Originally published May 9, 2018 by WFLA.com News Channel 8
By Evan Donovan
The “Summer Slide” isn’t just about kids losing some of what they learn in the classroom, it can happen to the body almost as easily as the mind.
“Whether it’s class, recess, the day to day structure of extracurricular activity when they’re in school,” said Jarrod Williams, Youth Sports Advisor for YMCA USA, “it all falls by the wayside in the summer months. That ‘physical’ aspect of the summer slide is backed up by research.”
Physical activity has been linked to better brain function and can help keep the mind sharp, particularly as people age.
According to the Florida Education Association, “intense physical activity programs have positive effects on academic achievement, including increased concentration; improved mathematics, reading, and writing test scores; and reduced disruptive behavior.”
The YMCA is just one organization in Tampa that provides loads of outdoor activities for kids in the summertime.
“We do a lot inside too,” said Williams, who works for YMCA USA but is also assigned locally to a location in Tampa Bay. “We have to be careful with the heat in the summer months.”
Traditional sports are what Williams says the Y dubs “The Big 4”: basketball, soccer, flag football, and baseball/softball/t-ball, and they’re offered at nearly every YMCA location across the country.
But Williams said some of the less popular sports are still great for kids looking to get exercise, particularly if they are intimidated by competition, perhaps aren’t as developed, or they want to try something they can call their own.
Swimming, volleyball, and activities at YMCA camps highlight some of those types of sports.
There are also newer or more “off-the-wall” sports (no pun intended) that aren’t played competitively in many places, and they can help engage the body and the mind to challenge kids.
“At least get them engaged, get them involved with something new, to try to test their interests and abilities and find out what they’re passionate about,” said Williams.
Some sports are more accessible to kids. It only takes a ball to play sports like basketball and soccer once you find a court or a hoop, but sports like gymnastics require a lot more overhead.
“This is one that definitely, boy or girl, no matter the age, get them involved,” said Williams. “It helps with the not just the cognitive but the motor skills, especially at a young age, and that’s where we see the most engagement with gymnastics.”
Some of the “odd” sports Williams mentions are spike ball, a combination of volleyball and racquetball; pickleball, a sport currently played mostly by seniors looking for low-impact, team-style exercise, and golf.
“We have First Tee of Tampa Bay, a program that introduces kids to golf,” said Williams. “Which is growing in popularity for young ages.”
Sports like pickleball can also be good for kids who might have special needs or aren’t comfortable with lots of impact.
“It’s less strenuous, less intense than most of those sports,” said Williams. “So if there’s a child who might struggle with the intensity of some of those sports, pickleball would be a great transition for that.”
Whatever the sport, experts say getting your kids out of the house — and not in front of the TV — can be crucial in the summer months when their minds and their bodies are often less active.