Every four years, the world is captivated by the inspiring feats of athleticism during the summer Olympics. And in between those jaw-dropping moments, parents and children alike will think to themselves, “I can do that.”
Yes. Yes, you can do that.
Considering the deep catalog of summer Olympics sports, it’s as good a time as any to test out which Olympic game can spark an entirely new interest, or make for a fun weekend. Of course, a few Olympic sports should be left to the pros (like diving, rugby, and curling) while others can be performed in the backyard by using whatever is laying around the house. Got a ball? You’re halfway there! Who knows, this could be the groundwork for the second coming of four-time Olympic table tennis gold medalist Ma Long. Or at the very least, your kid will just be pretty okay in a second hobby.
The summer Olympics has excellently maximized the use of a swimming pool. Diving, marathon swimming, synchronized swimming, and water polo all have the same “in a pool” requirement, which means you have options. Water polo is the only aquatic sport requiring a ball, or something soft and water-friendly as the thing to score points with. There are rules that may need tweaking: in the summer games, players cannot touch the bottom of the pool, which may be difficult or even impossible for some adults. But to truly put this Olympic game on an even playing field for kids, it’d be best to ditch the parts that make water polo a contact sport at least for the grown-ups.
“Who is the fastest swimmer” is an easy Olympic inspired game to play any time in the pool. Of course, it’s limited to the length and depth of the pool. And unless you own anything larger than a lap pool, it may be time to get more creative with an Artistic Swim performance. As a duet or as a team, swimmers can craft a 3-minute technical round, or a free routine where you can choreograph every stroke to the new Ed Sheeran song, but it’ll likely just be Baby Shark. Again. On the Olympic stage, judging is based on a variety of factors, including difficulty and synchronicity. So maybe set a rule where the points curve more towards the colorful and encouraged flashy swimwear. Now there’s a real reason to break out the Speedo gear.
Soccer / Handball
If there is a soccer ball in the house or even a beach ball, and you’re crafty enough to create a makeshift goal (like a rope, or two poles as a goal post) then you have officially conquered two Olympic sports at home. Soccer, the time-tested beautiful game, will challenge one’s endurance, speed, communication, and that pesky “no hands” rule. If the kids rather throw than kick the ball, then enter handball. In the backyard or at the park, handball is essentially soccer via your hands. Every part of your body above your knees is fair game to get the ball in the net. And dribbling is completely legal which begs the question of why hasn’t the sport taken off in the States already?
“Can you do a cool jump?” should be all it takes to ignite this backyard Olympic try-out. Kids already think the couch, and beds are a trampoline, so why not give them execution points while they’re bouncing around. Of course, this game will require some additional layers of safety when the little ones are bouncing and attempting to impress. In the Summer Games, elements like “time of air” are judging criteria, but for everyone’s sanity, not getting dizzy could replace that element.
Whether the goal is to work in pairs or just hash it one-on-one, table tennis can be the drama-filled game that’ll deliver the thrill of victory or the agony of hitting a split to return a shot. Regardless of skill, table tennis really boils down to the mental table tennis game in psyching out opponents by creating a unique serve or delivering a lightning-quick hit. If you don’t have table tennis equipment at home, pick up a retractable ping pong net that attaches to most foldable tables to set up a game at home anytime.