Not everyone plays soccer (anytime)

September 18, 2008

Yesterday a fellow parent at M.’s school waved goodbye with the words, “See you at practice this afternoon!”  She meant soccer practice, which pretty much every other boy in his class attends.  When I replied, “Nope, see you tomorrow!” instead, it was so clearly not the expected response that she was puzzled, and she looked at me as if I’d forgotten that my kid was in soccer — and she even said she thought she remembered seeing him there.  I have nothing against soccer, other than its pervasiveness, but I’m afraid M. takes after his bookish mom more than his hockey-playing dad.  M. much prefers swimming and drama to more traditional extra-curriculars, and I feel as though he’s already on the path less chosen, at age 5.

And so, in honor of older kids who’re likewise not in soccer, here are a couple of unique facilities you may wish to check out:

The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis in the Central West End — With a goal of expanding the chess-playing population by offering a hangout for pick-up games, if you will, and supporting schools’ chess teams, this new center is worth a visit (one-day memberships start at $1 for full-time students and those under 21). Beginners are welcome to play or to take lessons; advanced players are welcome to mentor others or take on those of their own calibre as they prepare for tournaments. The center’s hours span the afternoon and evening times when kids are most likely to be bored.

RampRiders in Benton Park — An industrial warehouse facade is a great disguise for this skate and bike ramp complex; you wouldn’t even know it’s there except for a few telltale edges of ramps visible through the windows. Oh, and the carloads of kids going in, skateboards in hand.  Admission rates are $10 per session (a signed waiver and a helmet are absolutely required).  Hours go late, as you’d expect at a hangout for teens, but there’s also a special Sunday morning session just for novices age 8 to 10. In a testament to how well-run the facility is, its neighbors have nothing but praise.

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