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Nov 26 - Dec 8, 2019
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Children ‘camp’ in Doha for a sporting summer

How do summer sports camps help youngsters? Can they be a breeding ground for champions?
Mixed Martial Art Camp 1
IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

How did school children in Qatar spend their summer vacation? It was just too hot outside to indulge in any sporting activities. But how about playing sport indoors? That’s exactly what many academies sought to do in their summer camps in the last two months. And it’s not like there is no sweat, toil or vigour while playing indoors. Mixed martial arts, gymnastics, equestrianism and aerobics, apart from sports like swimming, football, volleyball, badminton, tennis and squash, all require tremendous effort. And kids at various camps across Doha were seen breaking into a sweat and catching their breath as they exercised their limbs with gusto.

Truly, anyone who thought that children could not enjoy sport in the summer months in Doha was mistaken. And some of the disciplines listed above indicate that there is also a trend towards non-traditional sports. Mixed martial arts seems to be a big hit in Doha. As also equestrianism and gymnastics. While there is a rush for popular sports, it’s clear that there are plenty of takers for others as well.

Mixed Martial Arts Coach Mohammed Doty 2

“I see mixed martial arts growing in popularity,” said Mohammed Doty, founder of Qatar Mixed Martial Arts Centre in Abu Hamour. “While some forms of martial art may seem brutal and drive away people, there are others like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu which is milder and draws people into trying it,” he added.

Maybe it’s the attempt to make children aware that any sport is enjoyable which has allowed non-traditional sports an opening.

“We try and make the activities at a camp a whole lot of fun. When children enjoy the activity, they are hooked,” said Mahmoud, a coach at the summer camps conducted by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in collaboration with Qatar Sports For All Federation.

Mohammed Sultan Ahmed Al Suwaidi, Manager, Equine Education, at Al Shaqab, echoed the same thought.

“We want to change the mentality of people about horses. Our camps create an awareness in people that riding horses is fun and enjoyable,” said Al Suwaidi.

And then of course there is the health factor which seems to have struck a chord among many a parent in Doha.

“Through our camps we also wanted to show that riding horses is good for health,” he added.

He seemed to speak on behalf of many others who also felt that playing sport, not necessarily the traditional ones, is vital for health.

An organising committee member at Aspire Academy’s camp said, “The children get to try disciplines they’ve never tried before. For example, some of them tried out kickboxing and tennis for the first time. Their excitement was infectious”.

Aspire Summer Camp
IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

At Aspire Academy, one of the focal points was to spark an interest in the kids.

“We have world-class sporting facilities. When the students are here, they get to feel exactly what professional sportsmen feel. It motivates them to work harder and some of them could even end up in Qatar’s different age-group teams”, said one of the event officers.

“Summer camps are growing in popularity in Qatar. This is our second edition. We had 200 kids last year and this year it has gone up to 250,” he said.

Even as children enjoy themselves at the camps, some of them develop an aptitude for a particular sport. And that is an incentive for coaches, parents and talent scouts.

“Scouts and officials from various Qatar sports federations sometimes visit our camps to observe these children. If they find someone talented, they talk to their parents and take it forward. Such camps are always a good platform for them to connect,” added the event officer.

Abdulla Aman Al Khater, Director of Venues and Events at Aspire Zone Foundation, said, “The children spent their free summer time in useful, energetic, educational and sports activities. Our experts have been keen to provide the best experience for them”.

After another productive summer for academies, students and parents in Qatar, the love for sport in Qatar only seems to be increasing.

Aspire Summer Camp 8
IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran