If you’re still haunted by memories of grade-school gym class, reading the Mountain Sports Festival’s printed roster of kids’ programs might seem like a potential nightmare. The long page is packed with dozens of youth activities.
Yet the list is largely free of the usual suspects: No dodge ball competition, for instance; no cutthroat baseball face-off.
For the most part, the festival hosts savvy, kid-tailored versions of such Asheville-centric sports as disc golf, mountain biking and ultimate frisbee. The weekend kicks off with a backpacking event for teens. And skateboarding programs are offered for kids as young as 7. Volleyball and basketball are the most traditional sports on the list.
But there’s also juggling, jogging and an actual, for-real Hula-Hooping clinic. It’s “really more of a dance,” explains event coordinator Christen McNamara. Thanks to a method called “spiral hoop dance,” kids “learn to use different body parts” to keep the hoop afloat, she says.
Sounds fairly trauma-free. But what about the festival’s Iron Kids Competition? This four-pronged event tests its young entrants’ skills on the basketball court, the chin-up bar, the climbing wall and the sprinting field. Still, “it’s healthy competition,” McNamara maintains. “It’s very friendly.” And everyone, she notes, walks away with a participant’s ribbon, though the “real” winners are recognized down through third place.
And being modeled after the famous Ironman contests doesn’t necessarily mean that Iron boys enjoy an advantage.
“Girls have won the Iron Kids Competition every year that we’ve done it,” McNamara reveals.