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When After-School Activities Are Also Shut Down

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

School is out for millions of kids, and so are after-school activities like dance classes, piano lessons and sports. And the challenges schools are facing moving academic lessons online are just as complicated for activities that often center on kids playing and competing together. In the D.C. area, some coaches and instructors are finding creative ways to keep kids active and involved. Kavitha Cardoza has this report.

JESSYKA BAGDON: Can you skootch your camera down a little, Emmy (ph), so I can see more of you?

KAVITHA CARDOZA, BYLINE: Jessyka Bagdon is teaching tap dancing classes online. She's an instructor at Knock On Wood Tap Studio in Washington, D.C. When the lockdown came, Bagdon had to work through a host of logistical challenges - what to do about kids who didn't own their own tap shoes? Turns out Mary Jane flats work well. How to tap at home without ruining the floor? Dancing on a piece of plywood does the trick. And what to do about the fact that online programs like Zoom are designed for meetings, not dance classes?

BAGDON: They're made to pick up voices, and so how do we make the system not filter out our tap sound as background noise?

CARDOZA: Bagdon stops. She's noticed 5-year-old Emmeline (ph) has wandered off screen. Some challenges have nothing to do with technology.

BAGDON: Emmy. How come you're not dancing with us, my friend?

EMMELINE: I am.

BAGDON: Sometimes you go away, and I can't tell if you're dancing or not.

EMMELINE: Well...

BAGDON: You're still dancing with us, though?

EMMELINE: Well, sometimes I'm going to get a drink of milk.

BAGDON: Oh, I see. That's what it is. OK, got it. Just checking. Just checking.

CARDOZA: The pandemic has also brought together groups that usually compete. Sixty local soccer clubs have banded together to form DMV United. One pledge - coaches won't recruit players during the shutdown.

Sixteen-year-old Ava Morales of Bethesda, Md., was looking forward to showing off her skills this month in front of hundreds of college recruiters. But instead of being in Arizona, she's stuck at home.

AVA MORALES: We're, like, all best friends, so it's, like, heartbreaking that we can't spend time together anymore and that our season is basically canceled.

CARDOZA: Tommy Park with the Alexandria Soccer Association in Virginia says coaches have shared different online workouts as well as apps that focus on specific soccer skills.

TOMMY PARK: The apps allow you to log how many juggles you have on the ball in a row and then log that. You know, maybe you can only get five the first time, and then you see your teammate got eight. You try to get nine, and you see all of your teammates' progress.

CARDOZA: Some players are reviewing championship games. Some are making Instagram videos of soccer tricks. Others are reading about sports psychology. But Matt Libber with the Maryland SoccerPlex is clear - this isn't a substitute for the adrenaline of actually being on the field. He says some things definitely don't translate, like the importance of losing sometimes.

MATT LIBBER: You know, competing online or through Instagram or something like that, yeah, you're losing, but you're not really losing. Just - I think we're losing some of those life lessons that, you know, if you learn them as a kid, it makes being an adult so much easier.

CARDOZA: For NPR News, I'm Kavitha Cardoza in Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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