Outside the beltway, it's easy to find great sports programs for athletically inclined kids. Downtown, you just have to know where to look. Here's a quick rundown on some of the opportunities you can take advantage of without leaving the city:
Baseball (Spring) - Many families participate in the South Baltimore Little League, based at Coke Field on Fort Avenue. This is classic neighborhood baseball, giving kids the chance to play against their friends (and meet new ones) as they move up from t-ball (5+) to coach pitch/machine pitch, into something resembling real baseball for ages 9 and up. There is also a girls softball team for ages 7 and up. For those ready to venture out of the neighborhood, the Defenders Baseball Club organizes a traveling team for boys aged 10-15.
Tennis (Summer) - The Baltimore Metropolitan Urban Tennis Organizationaims to build awareness of tennis in the city, and organizes classes and competitive programs for kids. BMUTO partners with various national organizations, including Tennis Under 10, to help kids learn the game.
Soccer (Autumn/Winter) - Further down Fort Avenue, the South Baltimore Youth Soccer League organizes clinics and games for kids aged 3 to 15. As an instructional league, the SBYSL is generally more low-key than suburban programs. Teams generally play the other 3 or 4 squads in their age group, but there are a few opportunities for tournament play during the Fall. At the end of the regular season, the action moves indoors to the Myers Pavilion in Brooklyn, where games are played every Saturday through the end of February.
Basketball (Spring/Summer) - The YMCA at Stadium Place offers an instructional basketball program during the winter, and the Department of Recreation and Parks organizes a neighborhood basketball league for ages 6-18 from May to September. For serious hardwood action, you'll want to find an AAU team. The Amateur Athletic Union is an umbrella organization coordinating a wide variety of sports for kids and adults. Unlike some other leagues mentioned here, they don't form teams; self-organized squads compete in AAU-organized tournaments, and winning teams progress from local to regional to national competition.
Swimming (Summer) - If your child can't stay out of the water, there are swim teams at the public Patterson Park pool and at the private Bolton Swim & Tennis and Otterbein Swim Club. The Piranhas, Baracudas, and Otters all compete against teams from inside and outside the city in meets that feature various events for each age group. The season generally lasts about six weeks, from mid-June to early August.
Ice Hockey (Winter) - There are a surprising number of hockey players in Baltimore, and if your kids want to join them, an excellent place to start is Baltimore Youth Hockey's "Patterson Park Stars" program. Using donated equipment, BYH offers 15-weeks of free lessons at the Patterson Park rink on Sundays during the skating season. The program is aimed at kids 7-14 from East and Southeast Baltimore.
For more sports and activities for children click here, and if you've found other sports programs in the city, please post information below in the comments section.
Hugh Bethell has two children, Henry and Ann, and is the chair of the Education Advocacy Committee for the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance.