplex, a St. Charles Park District facility.

For many children, it is their first time in a classroom setting, so they are learning many new social skills such as taking turns, sharing and playing well with other children their age. They are learning to help others, be positive and a team player.

“These are skills that will help them grow and succeed later in life,” said Park District Athletic Supervisor Megan Hatheway.

Additionally, these young sports players are learning how to listen to and cooperate with another adult other than their parent.

Through fun, interactive games, children are beginning to develop hand-eye coordination, balance, body awareness and motor skills. And while children may not know it, participating in such a program lays the foundation for healthy habits later in life.

“They are gaining an overall understanding that being active is important,” Hatheway said. “If you instill this belief early in life, it will become normal to them and become a habit.”

She continued: “With so many electronic options today that keep kids sedentary, it’s even more important for children to engage in sports programs to move and work their bodies, gaining the mental and physical benefits of being active.”

Both Sportsplex and Pottawatomie Community Center offer a variety of classes on varying schedules, including team sports such as soccer, T-ball, flag football, basketball and floor hockey. Other sports include golf, yoga, ice skating and karate.

Each facility also offers a multi-sports option, giving children exposure to a handful of sports, before deciding which one to focus on next time, and a parent-child class for the youngest players ages 2-3.

“The parent-child classes help the child become comfortable with the instructor and class with mom or dad still in the room,” Hatheway said. “But it also gives the parents a chance to lead by example, showing their child through participation the importance of exercise.”

Early childhood sports programs are taught by outside organizations including All Star Sports, Hot Shot Sports, Illinois Shotokan Karate and Fox Valley Ice Arena Skate School.

“All of our partner organizations provide high-quality instruction at an affordable price,” Greenfield said. “They all work exceptionally well with children and know it’s not about winning and losing, but rather, providing a positive, fun atmosphere to introduce a variety of sports and begin skill development.”

To enroll or for more information, visit www.stcparks.org or call Cayla Greenfield at Sportsplex at 630-513-4386 or Megan Hatheway at Pottawatomie Community Center at 630-513-4336.

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