lrg polo Louis to try the more unusual Olympic sports
It’s hard not to get amped up watching the Olympics the photo finishes, the shattered records, the waving flags. The games bring out our latent dreams of tearfully singing the national anthem atop the medal podium and then giving giddy interviews to Bob Costas or Matt Lauer.
Certain events tend to dominate television coverage, notably track and field and aquatics. So it might make sense to pin all our Olympic fantasies on being the next Katie Ledecky by taking over the lap lanes at the community pool. Or hitting the local high school track in an effort to channel Justin Gatlin.
But what about the sports that don’t make the A List? Sure, you can set up a badminton net in the backyard or rent a kayak for a trek down the Meramec. But to get faster, higher and stronger, it’s best to learn from an expert.
There are plenty of venues around St. Louis to explore the more unusual Olympic events. We’ve listed a few to get you started.
Modern pentathlon hopefuls, you’re on your own.
ArcheryYou don’t have to be fast to be good at archery. You don’t have to be muscular. You just have to practice.
“The basics and the form and the setup are fairly easy to get used to,” says Amanda Friedmann, the lesson instructor at Summit Archery Center in Labadie. “It’s the aiming and consistency that is more difficult.”
Friedmann’s parents own Summit, and the family friendliness of the sport is her favorite part of it.
“We have kids as young as 4 and as old as retirement age,” she says. “That’s what’s nice about it. Three generations can shoot together.” The distance from the target and the tension on the bow’s string can be adjusted to accommodate different sizes and strengths. The center also hosts archery leagues and open shooting times.
Beach volleyballThanks in part to the tanned and toned bodies, beach volleyball has become a highly watched Olympic sport.
But landlocked St. Louis is not exactly rife with seashores. Fortunately, some enterprising locals have made sure sand volleyball courts can still be found around Mound City.
Brian Williams and his wife have been involved in the sport for the past two decades and opened Wave Taco downtown seven years ago. Williams credits the Olympic three peat of Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May Treanor with further improving the game’s visibility and popularity.
But you don’t have to be 6 feet tall with washboard abs to participate. “Anyone can play volleyball,” says Williams. “That’s the beauty of it.”
Wave Taco’s three sand courts are hopping with league games Sunday through Thursday. On Friday nights, individual players or partners can sign up for blind draw tournaments. Saturdays are for all day team tournaments.
Leagues are divided into recreational, intermediate and power levels. There’s also an outdoor bar for celebrating victories or drinking away defeats.
“We’re very laid back here,
” says Williams.
EquestrianFirst equestrian lesson: dressage, the series of maneuvers riders complete to show how well trained their horses are, is pronounced “DRUH saje,” not “dress age.”
Jay Kraus, owner of Kraus Farms in High Ridge, is particularly fond of the military born technique, which he describes as “horse dancing.”
“It’s beautiful the way the horse moves,” he says. “The horse and riders are both top athletes, as top notch as any track and field athlete. They are always fine tuning.”
Dressage is just one of the riding and handling methods taught at Kraus Farms. Riders can also tackle jumping and barrel racing and traverse cross country courses and trail rides.
Kraus Farms hosts riding camps for kids during the summer and on school holidays. Lessons are held year round.
“We start from the ground level,” says Kraus. “How to tack, untack and ride, as young as age 7.”
Water poloDon’t worry if you’ve never mastered a flip turn or the butterfly stroke. You can still succeed at water polo.
“There’s a misconception that you have to be a top swimmer,” says Miguel Figueras, the club director at St. Louis Area Polo. “You have to be able to swim, but you don’t have to be super fast.”
Seven water polo players from each team are in the water during a game, and much of that time, especially for the goalies,
is spent treading.