In the Club
If you’re a parent of a kid who plays sports, you know the dent it can make in your calendar and your wallet. The different leagues. The travel teams. The sport specialization that seems to start younger and younger.
Now, a new City of Fort Lauderdale parks program aims to try things a different way.
The city recently launched Club YDL, a program that reimagines the way youth sports might work. The club (YDL stands for “Youth Development League”) is for kids aged 7 to 12. Parents pay one fee – $25 ($15 for multiple children) for Fort Lauderdale residents, $50 ($40 for multiple children) for non-residents. For that, kids get a year’s worth of sports with a uniform for each. There’s volleyball in the summer and fall, cheer and dance after volleyball, coed basketball in the fall and winter, coed baseball in the winter and spring and coed flag football in the spring and summer. There are also preseason camps and clinics, and other programs.
“We’re also offering homework and tutoring assistance, speed and agility training, camps on no-school days,” recreation program supervisor Ben Brown says.
They also want to encourage parent participation through volunteering and helping to guide the program – committees, leagues, outings based on their perception of program. “As a city, we’re not trying to put a stranglehold on how the programs are done,” Brown says.
One goal of Club YDL is to give its young participants the opportunity to try lots of different sports and activities rather than being handed one early on and told that’s what they do. “The thing that kills me is that the kids tell you what sports they play,” Brown says. He believes that a child in elementary school who loves sports should love the idea of trying every sport.
But he does understand where it comes from. There’s pressure today; parents get the idea that a child has to specialize in a sport early to play in high school or even get that college scholarship. So children get signed up for one sport that becomes their sport.
“I do see that with a lot of kids these days,” Brown says. “I understand what the parents are trying to do; they’re trying to give their kids the best opportunity. But you don’t want your kids doing the same thing over and over and over until they reach high school.”
The goal at Club YDL is to create a place based around enjoyment of sport and learning.
“At that age…you really want to keep it as fun for the kid as possible,” Brown says.
Not every kid is going to be an athlete, and not every one is going to love the same sport when they’re 17 that they do when they’re 7.
“Even if you’re not the best athlete, that’s why we call it the sports development league,” Brown says. “Our goal is to just teach the sport.”
In the future, he hopes to add more sports, such as lacrosse, to the program that launched earlier this summer. For now though, he just wants to get kids and parents excited about a program that will hopefully let kids feel like part of a community and a team.
“It’s easy to offer a free program or a sport that has a season, but when you’re a part of something and it’s more than just sports, it gives you ownership,” he says. “We want the kids and the parents to take ownership of this program and know we’re doing this for them.”
For more information, go to fortlauderdale.gov/recreation.
Jon Quinton recently met a woman who wanted to try Zumba. She showed up for a Zumba class, tried it for a bit and, well, she learned something. Specifically, she learned that Zumba isn’t for her.
“She didn’t have the most rhythm and couldn’t catch it,” says Quinton, a recreation program supervisor for Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation. “She came up to me and said, ‘You know, it was worth $5 to find out that Zumba was not for me. I’ll try the judo class next weekend.’”
Lucky for her, she’s signed up to Fit Fort Lauderdale. For that $5 fee, participants can sample programs from a variety of gyms and trainers. If they find one they like, they can find out about a gym membership. If they like the variety of Fit Fort Lauderdale, they can keep coming to the city sessions.
The program launched several months ago with the aim of catching people who want to get into shape and take advantage of the many fitness options available in Fort Lauderdale, but who might not know where to start.
“The whole purpose is to catch the people,” Quinton says. “If you’re into fitness, you already know which gym you’re going to because you’ve tested it.”
But there’s a whole segment of people who might want to try something, but who perhaps haven’t been to the gym in a while. The choices can be confusing, and walking through the door that first time can be daunting. Organizers reckoned a gym smorgasbord set in parks and public spaces around the city would be a better way to handle it.
“We’ve created an array of over 20 introductory fitness classes, fitness modules, for people to try,” Quinton says. “We’ve made it possible for just a $5 fee once a session, they can try up to 20 different classes for that one fee.
“Our primary mission is to make Fort Lauderdale one of the fittest cities on the East Coast. That’s our goal,” Quinton says. “The way we’ve thought best to do that is to form an umbrella, or a network, if you will, of all the fitness partners … bring them all together to work together. We felt that they weren’t necessarily networking together in a collaborative effort.”
Sessions move around every several months to a different part of the city. The first session, which has taken place over the summer, has focused on the eastside with programs centered in Holiday Park. After that, classes will shift west and primarily be held in Joseph C. Carter Park. When those sessions are done, they’ll move to downtown and the beach with classes held in Huizenga Park and Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. All classes in all parts of the city are open to anybody from any part of the city who has signed up.
Classes are typically held a couple times a week. Since the program’s May launch, it’s been building in popularity. Some classes have been extremely popular, and all tend to attract at least three to six people.
“We know it’s going to be a word-of-mouth type thing,” Quinton says.
For more information, go to fortlauderdale.gov/recreation.
War Memorial Freeze
Fort Lauderdale’s Parks and Recreation Department hasn’t been the only group making plans for improvements and new programs in public spaces. Earlier this year the city announced a partnership with the Florida Panthers to put War Memorial Auditorium on ice.
A major restoration and remodeling of the auditorium, which will be financed entirely by the NHL team, will turn it into a facility with two ice rinks and a venue capable of accommodating 3,000 people for concerts. The Panthers and the city plan to host events such as youth and adult hockey, figure skating and open skating – activities such as the Panthers’ popular Learn to Play sessions for kids who want to try hockey.
When War Memorial opened in 1949, it was the city’s first large-scale event space. In recent years, city leaders had talked about the need to update it as it was used for fewer events.
Right now there are no ice skating facilities in Fort Lauderdale and only three in Broward County – in Coral Springs, Pembroke Pines and Lighthouse Point.
Pardon Our Dust
In addition to new programs, new parks or park improvements are recently completed, in progress or planned around the city. Big projects include:
The Bayview Park playground reopened earlier this summer after being closed for about a month for the installation of brand new playground equipment.
New playground equipment is coming to Benneson Park. The park is expected to reopen in November with its new playground.
Las Olas Beach Park
The new city parking garage at Las Olas Boulevard and the Intracoastal is hard to miss, but the project that’s brought it about also includes new park space.
Oceanfront Plaza is now being built in the area north of the garage, on what was previously a surface parking lot. Plans call for a tree-lined space with walkways and space for cyclists. There will also be restrooms and a fountain or water feature. Work has also begun on a similar space on the site of another former surface parking lot south of Las Olas along the Intracoastal.