Get sporty with the kids this summer

By Danielle Wright

From iconic backyard cricket to new-look Frisbee-throwing, Danielle Wright discovers summer holiday sporting traditions for the whole family.

Hoist the swingball tennis set, roll out the wheelie bin for the cricket wickets and dust off the Frisbee. Kiwi summer holiday memories are made of outdoor sports. We discovered that there are some new variations on the old favourites, too. Here are our picks for the best to try out this holiday at a beach or backyard near you.

Follow the Frisbee

If you're sick of merely throwing your Frisbee back and forth, try a novel combination of golf and Frisbee at one of the disc golf courses. There's a basketted course on Waiheke Island and a course under the shade of the pine trees in Woodhill Forest. Look out for a tee with a bottle holder and a basket made with bike chains.

"The course is free and you can buy or rent a disc from the mountain bike store," says Bob Gentil, president of the New Zealand Flying Disc Association. "I love the simplicity of the game - it's played the same as normal golf but with no dress standard or green fees."

For a team sport, try ultimate Frisbee - a combination of football, netball and touch rugby. It's non-contact and is self-refereed, even at world champion level.

"It's part of the culture of the sport to play fair," says Iain Stewart, New Zealand Ultimate Board chairman. "It combines a really good pastime with a competitive aspect. It's a sport that attracts laid-back people - they play hard on the field but it's also really sociable off the field and anyone can play."

For the best Frisbee, Stewart recommends an imported one from Disc Craft, or a champion sport disc from retailers such as Rebel Sport.

"Most people think any flying disc is a Frisbee," says Gentil. "But those $2 Shop versions are only good for putting under your pot plant to stop water getting on the carpet."

Spend a little more and you can get dog Frisbees, glow-in-the-dark Frisbees for night games, golf disc Frisbees and ultimate Frisbees.

For spectators, the World Beach Ultimate Championship is on in Whangarei this February and the Disc Golf Tour will be at the Waiheke Island course on January 25-26.

To find a league near you, visit ultimate.org.nz

Bat, ball, beach

"It's part of a Kiwi summer that you take a cricket bat and ball to the beach," says Auckland Cricket's Iain Laxon. "Build the stumps out of sticks, field in the shallows and introduce the kids to cricket with a tennis ball bouncing on the sand."

He suggests a nice wide expanse of sandy beach: "Long Bay is pretty good. It's big and has flat sand, even when the tide is in."

Back in 1967, the Auckland Star reported on proposed by-laws to outlaw beach cricket at regional reserves. Today, Laxon says cricket can be played anywhere but reminds people to be mindful of others. We don't want it outlawed.

"If you talk to 10 different people, everyone has a different set of beach cricket rules," says Laxon. "Some people make the rule that you can't be out on the first ball, or one bounce for kids. That's the beauty of it - everyone gets a turn and it can be modified depending on who is playing."

If soccer is more your thing, get rid of your sprigged boots for the summer and kick barefoot with a beach soccer ball, a bit lighter than a normal soccer ball. Head down to Mission Bay for the beach football tournament on February 8 (players must be 16 years of age or older).

For beach volleyball, try out the Mission Bay beach volleyball nets or the Mairangi Bay Beach Volleyball Centre (situated back from the beach on Ramsgate Terrace, available for $10/hr per court). It's also a great hangout for teens.

Forget expensive tennis lessons - take a swing tennis game to the beach and stick it in the sand or put it up in the backyard. Kids can play on their own, or with a friend or parent. My advice is to use normal tennis rackets instead of the plastic ones (which hurt your hands after a while). You can really get the ball going fast and can involve younger siblings in the game by making them the umpire and letting them keep score. I've found they like to make their mums win, no matter what.

Jump to it

"Trampolining in summer is fantastic," says trampolinist Lizzie Stevenson, who just won a gold medal at the world championships in Bulgaria. "The days are longer so you can play on the tramp in the evening - after you've helped with the dishes, of course. You can also check on the neighbours over the fence!"

Stevenson always wears bare feet on her backyard trampoline and says the best way to keep it clean is to use it regularly. Just make sure everyone's feet are clean before jumping.

She advises letting only one person on the trampoline at a time for safety, but says competitions between siblings or friends are always fun.

"See how many seat drops, knee drops, stomach drops, bounces or spins you can each do," says Stevenson. "Or make up combinations of different skills to perform in a sequence. Playing copycat, making up silly walks to show your parents or playing tag is fun."

If you're really hot bouncing, there are ways to include water play on the trampoline.

"Lie a hose on the trampoline and bounce through the spurts, slide with a layer of water over the tramp, have water fights with drink bottles or squirt water on your friend with a hose while bouncing," says Stevenson.

Kids will be kids

If you get sick of organising games for your kids, let them come up with their own ideas - you just need to make sure the sporting equipment is available.

"Our main focus is on getting kids outside, being physically active and creating memories," says Scott McKenzie, general manager of the Getin2life Youth Development Trust, which runs In2it Street Games. "If you offer kids things like skipping ropes, they may decide to use them instead as tow ropes - it's about kids using imaginations and environments."

In2it has an inflatable cricket oval, which is put up in carparks, on beaches and in parks. They also run workshops to teach children how to make sports equipment, such as cricket bats out of fence palings and insulation tape. The kids are taught how to sand the wood and McKenzie says the girls usually put butterfly stickers and spray-paint their names on the bats. They work with the Mai FM street teams doing double Dutch skipping.

"We model the skipping for the kids, but we really want them to discover it for themselves and make up innovative games with the equipment," says McKenzie. "They live in quite structured worlds. Now, it's the holidays so it's really good to let them have free time for themselves, which isn't adult-directed."

Cool-down time

Access to swimming pools is now a right for every Auckland child, thanks to free entry into council-run leisure centres.

Your local school may also let you buy a key for the summer. Or enjoy the beach or water-play in the backyard.

Take a watering can to the pool with younger kids, who will love having water poured on them. Or bring some containers to the pool and they can sit on the steps with you and fill them up.

Older children love to play Marco Polo. If you don't remember the rules, one player is "it" and he or she swims around the pool with eyes closed attempting to find the others by calling out "Marco!" and hearing the others yell back "Polo!". When the player who is "it" tags another, they become the one searching.

There are also games such as the scavenger hunt with buckets and floatable toys or ping pongs, which the kids try to find and put into their buckets - the one with the most wins.

Older kids might like to train for a swimming event, such as the Hilton Brown Sea Swim on January 4 at Matarangi as part of the Matarangi Beach Summer Carnival in the Coromandel. It's a 1.2km swim for strong swimmers.

There's also the New Zealand Ocean Swim Series with events around the country, such as the State OceanKids 200m swim.

In the backyard, a water bomb toss, game of limbo under a hose, a roll of heavy plastic from the hardware store covered in a few drops of slippery dishwash liquid for a slide or the good old-fashioned running through the sprinkler will keep everyone entertained the old-fashioned way.

- NZ Herald

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