In the time of brand new stadiums with over- priced tickets and lockouts, it can feel like watching sports on TV is the only available option for you and your family, but here in Queens that is definitely not the case. Below, we’ve listed cheap, and even free, opportunities to watch sports, as well as the chance for your child to join in on the fun. You too can join in the fun by watching your child participate or even volunteering to help as a coach.
Go to your local park to watch amateur league or pick-up games for free. Most parks have bleachers, but you can always bring some chairs just in case. While you’re at it, rent a bike or just join a pick-up game.
Anyone who’s been to Flushing Meadows Park in Corona practically at any time has seen local soccer/baseball/cricket teams duking it out on one of the many fields. This July (through the 24th) Flushing Meadows Park will host the 3rd Annual NYC Cosmos Copa. This amateur adult soccer league tournament is made up of teams where players proudly represent their culture. Best of all it’s free to watch!
Also this summer, Flushing Meadows Park will host the Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival. The annual event will take place Saturday, August 13th and Sunday, August 14th. This year, the festival will honor the Year of the Tiger with cultural performances, ethnic foods, and, of course over 100 dragon boat racing teams.
Is the weather just too hot for you and your little ones? Cool off watching ice skating during the summer. At the World Ice Arena, also in Flushing Meadows Park, you can also see a free ice skating show every Saturday night this summer starting at 7pm. Check their website for more information about this and about their youth programming.
Head Back to School
Don’t worry, it’s not what you think! Most high schools and many middle and elementary schools have sports teams. Schools often set their own rules about who can attend so it doesn’t hurt to inquire.
For high school, check the Public Schools Athletic League. There they list each team’s schedule. Games hosted at the schools may have a small entry fee but most are free. PSAL-hosted events at colleges or stadiums typically have a fee of $5 to $10. Call ahead for spectator policies.
Sports aren’t just for watching. If your child is school-aged, find out what sports teams are offered in his or her school. Your future baseball/basketball/soccer/hockey/football star could get started in a school team!
The Summer Big Apple Games, sponsored by the Public Schools Athletic League, works with children from grades 4 through 12 including students with special needs. The program, which started July 11, runs through August 11, 2011. The Junior High School Program runs from 9 AM to 3 PM and is open to grades 4 to 8. The Teen Recreation Centers operate from 1 to 5 PM and 6 to 9 PM, from Monday to Thursday. In addition to arts and crafts and game room activities, these programs offer sports skills and the opportunity to try a number of sports including handball, hockey, and gymnastics. Registration is ongoing at the sites during program hours.
Participate in a Local Organization
A lot of community based organizations and some churches offer sports related training or teams as part of their range of services. Whether you’d like to support the organization by volunteering, cheering on sports teams, or donating some cash, the ones below are worth taking a look at.
Since the program began in 1998, Achievers of America’s flagship program has been softball for special needs individuals in both Florida and New York. Like any good team, this group works to provide exercise and socializing opportunities but also helps players gain self esteem. This team plays every Saturday at Kissena Corridor Park on Main Street and Elder Avenue from 1PM to 4PM during the season which runs from May 15th to October 2nd. Whether you’d like to join or just watch, it promises to be a fulfilling, great time.
At the Boys Club of America, your son can attend after school programs, get academic help, and play sports and/or compete on a BCNY team, among other amazing services, for just $5 a year (plus some additional materials charges for a few activities).
Through their Community Tennis Program, the New York Junior Tennis League works with kids ages 6 to 18. The program offers free tennis instruction with trained coaches as well as match play, educational support, and special events, during the spring, summer, and fall. They also have an early morning indoor winter program and a program for special populations. Registration for the spring, summer, and fall is ongoing. Just pick the location nearest to you and register in person during program hours. For more information call 347-417-8156.
Be a Team Player
Sometimes it’s enough to watch. Sometimes your child wants in on the action. If your child is too young like mine, you may just want to support your local team– it can help build an interest in sports and fitness for later in life.
The City Parks Foundation is running a number of amazing sports programs this summer. There’s still room in their Tennis and Track and Field Programs. Registration takes place at the parks during program hours. Check out their website for locations and hours. Please note the tennis program is made up of one-hour tennis lessons broken down by age; please call 718-760-6999 for specific hours for your child’s age group.
The free Parks Swim Team Program trains swimmers and organizes teams for the annual 5 Borough Championship. Youth should be able to swim 25 meter and be in good shape to participate. Practice is on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tryouts are held on an ongoing basis between July 5 and 19 during scheduled practice hours only. For more information call Citywide Aquatics at 718-760-6969.
If you’d like to find a local league for your child to participate in, use BeFitNYC, the Park Department’s new search engine for free and low-cost fitness activities. While you’re at it, find a league of your own—I bet your son or daughter would get a kick out of watching you play!
You can also find a local little league team by checking Little League’s website.
The Parks Department also provides an amazing network of recreation centers throughout the city. There are 11 in Queens! These centers offer facilities such as indoor pools, weight rooms, basketball courts, and educational resources. They also offer a range of services for all ages. For young people, membership is free! While there, they can participate in sports teams and clinics, as well as drop in for a workout.
Do Your Own Thing
Not feeling the team thing? Go to a local park or to your own backyard and kick a ball around! Trust me, my son and I have a great time with a beach ball wherever we are! And I’m no gym class champ! Take a swim at a free pool . Have your own X-games. Start your own team! Father/daughter softball anyone?