Spring break is over — a now distant blur of vacay glory packed to overflow with sunscreen, great drinks and likely, whining kids.
But devoted (or perhaps panicked) parent that you are, you’ve already started thinking ahead to the biggest of all breaks — the mother if you will of school-free calendar days that stretch for miles — summer.
If you can swing it you’ll pack the car and ear plugs, load those cute rug-rats up and head somewhere fun a time or two over the long, hot void that is summer vacation.
But the smarty-pants parent that you are (and likely still panicked), you’ll also be looking to offer your brood some much-needed structure and activity to survive until school gears up once more come fall.
With living an active life pretty big in the Lake Travis area, programs and camps geared towards getting out and moving do well and book early for the kiddos. And though there are enough options and interests available to include “everyone,” inevitably someone always gets left out when it comes to sports recreation, no matter what season we’re in.
New to the greater Lake Travis area and already hitting it out of the park is Pride Inclusive Sports, a sports and recreation non-profit boasting everything from baseball and martial arts to yoga and swimming. While it sounds like your standard program designed to keep kids in the game year round, this one is a tad different in all the best ways.
Built with special needs inclusion in mind, Pride Inclusive Sports doesn’t aim to shut anybody out and boasts sporting camps, games and education for (literally) everyone.
Have a typically developing eight-year-old begging to join yoga? Don’t stop reading because she’s not special needs — Pride Inclusive Sports aims to live up to its name and offer activities that blend together typically developing peers and special needs children, in a multitude of seasonally rotating interests.
The effects of being excluded
With start-up only a year ago, founder and local Arielle Hobbs is thrilled with the attention her vision is receiving. Born of necessity, the notion of sporting programs where everyone is picked for the team came to Hobbs after experiencing firsthand the damaging effects of being excluded at sporting events.
After being told by a local children’s basketball league that all skill levels and needs were welcomed, Hobbs suffered the pain of watching her son be completely left out of the season’s very first game. Like many intellectually disabled children, her six-year-old (Sully) would have thrived on a team that brought him onto the court fully and didn’t shy from his differences.
Sadly that’s not what happened, as rather than incorporation Sully faced isolation. Stepping in where no one else would, his mother joined him on the court for a bit of one on one. And as great as that was it’s not what should have happened or what she envisioned for her son. She was looking for a team of peers and a game of inclusion.
“Twenty minutes into it I was virtually in tears and couldn’t stay anymore.” – Hobbs has said, of serving as team-mate in an arena bursting with peers and parents.
Instead of being welcomed and included, Sully and his mother were ignored — and likely not out of any negative feelings on the part of other participants or coaches.
Hobbs recognizes that “once you say special needs, people of typically developing kids are often done listening.” And it’s not usually callousness or cruelty but simply that people just don’t know how to be inclusive of special needs.
The full inclusion environment
Using her experience that day as fuel, this local mama took matters into her own hands and started the ball rolling (pun shamelessly intended) towards sporting events and programs that not only support special needs participants but also, right at their sides, typically developing peers and siblings when possible.
“Ultimately full inclusion is always best; both the typical and non-typical (developing) kids learn huge and amazing things in those environments.” – says Hobbs.
Even so, she knows the idea isn’t quite there yet – “an adaptive environment created a safe space for him (Sully) to be himself … not having to measure up to anyone … he can just be free to be a kid,” and to that end, full inclusion can be tough as children with sensory or anxiety issues may feel the pressure of standing next to a mini sports superstar.
Then again, most of us can relate to feeling such insecurities at one point or another as the teams of our childhoods were picked.
Maybe then inclusion is just remembering that some fundamentals cross all boundaries and tie us to one another regardless of our physical or mental abilities. If that’s the way to look at it, your eight-year-old may be a dream draft for Pride Inclusive Sports, regardless of his or her development.
Ultimately any kid who embraces physical activity and group efforts could benefit from a spot on this team. Just be sure you don’t dally.
Pride Inclusive Sports may be newer here but it’s enjoying some serious popularity among energetic Austin families. Class and camp offerings change with the seasons and book fast — but there are still spots on the summer lineup for kids of all levels. Additionally, scholarships are available, befitting the goal of leaving no one out of the fun.
For now, summer may seem a dream away. But wait too long to register for Lake Travis area sports camps like this one and you’ll be living the nightmare of Kids. Home. All. Summer.
Author’s side note:
Plenty of educators, medical field professionals, average Joe’s and local mamas and papas are getting on board with Pride Inclusive Sports’ vision.
For information on supporting this local, home-grown non-profit (which just opened a second shop in Florida), or for ways to get involved and register your little one, visit their website here for a list of classes and camps which are offered year-round.