Children's sports in Shanghai

Five quirky children's sports to get the kids moving

Kids exercise options needn’t be limited to a dreary kickabout on a football pitch. Time Out presents five quirky children’s sports including lacrosse and rollerblading that can get your kids moving.


Set up in 2004 by Xu Wei and his wife, the brilliantly named Hot Wheels (Feng Huo Lun) rollerblading club is the city’s largest, combining a traffic-free environment with fun-filled games and an ICP-accredited programme – the internationally recognised ‘gold standard’ for inline skating courses. Sessions are 90 minutes long and take place at five different training points across the city, including a vast 3,000sqm hall plus two outdoor venues housed in basketball courts.

‘Rollerblading is physically great for developing kids’s balance, co-ordination, flexibility and fitness, but almost as important is that it makes them brave and independent – they’re not afraid to take a tumble,’ says Xu Wei. Thanks to the small group classes – which have a maximum of ten students – wobbly beginners get plenty of attention when learning how to balance, turn and brake using their heels. More advanced students can try out specialist skating disciplines, like speed skating, roller-hockey and slalom. The club also hosts regular skating competitions for its more experienced teenagers.

Hot Wheels Feng Huo Lun Outdoor Training Centre, 135 Jianguo Xi Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu, Huangpu district (40 0688 5166, Metro:Jiashan Lu.黄浦区建国西路135号,近陕西南路 Open 9am-6pm, Sat-Sun. Check website for class schedules. 500RMB/6 classes; 1,200RMB/16 classes; 3,000RMB/45 classes. Ages 4-18.


At Sport For Life’s new cheerleading programme – the only one of its kind in Shanghai – kids get to learn all aspects of cheerleading, from chants and cheers to jump techniques and dance routines using the ‘poms’ (pom-poms). It’s not just for girls, either – boys can also benefit from the high-energy workout, which builds core strength and increases flexibility, according to coach Vicki Hughes, a former UK national-level cheerleader and UKCA/Future Cheer-qualified coach. ‘There are three main aspects to cheerleading: pom dance, tumbling – which is basically acrobatic gymnastics – and stunting, involving human pyramids and lifts,’ says Hughes. ‘At the moment, we’re just focusing on pom dance.’

The course is currently divided into two sessions – primary (5-11 years) and secondary (12 years and above) – but private courses can be arranged for groups of four or more. Kids will also get a chance to show off their newly honed ‘chant and cheer’ routines at two Sport For Life-organised shows next month: the Puxi showcase is slated for May 16 while the Pudong event takes place on May 26.

Sport for Life Western International School of Shanghai, 555 Lianmin Lu, near Huqingping Highway, Qingpu district (6282 1762;; Metro: Xujing Dong. 青浦区联民路555号, 近沪青平公路 4-5pm Tue (5-11 years), Wed (12 years and up). 120RMB/class. Ages 5-18.


Set up last month by Joe Eberling, skateboarding fanatic and founder of China-wide outdoor sports company Wild Rampage, the coolest class in town right now has to be Active Kidz’s new skateboarding programme. The hour-long sessions, which are divided into beginner (ages four to eight) and intermediate/advanced (age nine and upwards) groups are held at Jinqiao’s iconx skate park, which boasts ramps, grind bars and a miniature (4ft) version of the 13ft half-pipe used in the Asia X Games.

First-timers start off with the basics, such as learning how to stand on the board, move back-and-forth and stop, while more experienced skaters learn variations on the basic ollie, such as kick flips and three-sixty turns, guided by a team of instructors who include nationally ranked pro skaters such as Tan Shuai.

‘The kids learn pretty quickly and can progress from beginner to intermediate in one session,’ says Eberling, whose four-year-old son has been skating since he could stand. Fast progress doesn’t come at the expense of safety, though: sessions are extremely structured, with a ratio of no more than three students to one instructor for beginners, and six to one for intermediate levels, while all kids are required to wear full protective kit including helmets and knee-pads (these can be hired from the club at a discount rate, together with a board if your child doesn’t have their own).

Active Kidz iconx Skatepark (above Eland), Second Floor, Unit 7, 3611 Zhangyang Lu, near Jinqiao Lu, Pudong (3872 6770;; Jinqiao Lu. 浦东张杨路3611号, 近金桥路 1-2pm (beginners) 2-3pm (intermediate/advanced) Sat until Sat 14 (current course). Check website for details of next course. 800RMB/six classes. Ages 4 and up.


Active Kidz’s spring season lacrosse clinic kicks off this month, with coaches Michael Elefante and Jeffrey Ginter looking to build on the success of the previous season (the club was launched last September). ‘At the moment, we’re concentrating on teaching the basics, but the eventual goal is to have a Puxi and a Pudong team with enough players to hold official lacrosse games,’ says Elefante. Traditional lacrosse – which combines aspects of soccer, basketball and hockey – involves players throwing and catching a small rubber ball using a mesh bag attached to a stick, and is a full contact, high-intensity sport.

On the children’s course, though, there’s no body- or stick-checking allowed, plus the softer balls and smaller sticks mean there’s no need for heavy-duty padding or helmets (though gumshields and shin-pads are advised). The hour-long sessions involve 30-45 minutes of skills training, such as basic strategies, fundamental stick-handling skills and how to throw and catch the ball, followed by a short 15-20 minute game. Sticks and balls are provided, but students need to bring their own mouthguards and shinguards.

Active Kidz Shanghai Community Internatonal School Hongqiao Campus, 1161 Hongqiao Lu, near Yili Lu, Changning district (3872 6770;; Songyuan Lu. 长宁区虹桥路1161号, 近伊犁路 1-2pm (8-10 years), 2-3pm (11-13 years). Every Sat, beginning Sat 14. 550RMB/seven classes. Ages 8-13.

Synchronised swimming

At BISCAP’s new synchro-swimming class, kids get the chance to train under two former professionals: coaches Olesya Boyko and Natalia Tsymbulenko were part of the Ukrainian national team. Although synchronised swimming combines aspects of swimming, dance and gymnastics, kids don’t need any specialist skills before joining the class. ‘Students need to be able to swim two different strokes, but they don’t need a strong swimming background,’ says Boyko. ‘The most important factor is confidence in the water.’

A typical class actually starts outside the pool, with a half-hour session that combines a warm-up, stretching, gymnastics and choreography, before the students take to the water to practice techniques such as ‘sculling’ (hand movements used to propel the body), treading water and jumping out of the water. The final part of the class is devoted to the classic vertical underwater pose and performing ‘figures’ (individual positions). Currently, the class is small, with just eight students divided into beginner and intermediate/advanced groups, but there are plans to introduce a weekend class depending on demand.

BISCAP Swim Programme The British International School (Puxi), 111 Jinguang Lu, near Beiqing Gong Lu, Minhang district (5336 3211;; Metro: Xujing Dong. 闵行区金光路111号, 近北青公路 4.40-6pm Tue. 1,400RMB/ten classes. Ages 5 and up

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