Team sport for 9 & 12 yo just starting out?

Did we totally miss the boat? Or is there something low key out involving practice & teamwork for kids?

Wasn’t up for the time commitment early on, but now I see the benefits of practice & weathering ups and downs with a steady group of people.  

Is there a steady group activity which welcomes newbies (boy 9, girl12)?

-Berkeley parent

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A 12 year old and 9 year old would both be welcome on a recreational soccer team regardless of experience.  Your son will have an easier time finding a team, however, since by age 12, lots of kids have moved up to travel/competitive soccer teams or dropped out.  That being said, there are still some girls' rec level soccer teams around.  I'd recommend contacting either the registrar for Albany Berkeley Soccer Club or the El Cerrito Spurs and ask about team openings.  Fall teams are forming now so it's a good time to inquire.

For the late fall/winter months, I'd also recommend rec level basketball teams (either through the City of Berkeley or the YMCA).  For the spring months, your daughter may also enjoy playing with the Albany Berkeley Girls Softball League.  It's a very friendly and nurturing organization and I anticipate that the lack of prior experience would not be a problem. Maybe someone else can chime in about Little League teams.

Martial Arts can be great. We do Kuk Sool Wan. There are lots of older kids and teens as well s adults and a flexible schedule to choose from. Also Basketball or Track tend to start a bit later than other sports.

Yes there is!  Try


You didn't comment about what sports your children have an interest in. In Spring, the City of Berkeley has a great baseball clinic for boys and girls that is free! Coach Gene is outstanding at providing guidance and encouragement all while stressing sportsmanship. He knows  baseball and is wonderful at what he does. Best of all, the class is free! Look for it in the City of Berkeley activities guide for next Spring. 

UC Village Rec Sports has nice soccer skills clinic. It is terrific when the adult organizer is present - he is great at encouraging sportsmanship with great skills support. I would check in to see if he will be present at all clinics or if his assistants will be present without him - the assistants when we participated are very good at teaching soccer skills but have varying levels of experience/skills of channeling/focusing the energy that can arise from a group of enthusiastic soccer kids in a focused way. 

I hope you get a lot of other recommendations to help you and your children make an informed choice. My son was concerned about his skill level when starting a  sport and was hesitant to join a team but, when he did, he realized that he might be just as good if not better than other kids. So in addition to looking for an entry, consider encouragement to join any recreational league. Some will let you get a refund within 2 weeks of joining a team if they wanted to give it a try.(ABSC has many free skills sessions during the week for those who are in their league.)

My kid is in the same boat. We signed him up for the Berkeley City Swim Team. 

The Bay Area Ultimate community is a great place to welcome both kids! Ultimate is played at the middle school level across the East Bay, and at the high school level throughout the bay area. Middle school teams are often co-ed, and high school teams have single-sex teams and co-ed teams, depending on the season (fall or spring) and the player preferences. In the summer there is a vibrant club team season which combines kids from various schools. Some club teams also compete during the school year. Lots of opportunities. Kids can enjoy the sport at both a casual and welcoming beginners level, or all the way up the national high school championship level. You can check out Bay Area Disc or Oakland Ultimate on Facebook for starters. Here's a recent story on Berkeleyside:

Definitely don't think you missed the boat! There are a lot of sports that kids only start later..... lacrosse, swimming, tennis come to mind. For your 12-year-old, rowing might be interesting (I have a kid who started rowing at that age). There's also water polo and once they get to high school things like badminton and mountain biking that are team sports that a lot of kids haven't tried til high-school age.

I think most important is finding something that your kids really love and a nice group of teammates. The community that kids/teens build through sports can be awesome!

We've had a bit of the same with our younger kid and here are 2 sports I strongly encourage you to check out: Ultimate Frisbee and Lacrosse. Ultimate in particular is very welcoming to all ages and any experience level, and you can find lacrosse rec clubs that are as well. What we love about Ultimate is that it teaches "the spirit of the game" more than any other sport our kids have been involved in, including cheering for the opposing team and encouraging genuine appreciation of all participants.

Berkeley High's Ultimate team actually just won the national championship - they are amazing (and huge - I think 50 players). Our 16 year old son still plays both sports and our 12-year old daughter now plays Ultimate and soccer. Both kids have enjoyed both sports very much, and as parents we are very appreciative of the approach of both. BTW, our daughter, after not being involved in team sports in elementary school, now plays on her middle school soccer team (and Ultimate team). So it's not too late! Good luck!

Youth field hockey is a great sport for boys and girls. Check out

Also East Bay:

My kids are 9 and 11 and play with SF. Since it's a minority sport, I find it more welcoming of all-comers.

Ultimate Frisbee! My kids love it. Very inclusive, supportive, team sport. A great workout too. Check out :

Good luck in your search. 

Studio Naga is a great martial arts school that encourages the practice and teamwork you mentioned.  They have a diverse group of friendly instructors and students and the kids seem to have lots of fun.  A great combo of community connection and personal growth., 510-652-6242.

East Bay Flag Football is also a great choice for both boys and girls of all ages and experience levels.  we have 2 kids on a team.  One was a total novice when starting.

I coach rec soccer through East Bay United, and we still get players who are brand new to soccer every season. (currently coaching U12, with a child in 5th grade. This fall we will have two players that I know of who have never played soccer before.) So... I don't think you're too late at all! 

Another idea... volleyball is one of those sports that kids often don't really start playing until middle school. Might that be a good fit for your 12 year-old?