As the weather finally warms up and the borough’s athletic fields thaw out, the dozens of youth sports leagues throughout Queens will begin play in the coming days and weeks.
Every athletically inclined child loves the feeling of dusting off the lacrosse stick or oiling up the baseball glove for the first time come springtime, and there certainly is no shortage of affordable programs parents can sign their kids up for, regardless of the sport.
With the Brazil-hosted 2014 FIFA World Cup fast approaching, it will be pretty evident which sport is the world’s favorite this summer.
Sports bars packed with rowdy fans aside, children around Queens will be kicking the soccer ball around while wearing their favorite footballer’s jersey all spring and summer, and the Auburndale Soccer Club will honor soccer’s most extravagant spectacle as well.
“This year, the intramural team names are World Cup teams,” office manager Christine Coniglio said. “We have Brazil, Russia, Italy and England and many others. It’s great.”
Founded in 1977, the Auburndale Soccer Club has been teaching children the fundamentals of the world’s most popular game and educating them about the importance of teamwork for decades.
The club hosts a myriad of opportunities for boys and girls of all ages to play, beginning with a First Kicks program for children ages 3 to 5.
Registration costs $235 and kids will enjoy one-hour instructional sessions every Sunday until June 15 in Cunningham Park near the 73rd Ave and 210th Street intersection in Oakland Gardens.
“Teachers teach them how to work within a group and the fundamental basics of kicking the ball,” Coniglio said. “It’s all about the kids and teaching them to stay healthy and be active.”
For children between 6 and 16 years old, intramural play is a smashing success.
Running until Father’s Day, the players are placed onto teams named after World Cup nations and practice once a week after 4:30 p.m. before playing a game every Sunday afternoon.
The coaches are volunteers with backgrounds in soccer, according to Coniglio, who herself coaches a team, and registration costs $245.
“Once the season starts and people see the kids on the field, parents come to the field and try to register their kids right then and there,” she said.
Around 1,200 children take part in various Auburndale Soccer Club programs, including comprehensive travel and pre-travel squads that children can try out for.
Practices and games for those programs take place at 422 Weaver Road in Bayside.
The club also runs a lengthy program for children with mental and physical disabilities, free of charge, every Sunday until June 15. The sessions are one hour and are funded by sponsors and the community.
“One of my main beliefs is teaching kids to be part of a group,” Coniglio said. “And oh, the parents get so involved.”
For children who prefer lacrosse, arguably the Northeast’s most popular sport, the relatively new Bombers Boys and Girls Youth Lacrosse Program is always looking for new children to join.
Bombers team coordinator and program co-founder Demian DeViccaro said the inspiration to start a youth lacrosse camp came from his son.
“I have a young son. I wanted him to grow up and have somewhere to play,” DeViccaro said. “So I thought, ‘why don’t we start a youth program?’”
Boys and girls between 5 and 18 years old can join and no prerequisite skill level is needed. Registration prices range from $125 for kindergartners through second graders, $175 for children in grades three through eight and $225 for high school students.
Because the eight-weekend program began on April 6, the cost for enrollment will decrease with every session missed.
“It’s such a great sport. It combines soccer skills, basketball skills, hockey skills. You really have to come out and try it,” DeVicarro said. “We’ll get them to learn the sport, know the sport and hopefully get them to love the sport.”
Dozens of former Bombers youth lacrosse players are now enjoying successful college playing careers, something DeVicarro hopes will continue as the program continues.
“The way the sport is growing, there are more opportunities in college compared to any other sport,” he said. “Tons of colleges are bringing in [a lacrosse] program now.”
For kids interested in playing either baseball or basketball this spring, South Ozone Park-based LP Fam is an organization dozens of ball players enjoy.
According to program Executive Director David Reid, about 70 children have signed up so far for the weekly basketball clinic that takes place at the Queens Transition Center at 142-10 Linden Blvd. in Jamaica.
The clinic, for boys and girls between the ages of 8 and 16, takes place on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and costs $40 for the season, which runs until mid-June.
Parents can sign their child up in person by coming to the clinic.
Reid says there is no late fee or penalty for children who register later in the spring.
“There’s no deadline because we don’t want to refuse kids just for being late,” Reid said. “It’s about them, not about deadlines.”
At the conclusion of the weekly clinic, LP Fam hosts a summer basketball league, where kids who took part in the clinic are divided into teams and participate in tournaments.
Reid says the clinic, which has about 70 kids enrolled, and league are good for children who are familiar with the game and those who are looking to learn the game.
For more experienced teenage players, the program is holding tryouts for its American Athletic Union team, which travels up and down the East Coast playing teams from different cities throughout the summer.
LP Fam also caters to fans of America’s pastime, as the organization is looking for young baseball players to join their ranks.
About 60 children are already enrolled to play in the program’s baseball league, which features a handful of teams, and registration costs $100.
The league takes place at Lincoln Park in South Ozone Park and play will begin on the weekend of May 17.
Parents can sign their children up in person by coming to the weekly basketball clinic.
Reid says LP Fam is also interested in creating a soccer tournament, but the organization does not have an adequate number of coaches.
Anyone interested in volunteering or coaching is asked to contact managers Paul Cox or Derick Braswell at (917) 607-2421 or (917) 692-4775, respectively.
These are just some of the many leagues available to youngsters, and comprehensive lists of programs to join can be found at jamaica311.com/youth-sports-organizations/ and queensmamas.com/queens_mamas/2012/04/spring-and-summer- sports-leagues-for-queens-kids.html.