RIYADH: A local organization, Sports Hub KSA, designs bespoke sports programs for children that emphasize play and skill development rather than competition, and encourage parental involvement.
Simon Muller, CEO and co-founder of Sports Hub KSA, said of the programs approach: “We want to give children a chance to play sports differently than in a school environment. There’s no pressure, it’s not in 45 minutes that the teacher doesn’t have to teach something specific…the kids can play in the amount of time they are with us.
Sports Hub KSA is a Saudi Arabia-based agency specializing in the creation and delivery of sports programs for stakeholders such as Inspire Sports, schools, families and children aged four to 10.
This year, for example, Inspire Sports ran a summer camp programme, one of the first in the Kingdom after COVID-19, allowing children to interact with others their own age.
Unlike other sports programs, Inspire does not encourage competition or being the best, rather it establishes a foundation for children to develop their skills while enjoying multiple activities and sports in one session.
“It’s a mix of sports, multisport is at the heart of our concept, it’s not just one sport, kids always need to explore different things and a sport can get boring after four or five sessions,” Muller said.
Muller thinks it’s important to play with children, especially “those aged 4 to 10, because it’s much more important than specializing in a sport”.
There may be five to eight sports or games in a session, such as athletics, dodgeball, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, dance, and yoga. “We are more focused on the game than on the sport. “It’s very interesting that kids are interested in a lot of different things.”
Muller said yoga, practiced at least once a week, was very popular on the program.
The three-hour summer program offered only apples, bananas and water. “We just want to lead by example and offer something healthy in our sessions to influence other parents and see what we offer. We also use social media to promote healthy eating,” he said.
Muller said inclusivity is a major aspect of their programs, so the role of parents is important and coaches encourage them to be involved and present during sessions.
“Inclusion is a very important aspect of what we do, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We try to have games for kids of different levels, ages and stages of development to have fun together,” Muller said.
“We are fully aware that what we are doing is something new and we as a company are new and we also know that trust is the most important thing for parents when deciding to send their kids in programs, especially when the kids are so young,” he said.
“So we have open days where families can come with their kids and just try and see what we’re doing, but we also invite parents all the time. The doors are completely open for parents to come in and see what we do at any point in the program,” he said.
“Everything is important at a young age, between three and six years old, it’s very clear in the scientific world that this is the most important age to develop certain behaviors and have a positive association with certain things,” Muller said. .
“The ultimate goal is for children to be with us, especially in the four to nine age group, to be with us for two to three years, not just in the summer. When they spend a few hours with us every week their fundamentals are much more developed than other kids who don’t have that opportunity,” he said.
Muller thinks it’s important for kids in their early years to try different things. After the first years of enrollment in the sports program, children will then be able to choose the sports they like.