Once the kids are more settled in school, one of the next steps will be looking at extracurricular sports and activities. Though many of Beijing’s international schools offer excellent sports programs, your child may be interested in an activity that isn’t on offer or is looking for that extra competitive edge.
A good place to start is Sports Beijing, a non-profit organization that offers a multitude of sports for kids and teens in English through both in-house programs and community partners. There are two tracks: recreational programs for fun, learning, and participation; and development programs for advanced training and competition.
In this article, we focus on popular individual and team sports offered outside of school by reputable companies and organizations – some of them through Sports Beijing. These programs are often available year-round (barring perhaps the quiet summer months), and cater to a variety of ages and interests.
Looking for a sport that focuses on teamwork? Soccer offers just that. Through drills and league matches, kids will learn how to respond to fast-paced situations by communicating with their team members and working together to achieve a common goal.
As Beijing’s first German soccer club, Beijing Kickers distinguishes itself from the growing number of youth clubs in the city. Year-round sessions cater to different skill levels and age groups at several international schools in Beijing, with lessons also offered in English and Chinese. Beijing Kickers use age-appropriate training methods tailored to the skill level of each child, allowing kids to learn and play in a relaxed and friendly environment.
All three of Beijing Kickers’ foreign founders are long-term Beijing residents. We speak to Gary Saunders, co-owner of Beijing Kickers and director of football development. He also is the head coach for the club’s English program and works part-time as a PE teacher at Dulwich College Beijing’s Legend Garden campus.
Saunders has been coaching in Beijing since he moved here in 2003, earning him the title as one of the longest-serving – if not the longest-serving – expat coaches in Beijing. He obtained his coaching certification from the UK’s Football Association, which trains coaches to meet English soccer standards.
He describes his experience with soccer as “a way of life.”
“I grew up in a community where football was a big sport. I was also lucky to have had opportunities to coach in my teens. It drew me in immediately,” he says.
The Chinese word for coach is jiao lian (教练), meaning “to teach” and “to develop.” These are what Saunders strives to achieve in his coaching. “I’m a teacher helping my student improve their feet skills and football ability,” he says. “On the other hand, I’m there to help my students develop knowledge for the game, understanding of their opponents, and sportsmanship.”
Advice for parents: “Make sure the child is having fun. Most importantly, make sure your child has a coach who they can build a rapport with. Continuity is important, as it can be tough for a child to work with a new coach every other session.”
Peak season(s): Spring and autumn
Mon-Fri 9am-7pm. Rm 3053, Bldg 1, 5 Liufang Nanli, Chaoyang District (email@example.com) www.beijingkickers.com 朝阳区柳芳南里甲5号1号楼3053
Mon-Fri 9am-6pm. Rm A316, Door 3, Area A1, Zhaowei Huadeng Plaza, 14 Jiuxianqiao Lu, Chaoyang District (5130 6893/4/5/6, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.clubfootball.com.cn
Swimming is a versatile sport that children can learn from an early age. Not only is it a life-saving skill, it also offers an outlet for healthy competition. The sport combines strength and endurance, working the whole body and helping to develop motor skills. Just like riding a bicycle, once you learn how to swim you’ll never forget.
There are more and more clubs in Beijing with programs available in English and certified international coaches. However, clubs may have a different focus, whether it’s competitive, social, or developmental. For instance, Mookey Swim Club aims to foster motor skills in young children while Aqua Warriors trains swimmers for competition.
Mookey Swim Club was founded in 2010 by husband-and-wife team Shane and Sunny Novak. We speak to Sunny Novak as well as Arthur Wang, co-founder of Aqua Warriors. Novak and Wang are both parents and coach their own children.
Novak, a mother of two, was a competitive swimmer before becoming a coach and has been teaching for four years in Beijing. Mookey Swim Club was first established as an infant and toddler swimming center, but has grown to accommodate children over the age of 4. To Novak, swimming goes beyond awards and winning. She believes it can be an important bonding time between children and parents.
Wang, who has been coaching for 12 years and has one child, says that swimming as an after-school activity is a good way for children to make friends with common interests. As he puts it, Aqua Warriors’ objective is to build swimmers’ interest in the sport, provide individualized training, and promote wellness in the international school community.
Advice for parents: Novak says, “Find a coach or club that you can trust, with certifications and actual experience of working with children. Don’t be afraid to demand recommendations and proof of their background.” Wang says, “Regular exercise improves a child’s flexibility, relieves stress, and improves the bones. The other benefit is that children can [expand their]social interactions.”
Peak season(s): Year-round
Mookey Swim Club
1) Tue-Sun 9am-6pm. Rm H101, Chateau Regency, 1 Fangyuan Xilu, Chaoyang District (next to Beijing United Family Hospital) (400 879 9086, 158 1009 8275) www.mookeyswim.com 朝阳区朝阳区芳园西路和乔丽晶H101室; 2) Tue-Sun 9am-6pm. 1/F, Crowne Plaza Beijing Airport West Wing, 60 Fuqian Yijie, Shunyi District (5810 1887) 顺义区临空皇冠假日酒店西翼1层; 3) Tue-Sun 9am-6pm. Rm 309, Bldg 4, Qiangyou Metro, Qinghe Zhongjie, Haidian District (6961 4441) 海淀区清河中街强佑新城4号商业楼309室; 4) Tue-Sun 9am-6pm. Rm A108, 1/F, Bldg 2, Chenjia Lin, Balizhuang, Chaoyang District (6510 4034) 朝阳区八里庄陈家林2号尚8文化区1楼A108
Aqua Warriors Swimming Club 勇者体育俱乐部
Zhong Jia Hot Spring Hotel Swimming Pool, 200m East of Village Committee, Gucheng Village, Houshayu Town, Shunyi District (email@example.com) 顺义区后沙峪谷城村委会东200米,中家鑫园温泉酒店
Dragon Fire 龙火
Classes held at WAB, CISB, BSB, and DCB. Contact Dragon Fire to find out about age ranges, detailed schedules, and program fees. (8263 2789, Kevin Hua: 136 0106 4534, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.dragonfire.com.cn
This article originally appeared on p50-55 of the September 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email email@example.com.
Photos: Beijing Kickers, Mookey Swim Club