Stay and play with a sporty family holiday, suggests Katie McGonagle
Lie-ins and parenting rarely go hand-in-hand, but they part company altogether as soon as kids show any spark of sporting ability.
Sign youngsters up with a sports team and Saturday mornings will be spent cheering budding Beckhams on from the sidelines of a frosty football pitch, or ferrying mini-Andy Murrays and would-be Rory McIlroys to and from lessons – and most likely carrying their kit for them as well.
So on holiday, it makes sense for put-upon parents to let someone else do the hard work – and happily, the proliferation of sports academies and expert-led coaching sessions at family-friendly holiday resorts make that easier than ever.
Simply choose the right discipline and destination, and the little ones will make team captain in no time – just get ready for a few more early mornings.
THE BEAUTIFUL GAME: FOOTBALL
Ask any group of youngsters what they want to be when they grow up and most of the boys (and a fair few girls) will answer ‘footballer’.
Sure, they won’t all make it to the England squad, but why not indulge that dream for now with football academies in association with their favourite teams?
Chelsea fans can kick off at Forte Village in Sardinia, where the Premier League team’s coaches are running five-day courses from May 12 to October 4, covering team tactics and ball skills with real matches to test out their new techniques. The five-day academy, for kids aged four to 14, starts at €380 including official football strip and souvenir photo.
Nearby Sicily plays host to Juventus-trained coaches over half-term at Rocco Forte’s Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, with daily training sessions, matches on a full-sized pitch in the midst of the mountains, and a Nike Juventus training kit to take home (open to players aged five to 16, from €350 for five days).
Meanwhile, Buccament Bay Resort in St Vincent and the Grenadines maintains its sporty reputation with a Liverpool-led football academy this summer featuring former players Don Hutchison and Ronnie Whelan.
Of course, it doesn’t always take a famous face to teach young footballers how to hit the back of the net. Thomas Cook’s FamilyWorld and Airtours Sunstar resorts offer Mitre Street Skills Soccer Academies during school holidays, with three one-hour sessions costing €20, starting at five years old.
Similarly, First Choice Holiday Villages draft in FA and Uefa-qualified coaches to run two, three and four-day football courses (from £30), and even start tiny tots off with a few basic skills at Toddler Football.
The FA seal of approval also applies to the coaches at Eurocamp and Butlins: the former offers matches, coaching and skills practice at Soccer Stations across its European holiday parks (from £3 per session or £12 for five, ages five to 16), while the latter includes weekend and school holiday football coaching in the price of a break.
SERVE AN ACE: TENNIS
Wimbledon is the home of tennis, and it seems British players are leading the way with tennis teaching too.
Former England number one Chris Wilkinson will be sharing tips on technique as he oversees the Pat Cash Tennis Club in Buccament Bay from August 11-24. Those who prefer to stay closer to home can try the range of Annabel Croft-designed coaching programmes at Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus.
These include the Mini-Slam – an hour a day for three to six-year-olds or 90 minutes for seven to nine-year-olds, costing €107 and €149 respectively. The more dedicated Junior Slam offers an intensive four hours’ coaching a day, at €362 (all spread over five days).
Mark Warner also caters for different levels of dedication: all but one resort (Sea Garden) offers group coaching (four one-hour lessons, £65) and some add a private session too, totalling £80.
But those who really want to focus on improving their game should head to specialist tennis centres Lakitira and Levante Beach Resorts for weekly tennis academies throughout summer.
These include four small-group lessons, a 45-minute private session, and an analysis of frequent faults and how to fix them, from £125. For more in-depth coaching, Intensive Tennis Weeks, costing £200, take place at Lakitira starting June 8 and October 4, and Levante on May 17 and September 20.
Those just starting on the path to tennis stardom can take those first few steps at Spanish resort La Manga Club – official overseas training base for the Lawn Tennis Association – where the Junior Tennis Academy runs from three to 19 and has sessions divided by age group, including slower balls and smaller courts so under-10s develop their skills at a more manageable pace.
