Striders are on track to teach kids the basics

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

March 28, 2004|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

THEY'VE BEEN doing this for more than 20 springs, part of the club's greater mission of promoting and involving people of all ages and skill levels to run. But the Howard County Striders' youth track and field program, which begins Tuesday, is pretty low-key in what seems a really nice way.

There are no meets - although kids who participate can enter meets elsewhere if they want to. A few do, and coaches will accompany them. But most don't.

No pressure. Because, except for competition at the twice-weekly training sessions, there aren't winners and losers. And if someone beats you in practice, well, it's only practice.

You needn't believe that Olympic track is your destination to start out. In fact, maybe a quarter of participants and their parents view track and field as their primary sport, said Jim Carbary, an astrophysicist from Clarksville who is in his fifth year as coach. "We get a lot of kids from other sports who, for example, want to improve on their speed.

"And I'd estimate that maybe half are kids whose parents want them to do something with fitness, to get exercise, get sweating," Carbary said.

Thus, new participants need only show up - 5:15 p.m. at Oakland Mills High School's track in Columbia. Sessions last for an hour.

"We tell them they don't have to sign up right away, that maybe they should experience a couple sessions first, so they can get an idea of whether they'd like to continue," Carbary said. "After a couple laps around the track, some don't like it.

"Don't get the wrong idea," said Carbary, who didn't take up running until he was in graduate school but has been hooked since. "We have some kids who are very competitive, who really show some ability. One of our kids, Nicole Shouse, was the third-place female finisher [March 14] in the Outback 5-kilometer run. She does a mile in about 5 minutes, 30 seconds. ... She's 13."

But Carbary, who is expecting maybe 65 participants from kindergarten through eighth grade, said the Junior Striders' emphasis in spring is to "try to get the kids interested in running and in fitness. We like to involve other family members, too."

He and other adult Striders who work with the youngsters teach basic track skills involving sprints, as well as 1,600- and 3,200-meter events and relays. They have no hurdles, but some youngsters get an exposure, anyway, to field events through youth shot-put and long-jump training. Other fundamentals include warming up, stretching and cooling down.

If a child wants to continue in the spring program, the cost is $35, with two weekly sessions running into early June. The Striders also conduct a cross-country program for youngsters in the fall.

Along the sidelines

GOLF: Maybe like us, you were expecting the First Tee of Howard County's new building - which will be an addition to the ancient clubhouse at Fairway Hills - to be nearly finished, now that spring play is about to break out.

Not this spring, it turns out. Now, said Joan Lovelace, Columbia Park and Recreation Association's golf general manager and head pro, the plan is for the building to be erected this fall.

It seems plans for the building bogged down, not in county permit offices, but internally at the association, she said, quashing the plan to do the work in the off-season.

"We've pushed it to fall because we didn't want to disrupt things in midseason" at Fairway Hills, she said. But the First Tee program will enter its third season at Fairway Hills, working heavily through the public school system to introduce children, particularly those needing financial support, to the sport.

"If the weather turns bad, we'll just do what we've done in the past," said Lovelace, which is to move lessons inside, to the second floor of Fairway Hill's tiny, old clubhouse.

At the other Columbia Association course, Hobbit's Glen, Lovelace said that, weather permitting, the back nine holes are expected to be opened May 8, with play on the front nine probably beginning in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

Hobbit's Glen, of course, has been shuttered all winter while nearly $600,000 worth of work has been done to rebuild greens and refurbish the clubhouse, with, particularly, new and improved facilities for women players.

TENNIS: Gary Kramer, chairman of the Columbia Tennis Committee, which is lobbying the Columbia Park and Recreation Association for better and more indoor facilities, has some interesting stats to help make his case.

The U.S. Tennis Association, along with the Tennis Industry Association, found last year that despite its relatively small size, Maryland has the second-highest proportion of its population playing tennis - at least four times a year.

New Jersey, with 13.1 percent into the racket sport, led the nation, but Maryland was second at 12.9 percent. The District of Columbia, the two groups determined, has 11.8 percent participation.

California, you might ask? Tenth overall, at 10 percent. Florida? Missed the top 15.

Have suggestions for what we should write here? A different point of view? Let us know. Call the writer at 410-332-6525 or send e-mail to lowell.sun derland@baltsun.com.

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