After School

Starting an After School Sports 101 Program

This is the first of a series of after school and community recreation posts. Many summer camp professionals that follow my blog are from community recreation organizations and during the rest of the year they run after school programs, community events and more. I hope these posts are helpful to some of you.


When I hit middle school I met Lewis. He was a bit of a shy kid until you got to know him. Tryouts for the flag football team came around and I asked Lewis if he was going. He told me he had never played football, he didn’t even know the rules.

That same year I met Brandy. During lunch one day our little group invited her to go to the arcade after school (am I dating myself?). She told us that she had hockey practice. We were all so intrigued at the notion of playing ice hockey and were impressed that she played. Apparently she was the only girl on the team. I think I was more impressed that she knew HOW to play hockey. Other than watching a bit of Olympic ice hockey and watching The Might Ducks (more times than I care to admit), I knew nothing about the game or how it was played. So, even if I wanted to play ice hockey (and I had a fleeting moment of desire to tryout and maybe impress Brandy with my non-existent skills), there was no way I could since I didn’t know even the basics of the game.

Looking back, I wish our PE classes introduced sports to us other than kickball, flag football and basketball. I never even played soccer. That’s where a community recreation organization like the city parks and recreation department, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc. can help by offering a Sports 101 after school program.


It’s all about getting the kids to be active these days. Unfortunately, there are kids that don’t play sports. One reason for this is that a number of kids have never been taught the fundamentals – the rules and the basic skill set.

Once these kids get to middle school they are usually so self-conscious that they will do anything to avoid embarrassment, including showing their lack of knowledge or skill in sports. So they stay indoors or on the sidelines wishing they were able to at least play the games recreationally.

Introduce kids to the fundamentals of typical American sports like football, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, hockey, golf, and track and field, so that they have the option of playing sports in their everyday life. This program is designed to give that to them.


Identify the kids who lack the basics. If you have some kids in the group that are athletes it will make the kids who are inexperienced very uncomfortable, especially if the group is composed of older kids.

  1. Introduce them to the sports most often played by American kids. Begin by giving them some hands on time. If your starting off with baseball let them hit off a tee or begin with pairing them off for some simple catching and throwing. If you are starting off with volleyball, show them how to hit the ball over the net. Depending on your time frame you may be able to cover all the sports or only a few.
  2. Once the group gets a feel for the equipment and basic movements then begin teaching them the basic rules. Do not load beginners down with plays or theories of the sports.
  3. When the kids have the basic knowledge of the game, play a quick scrimmage. Keep it light-hearted and non-competitive at first. Make sure everyone is encouraging others.

It will take some time to develop their skills. If you do not have the time to develop their skills then at least you’ve helped them take the first step towards athletics and all that it has to offer, including the health and fitness benefits that chess just can’t provide.


Make learning and playing sports an enjoyable experience. When you actually start playing don’t keep score. Everyone should be successful during this time. They will have plenty of opportunities in the future to learn about defeat.

During basic drills have the kids face off with an adult. For example, during soccer instruction have kids shoot the ball at an empty goal. Once they begin to get the hang of it have an adult be the goalie. The adult should know how to keep it friendly and uncompetitive. He or she shouldn’t try too hard to block the balls.

It’s important that beginners have a certain level of success in order to keep them excited about sports. By placing kids as goalies and as strikers you are setting one of them up to be defeated, physically and emotionally. Remember, these kids will have plenty of opportunities to feel what it’s like to lose. Isn’t that what high school is for?

Take pictures of the kids playing the various sports. Let’s say that little Tommy learned how to play baseball, basketball, and soccer. Take the pictures you got of him, either playing or posing with the various sports equipment, and Photoshop them into one photo. Or let Tommy use his pictures to make a collage to show his parents. This can be a great activity for a crafts class.


The actual equipment needs depend on the sports you’ll be teaching. I’m guessing that your organization has most of the equipment you’ll need. Start a library of books and online videos that focus on teaching sports. These will be great for new staff members who want to learn how to teach/coach sports.


Are there any sports you wish you would have learned as a kid?

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