Monday was the opening day of youth program here called Lifetime Sports Academy. The program, which started 16 years ago, offers free golf, tennis and swimming lessons to any boy or girl between the ages of 8 and 18. After the participant completes a certain number of golf lessons and completes a skills test, that person gets a free set of golf clubs and a pass to play for free on par-3 course at McMillen Park. Pass further skill tests, and the participant can play free at McMillen’s 18-hole executive course. Pass further still tests and it’s a free pass at Foster Park’s championship course. Many high school golfers in the area are Lifetime Sports Academy participants.
The tennis program gives away free rackets after completing a certain number of lessons. The swimmers advance to a competitive swim team that competes in the City Swim Meet at the end of July.
My son, age 9, and I went over to McMillen Park on Monday to begin his journey to the pro golf tour. OK, I’m not holding my breath that he’s going to be competing with Tiger Woods in 11 years or so, but I’d like him to be able to go out on a course with his old man (and I am old) and play a round. I like to golf, even if I’m terrible (I’ve yet to break 100 for 18 holes). I’d also like for him to be a better swimmer than I.
Since we’re a car-free family, we rode the bus to McMillen Park. We got off the bus at 9:45, went to the registration area, got my son signed up. He went to the driving range and was able to hit a couple of balls before it was time for the opening ceremonies. The mayor, city councilmen, the parks director and one of the Lifetime Sports Academy founders all said a few words. Door prizes were given away and the kids went back to hitting golf balls (or tennis balls) while the golf pro gave the parent an orientation.
When the golf introduction was over at 11:30, my son decided he was ready to head home rather than eat lunch at the park and wait for the 1 o’clock golf lesson (that’s the beauty of Lifetime Sports Academy, the kids and pick and choose what lessons they want to do or not do), so we headed home. As we were walking toward the park entrance, the bus went by. Rats. Buses in this city run once an hour. So instead of waiting for the next bus, we walked home — a walk of about 3.5 to 4 miles. We got home at 1 o’clock. I know I was tired. I went to bed Sunday night/Monday morning at 2 a.m. and got up at 7:30 to catch a 9 a.m. bus.
We’ve done several urban hikes recently. A few weeks ago, we were out at Eagle Marsh then met my wife at the Historic Main Street Market. We walked from a bus stop to the market, an urban hike of about a mile and a half. We needed to go to the hardware store, so we walked 4 miles round-trip to the hardware store. We took the dogs on a two-hour walk last Friday, a walk that I’m guessing was close to 5 miles. Urban hiking lets you see your town in new ways, especially if you go down streets you normally don’t go down.
Before going on an urban hike, though, find out if the area you’re going to walk down has good sidewalks. Does it have highways you’ll have to cross? What about high-crime areas? We’re fortunate in that we don’t have an expressway coming into the city center. We do have railroads and rivers, and on our walk Monday, we crossed three sets of railroad tracks, but only one a grade level. The other two we crossed under the tracks.