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Sharday Simmons searched and searched, but couldn’t find a fun sports programme on the island for her seven-year-old son Chace.
The activities that might have interested him all seemed so serious; many of the children seemed to be daydreaming or playing on their own.
“They didn’t seem very into it,” said the 29-year-old, who moved to the island from Canada two years ago. “Everything seemed to be about winning. Winning is fine, but a lot of younger children just want to have fun.
“Back home Chace was in a fun, no pressure multi-sport programme. I thought it would be fun to do something like that in Bermuda.”
She decided Sportz Mania fitted the bill and launched a test version last summer. It exposes three- to eight-year-olds to various sports in a non-competitive way.
“It’s about having fun,” Mrs Simmons said. “When we played golf with the younger ones, we had these soft golf balls. We would throw them out on to the field and say ‘go’ and they would be running around and giggling to see how many balls they could pick up.
“Sometimes we put plastic mini golf clubs out and have them practice their hopping by jumping over them.”
Games for the older children are a little more serious.
“We might have a game of four against four in basketball. Because we do different sports from week to week it’s a great way for children to try [them all] and find out what they like.”
She finds toddlers’ reactions to the games particularly amusing.
“They are so in their own little worlds. It is just so much fun to be with them. Some of them are quite shy, at first. Sometimes they sit off on the sidelines but after a few sessions they warm up and they are out on the field playing and laughing.”
Space is still available in the winter programme, which is scheduled to start this weekend. Children with special needs are welcome to attend.
There are two coaches involved; Mrs Simmons facilitates and will often sit and cheer the children on.
“If I see someone out on the field who is looking a bit lost, I will grab their hand and run with them,” she said.
“I have fun and they have fun. I think it’s important for children to see adults having fun. I try to encourage them, and I also tell the children to try to encourage each other.”
She worries that children aren’t as active as they were when she was a child.
“I see it in my own son,” she said. “All the children have electronics like phones and Xboxes. It’s not like the old days where we’d be outside all day playing and the grown-ups wouldn’t know where we were.
“God bless electronics, we need them, but they have taken over our children. This is a way to get them out of the house for an hour to have some activity. Then, I guess they can do whatever they want afterward.”
This is her first time creating such a programme.
“I always thought about doing it,” she said. “I loved sports as a child, and now I love working with children so this brings those two interests together.”
The doctor’s receptionist met her Bermudian husband Blaire while visiting family on the Island.
She based Sportz Mania on a popular Canadian programme, Sportball.
“I always thought about doing it,” she said.
“I loved sports as a child, and now I love working with children so this brings those two interests together.
“For people who want to start their own business there is always some self-doubt. You ask yourself, ‘Is this going to work?’ My husband encouraged me a lot to do it. He thought the programme would be great for Bermuda.”
An eight-week course costs $150.
“I thought it was important to try to keep the cost of it down,” Mrs Simmons said. “It’s hard times all around and I didn’t want children to be left out because of money.”
Although she started the programme for her son, he hasn’t actually had a chance to take part yet.
“He spent last summer back in Canada with his family,” she said. “But every time he called me he’d ask how the programme was going. That really encouraged me. He can’t wait until we get it going this winter.”
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