Four Ways to Celebrate the 2016 Olympics Right Here in Northeast Ohio

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Do you tuck the next Michael Phelps into bed every night? Perhaps your dedicated little gymnast dreams of following in the footsteps of Dominique Dawes or Shawn Johnson. Maybe you have a kid at home glued to the Olympic Games simply thinking, “I want to do THAT one day!” Or (like most of us), maybe you and your family will never be Olympians but you just love the thrill of the games.

While the 2016 games are in Rio, you and your family have lots of opportunities to celebrate the spirit of the Olympics right here in Greater Cleveland. As a four-season region, Northeast Ohio boasts great outdoor activities 12 months a year. Whether you’re passionate about swimming, skiing, soccer or hitting the gym, the region has wonderful resources for you and your family. 

The Olympic Games captivate fans of all ages but they offer unique teaching opportunities for the youngest sports enthusiasts. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio are a chance for families to connect, learn and dream. Focus on the spirit of international competition behind the games. Celebrate the Olympic athletes in the spotlight as examples of what it means to work hard to achieve your dreams (whether they are sports-related or not). The Olympic games also expose all of us to new sports and countries (Belarus! Gambia! Liechtenstein!).

The games are packed with learning opportunities (for you too, mom and dad!). Here are a few ideas on how to make the most of the upcoming Olympic games with your local crew.

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Celebrate the stories of the athletes.

One of the best parts of the Olympics is the individual stories of the athletes and their inspiring journeys to the games. This is an excellent time to celebrate our local Olympic heroes as well!

The Cleveland area is home to many former Olympians including Diana Munz. Diana was a three-time Olympic medalist in swimming. She is now raising her family in the Cleveland area and continuing to share her love of the sport of swimming with others. Check out this comprehensive list of Olympians through the years who were born in Northeast Ohio.

Get into the “games” together.

The Olympics are a chance to see some of our country’s best athletes in action. And while not every child is destined to be an Olympic athlete, all of us can benefit from being physically active. Studies show that kids are more likely to be active and physically fit if the adults in their lives lead by example. So get out there and get into the “games” as a family. Register for a family 5K. The Great Lakes Science Center is hosting “Summer Science Games” on August 6, 2016. Kids can compete in events such as Archery and Arrows and win medals to take home. Join us at a family swim where you can all show off your best backstroke of butterfly! We love to see families out being active and having fun together. 

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Inspire your aspiring young athlete.

Cleveland is also home to many young athletes. Not all of them aspire to the Olympics, but they each have their own dreams nonetheless. Set achievable goals to keep your child engaged in the sports they like. Those little wins can turn into long-term motivation. In swimming, shaving off just a tenth of a second in your race could ensure your spot in a better heat, a higher podium position – or even the Olympic trials. And, there are apps to help you track progress to make the effort easier. By logging my son’s swim times, he’s been encouraged to work harder, swim faster and reach his goal of qualifying for Zone Championships.

And, this effort comes from a child who firmly believes lying on the couch trumps everything else – even Pokémon Go!

Tune into the games as a team.

The Opening Ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics take place on Friday, August 5, 2016. The next two weeks will literally be jam packed with non-stop Olympic action. Take some time to watch some of the competition together. Check out the schedule of events to catch the prime time events like basketball, swimming and volleyball. And, tune in to see things that you’ve perhaps never seen before — like canoe slalom, trampoline and dressage. While you watch, talk to your kids about what they are seeing. The site Ohio Memory contains lots of interesting facts about historic Olympic ties to our home state (for example, did you know that Jesse Owens has strong ties to the Cleveland area from his childhood?).  Encourage questions. Google the answers if you have to! Learn something new about the Olympics and interesting local ties.

So, get into the games as a family! You never know when a little push and lots of inspiration might bring home the gold.

Sonali Morris is a mother of two and the owner of Goldfish Swim School Cleveland East Side and Goldfish Swim School Fairview Park.  Goldfish Swim School provides swim instruction to children ages 4 months to 12 years in a unique setting with highly trained instructors, small class sizes (max 4:1 student-teacher ratio), shiver-free 90-degree pools, and a state-of-the-art water purification system.