By Muneezah Jawad

Soccer and swimming for kids in GTA

Image source: 123RF


Obesity in Canada has tripled in the last 30 years, around 31% of children in Canada are obese. With winters that stretch into eternity and summers that are gone in the blink of an eye, how can you ensure that your children do not turn into dreaded couch potatoes?


One of the most popular recreational activities worldwide is swimming. It has a multitude of benefits. In your town, no matter what size, you will have several swimming pools both indoor and outdoor, weather permitting. It’s an inexpensive sport. All you need is your costume, goggles and a body of water.

Where to go

YMCA, gyms, community and fitness centers all have pools as do other private facilities.  You can become a member; take lessons or pay as you go.

The YMCA incidentally provides subsidized memberships to families who fall within certain income brackets. Proof of income is required but once approved most facilities in the YMCA are included in a very minimal family membership fee. For more information please visit the YMCA portal.

Classes can range from parent-toddler classes all the way up to lifesaving certificates for children and adults. The teacher-student ratio is usually excellent as safety is paramount to these facilities.

Community centers are area based and usually you can pick up a brochure or go online to look at all their classes and facilities. For Mississauga visit here and look up the center nearest to you.

For Toronto residents, check out the various swimming pools and programs here.

Get fit

A fairly obvious reason to swim is that it is excellent exercise. It helps build endurance and develop muscles. It’s an aerobic activity providing cardiovascular workout. For adults and seniors it is a low impact activity that helps and is prescribed for the treatment of joint problems. In the case of special needs children, it’s a way for the child to enjoy the freedom of movement they gain from floating which they would have otherwise not had. It is a wonderful form of physical therapy for everyone, improving coordination, balance and posture.


According to Statistics Canada, drowning is the top cause of unintentional injury deaths among children between the ages of 1-4, and the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 10 years.  There have been on average around 500 drowning fatalities annually for Canadians under 60 years of age making it the 3rd leading cause of accidental deaths overall.  Globally, an estimated one million people drown every year.

This is scary stuff. You or your friends may have homes with pools. Canada is also famous for its beautiful lakes and rivers that we all want to visit. Sschools have camping trips where swimming is often involved. The American Academy of Pediatrics found that children enrolled in formal swimming lessons had an 88% reduced risk of drowning. Simply put if they fall into the water accidently, at least if they know how to swim they stand a chance of being able to stay afloat. It’s the equivalent of wearing a seatbelt in the car.

Swimming can help your child into college

Yes, you read that right! In our times, emphasis was put on grades. If you had good grades you would get into university. Now institutes are looking for more. They want well rounded individuals, who excel in things other than just academics.

Swimming is unique because the swimmer is an individual competitor and team member, allowing him or her to develop a balanced personality. Studies have shown that swimming has been linked to better academic performance. The reason for this is that the type of instruction and sensory learning kids are exposed to in swimming lessons is very similar to class room learning.

Splashing around in the water is just plain fun and encourages families to bond. It helps us physically, mentally and spiritually. For us Muslim mommies out there, most pools have no issues with dress code as long as it does not pose a safety risk. I have worn oversized tees and leggings over a swim suit as has my daughter. Burkinis are welcome in most places, so don’t let clothing deter you from enjoying yourself.


Contrary to popular belief soccer is very much a coed activity.  Children can start with parents at the age of 3 and progress onto advanced, more competitive divisions such as representative or professional teams. Teams are arranged according to gender and age. Game length, number of players and field size are all adjusted according to age.

Where to play

If you want to get involved in teams and properly officiated games then joining a soccer club is the way to go. My kids have always played at Dash Sports and when they were older they joined the Oakville Soccer Club. These type of options are somewhat expensive and require that you have soccer cleats and shin pads. Uniforms are provided by the club.

The club organizes weekly games which are officiated by referees and also practices.  There are also Muslim youth soccer clubs. You can check out Muslim Youth Soccer League for more information on these.

Health benefits

There are definite benefits to playing soccer. It’s an aerobic sport providing a ton of cardiovascular activity which is very necessary in this era of video gaming and television. With ball control drills, great emphasis is placed on balance and coordination. As many clubs have indoor facilities, games can be played year round.  Safety is paramount and during the summer outdoor season, games are cancelled or rescheduled when it’s too hot to play or there is a chance of thunderstorms or lightning.

Character Building

Having coached both girls and boys team in a non-competitive environment, I find that it teaches more social skills than swimming. One simply cannot play without team work and cooperation. It’s ideal in bringing out those shy children, who are perhaps not as athletic. They feel that they are indeed a vital component of the team and are making a great contribution. It takes the pressure off the individual child as it’s a more cohesive play

It teaches fair play. Soccer clubs are very strict about there being no physical altercations in any game. It’s a beautiful sight for a coach to see kids smiling and laughing with each other. Parents usually sit on the opposite side of the players so that the coaching is left to the coach only.

The kids learn how to take instruction, allow others to have a turn when they are rotated out and also to support their team members when they are off the field. For new immigrants I have found that amazing friendships have bloomed among children through soccer

Parents can volunteer to be a coach. It’s a rewarding opportunity to bond with your family and community. As adults we must lead by example.  If we are glued to our seats then we cannot expect our children to be different. There is nothing better than taking a dip in the fresh water or passing a ball around. Try it. Let us know about your experiences. You won’t regret it.


About the author:

Muneezah Jawad is the Social Media Manager at


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