Players more focused on having fun than analysing their faults might prefer a more relaxed option; suggest the free tennis practice and coaching at Neilson Beachclubs in Greece and Turkey; free courts and friendly staff at Club Med resorts; the free daily classes for different abilities as part of Beaches’ signature Luxury Included packages; or the dedicated kids’ tennis camp at Dubai’s JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort.
STAY AFLOAT: SWIMMING
Why learn to swim in a local leisure centre, when you can swap the smell of chlorine for warm weather and sparkling sunshine?
Skiathos Princess Hotel has teamed up with former Olympic pentathlete Greg Whyte to offer free swimming classes on August 31 for tiny tots and under-sixes, and on September 1 for older children and adults (maximum group size 15). And if he can coach David Walliams through his English Channel swim, he can certainly help guests who need to improve their confidence in the water.
For guests who need more flexibility in dates – and budget – First Choice Holiday Villages boast an impressive record, teaching about 4,000 children to swim every year with Amateur Swimming Association-approved academies. Aimed at kids aged three to 16, these comprise five half-hour group sessions priced at £30, with one-to-one lessons also available at extra cost.
Likewise, Butlins offers sessions for over-fours from just £5 per child at all its resorts, and Eurocamp parks offer free Learn to Swim lessons for one to five-year-olds in partnership with the Swimming Teachers’ Association.
Western & Oriental offers seven nights’ half-board at Rocco Forte’s Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, departing May 24, from £1,599 per adult and £1,225 per child based on three sharing a junior suite, with easyJet flights to Palermo and private transfers.
020 7666 1234
A week at Buccament Bay in St Vincent and the Grenadines costs from £7,140 for a family of four with Caribtours, staying all-inclusive in a villa with plunge pool, including flights, private transfers and use of a lounge at Gatwick.
020 7751 0660
First Choice has seven days at Holiday Village Costa del Sol from £923 per person with one free child place based on four sharing, flights from Manchester on July 29, and transfers.
0871 200 7799
Golf might not seem a classic kids’ sport, but it’s never too early to master the skills. Costa Navarino in the Peloponnese, Greece, is repeating its successful Junior Golf Camps this year, for eight-12s and 13-17s to learn the game on some of the country’s best courses.
Meanwhile, guests of Beaches Resorts in Jamaica enjoy free lessons and green fees at Sandals Golf & Country Club in Ocho Rios, with free expert-led golf clinics each week or one-to-one lessons from $35 for 30 minutes.
Sailing and beach holidays go hand-in-hand, with resorts such as Mark Warner, Club Med and Neilson Beachclubs including lessons in their packages, and Haven’s Rockley Park offering easy access to sailing and windsurfing lessons at a nearby beachfront watersports centre.
Farther afield, Funway recommends Pink Shell Beach Resort in Fort Myers for would-be sailors, as its Offshore Sailing School features two-hour introductory lessons, up to three, five and seven-day sailing certification courses.
Athletics and rugby will be the subject of further school holiday-timed academies at La Manga Club in Spain. Designed by double Olympic champion Daley Thompson, the former includes sprint starts, endurance training and hurdles (ages seven to 12), while the latter focuses on kicking, passing, tackling and ball handling under the watchful eye of former Wales rugby captain Michael Owen (ages nine-12 and 13-16, €210), both running weekly from June 14-August 15.
Female rugby star Maggie Alphonsi will be flying the flag for the girls at Forte Village, leading sessions alongside renowned Scottish player and coach Sir Ian McGeechan, Austin Healey and Will Greenwood; five academies run between May and August, for children aged five to 16.
Basketball is building momentum in the UK, with opportunities at selected Haven parks for kids to learn court skills, ball handling and free throwing from professional players, and at Costa Navarino, to practise their skills on full-sized courts with summer basketball camps for kids and adults.
Archery and fencing teach youngsters etiquette and accuracy, with lessons from trained instructors available at Butlins (£5 per session, over-eights only), Haven, and Hoseasons’ Go Active parks.
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