Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed rugby as an Olympic sport. It will not be part of the Games until 2016. This version has been corrected.

(Illustration by Craig Alan for The Washington Post)

When the Olympic Games start next week in London, kids everywhere may dream of backstroking or vaulting to that elusive gold medal.

It’s not all swimming and gymnastics, though. There will be more than 30 sports represented at the 2012 Games, providing plenty of opportunities for parents to expose their children to something new. Kids who aren’t obsessed with soccer or don’t play baseball four days a week instead may dabble in fencing or sailing, or discover that their life’s passion is water polo.

Here is more on five Olympic sports you probably won’t see on prime-time TV.


The appeal: All the archery in “The Hunger Games” and “Brave” has meant an uptick in interest, said Ruth Rowe, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and the head coach of the archery program at the Bull Run Shooting Center. But don’t be fooled by what you see in the movies. Archery is deceptively difficult, she said.

Shooting correctly and hitting the target requires strength, but also focus and self-discipline. Practicing with that kind of intensity can help kids in other areas, either school or other sports, Rowe said.

“In most sports, you get yourself hyped up and get your adrenaline going before a competition,” Rowe said. “Archery is the exact opposite. It’s completely internal. You want to be quiet and calm and completely aware within yourself. Most kids have no idea what that’s like. Trying to teach that can be a challenge.”

Best for: Athletes who are looking for an individual sport or enjoy solitude.

Ages: 8 and up for an introductory class; 10 and up for lessons

Where to go: Bull Run Shooting Center in Centreville (571-215-4403 or

Cost: $30.25 for a one-time, 90-minute introductory lesson at Bull Run Shooting Center in Centreville.

Time commitment: Weekly lessons for casual archers. Serious competitors practice several times a week, in addition to their lessons.


The appeal: Courtesy and sportsmanship are a key part of fencing, where competitors are required to salute each other before a bout, and salute and shake hands after. Kids get a chance to play with swords with rounded metal tips in a safe, disciplined environment, and the sport really works their mental skills.

Fencing helps kids develop arm and body coordination, strategic thinking and how to stay focused in a stressful situation.

“Fencing is very technical, and practically difficult and complex,” said Janusz Smolenski, the head coach at DC Fencers Club in Silver Spring. “That helps [kids] to find solutions, and it helps them focus and helps them to find the best choices. When they fence, they make their own decisions.”

Best for: Quick thinkers and those who enjoy one-on-one competition.

Ages: 7 and up

Where to go: DC Fencers Club (301-562-1990 or in Silver Spring.

Cost: $185 for eight weeks of weekly one-hour lessons at DC Fencers Club.

Time commitment: One hour a week for introductory recreational fencing. More serious fencers practice two or three hours at a time, four to five times a week, Smolenski said.


The appeal: Sailing can be expensive, but it provides kids a chance to get outdoors, be on the water and get some hands-on experience operating a boat. There is a certain amount of teamwork involved as sailors need to communicate with one another to keep the boat going. Sailing can also be an opportunity to teach a child about wind, tides or marine life, while building the muscles they will need to operate the sails.

“Sailing puts a big premium on being able to sense the overall environment,” John Kircher, executive director of DC Sail in the District, said in an e-mail. “Truly good sailors will learn to connect with the wind, weather, waves, surrounding boats, balance, crew and the dozens of other things that make the boat go smoothly, safely and relatively fast.”

Best for: Multi-taskers who are able to integrate lots of information to react quickly to changes in weather and tides.

Ages: 12 and up at DC Sail; ages 8 and up at Mariner Sailing School in Alexandria.

Where to go: DC Sail (202-547-1250 or; Mariner Sailing School (703-768-0018 or

Cost: A one-week camp with DC Sail is $350. Scholarships are available. At Mariner Sailing School, a one-week, 15-hour youth basic class is $180 for one child.

Time commitment: An introductory course is about 15 hours. Competitive sailors spend one or two weekend days sailing, and possibly an evening during the week.


The appeal: Trampoline is more forgiving and inclusive than gymnastics and is open to a wider range of ages and body types, said Jarka Novakova, coach at Novaks Gymnastics Center in Dumfries. Trampoline, like gymnastics, divides competitors based on their abilities and the level of difficulty in their routines.

This isn’t horseplay on your backyard trampoline, said Novakova, a former member of the national trampoline team in Czechoslovakia. In competition, athletes have to stay within boundaries on a 14-by-7-foot trampoline bed and get enough height to perform 10 skills in a set routine, including different kinds of flips. They are scored on difficulty, position and technique.

“It’s not as hard on your body as jumping rope or running,” Novakova said.

Best for: Kids who enjoy gymnastics.

Ages: 5 and up

Where to go: Novaks (703-221-5833 or; Silver Stars ( in Silver Spring (301-589-0938) or Bowie (301-352-5777).

Cost: At Novaks, weekly one-hour lessons are $73 a month. At Silver Stars in Silver Spring, a nine-week session of weekly one-hour classes is $240 for ages 5 and up. Ages 10 and up have a 90-minute class once a week; a nine-week session for that group is $270. At their Bowie location, the one-hour class is $205 and the 90-minute class is $225.

Time commitment: One hour a week for introductory classes. Competitive trampoline athletes at Novaks practice four to six times a week for 21 / 2 hours a day.

Water Polo

The appeal: Water polo combines aspects of lacrosse and hockey with swimming, as teams of seven players (one goalie and six in the “field”) try to advance the ball to the other team’s goal while staying afloat in deep water.

There is some contact among players going after the ball, which is larger than a volleyball but smaller than a basketball, but like anything that involves swimming, water polo is lower-impact than running, making it easier for players to stick with the sport as they age.

“One of the appeals of water polo is that you’re playing and getting your exercise, instead of doing sit-ups or running in 100-degree heat,” said Bill Rutsch, the coach at Rockville Water Polo Club.

Best for: Strong swimmers who want to try a team sport.

Ages: 8 and up at Ball Under in Arlington; 14 and up with Rockville’s club; ages 10-19 for the Navy Water Polo Camps in Annapolis.

Where to go: Ball Under in Arlington (703-344-6863 or
; Rockville Water Polo Club has high school-age players (www.rockville
); Navy Water Polo Camps in Annapolis (410-293-5558 or

Cost: For the four-month spring and summer season, it is $295 per athlete at Ball Under in Arlington. Rockville’s club charges between $90 and $125 per season, with the cost varying by the age of the athlete. At Navy Water Polo Camp in Annapolis, a weekend camp is $375 for overnight campers and $250 for day campers.

Time commitment: Heavy, even for the novice player. Ball Under holds practices four times a week. Rockville Water Polo Club players practice three times a week for a total of about 51 / 2 hours. Serious competitive players practice 15 or more hours a week.

More in KidsPost

Coming Sunday: What are great events for your kids to watch during the Olympics? Look for an unconventional guide in Sunday’s KidsPost.

Take the poll: Do you have a future archer in the house? A gymnast looking for a little more bounce? Rate these Olympic sports for your child.