Valpo Parks has made it possible for families to turn their back yards into makeshift sports fields while the community continues to navigate the effects of the pandemic that has forced the closure of courts, fields, and playgrounds, and called for canceled or rescheduled programming.
“The last two weeks, we were kind of on the defense and making sure everyone knew what was open or closed, and what they can or can’t do right now,” said Kevin Nuppnau, Business Operations Director for Valpo Parks. “We’re finally on the offense now. We’re using social media and other tools to encourage people to go outside while doing so safely.”
The parks and pathways remain open, and families can still enjoy taking a walk, run, or bike ride down their favorite routes provided they follow safe social distancing measures – staying six feet apart from others whenever possible.
“We want to get people out there to exercise,” Nuppnau said. “Part of that is with the paths and walkways, but we’re also starting to look at different sports-specific programs.”
With their recreation and youth leagues suspended, Valpo Parks realized that they had a room full of sports equipment gathering dust. They came up with a creative solution to clear out their storage and get kids playing again.
“We’re renting out our equipment for kids and families who don’t have any of their own,” Nuppnau said. “Instead of having to find a way to buy a basketball or soccer ball for their kid, parents can just rent one from us.”
All of the information is available in detail at www.valpoparks.org/563/Backyard-Sports-Bag-Program, but the main idea is that parents or guardians can visit that link to rent equipment for five dollars. Then they can visit Valpo Park’s RecShed on 1158 Harrison Blvd. every Thursday for curbside-pickup of all their rented items.
“We wanted to open up our equipment so kids can stay active and healthy,” Nuppnau said. “We’re calling it the Backyard Sports Bag Program because it lets them build their own sports bag that they can use all they want for the next four weeks.”
Items range from balls to T-ball equipment, to lacrosse sticks.
The social media team at Valpo Parks is posting videos on Facebook featuring different sport skills and drills that kids can practice in their driveways, garages, or backyards.
“For example, we just posted a soccer juggling drill,” Nuppnau said. “It features a couple of different progressions on how to juggle, and then a contest to see how many times they could juggle the ball without it hitting the ground.”
Valpo Park’s efforts are helping to provide kids a little bit of normalcy in an unprecedented time.
“We feel bad that these kids are having their extracurricular activities and playgrounds taken away from them,” Nuppnau said. “On the other hand, that left us with all these unused resources. What better way is there to encourage kids to get outside than by getting them the equipment they need to have fun and stay active?”
Visit www.valpoparks.org/563/Backyard-Sports-Bag-Program to learn more about the Backyard Sports Bag Program and to find more information about Valpo Parks’ response to COVID-19.