Sports Brew: Skokie athletics go global

May 1, 2016 06:10 AM

When park district athletic director Bob DeLeonardis was growing up, the four major professional American sports were practically the only games in town. Now, the Skokie Park District’s offerings look like the town’s population: tremendously diverse, unique and exciting.

“This park district offers more athletics choices than I can sometimes keep track of,” said DeLeonardis. “We have something for nearly every demographic in the village.”

The newest offering to hit the district is cricket, one of the world’s oldest sports. With ambitious plans to increase adult programming of the sport in the near future, the district is now offering “Cricket Camp” for kids ages 7–15. Featuring an introduction to the 500-year-old international bat-and-ball game, campers will learn rules, basic skills, and tactics.

Tennis originated in France in the 12th century. Today, tennis director Mir Rahim offers an enormous Skokie program, catering to ages 4– adult, with classes, clinics and lessons offered at three tennis venues around Skokie. Rugby, a British sport that evolved into American football in the 1800s, is also relatively new to Skokie. Kids ages 4–14 can now sample ‘Youth Non-Contact Rugby,’ this summer at Old Orchard Jr. High. And ‘Hot Shots Sports’ teaches skill development and a love of sports to kids ages 2–12. The programs include basketball, soccer, t-ball, kickball and football.

Pickleball — a tennis and paddleball hybrid sport — is one of the fastest growing sports in Skokie — and the nation.

“Pickleball was an instant hit with our adult population,” said DeLeonardis. “We now offer a Thursday class, drop-in play at the Weber Leisure Center, and four outdoor courts at parks throughout the district.”

The district also features an extensive martial arts program (including an afterschool club for grades 1–8), fencing, and a wildly popular table tennis (invented in England) program at the Weber Leisure Center.

“The Table Tennis Club fills up half of the Weber Gym, four times a week,” said program coordinator Kim Reynolds. “And you can catch some amazing drop-in action nearly every morning on two tables in the Weber Gym lobby.”

The Weber Gym fills the rest of its time with open gym and adult league volleyball and basketball, indoor soccer leagues, indoor tot sports classes, youth league basketball and batting cage rentals. Additionally, adult league softball is played in the summer and fall at several district softball fields.


For those looking for a fun family event, check out the World Wiffle®Ball Championship at Channelside Park, July 9–10. Recently featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter, the oldest and largest wiffleball tournament in the nation is not just for experienced young men; the tournament also caters to male and female beginners, ages 10-70 . If running the bases is not your thing, drop by Oakton Park and try your hand at petanque at targets.

The district also enlists the help of affiliate organizations, in order to offer families more youth options. Check out our summer program guide for information about AYSO Soccer, Skokie Indians Little League and Skokie Youth baseball and softball, and page 33 for gymnastics classes, held in Morton Grove with resident rates for Skokie residents.

Looking to the future of athletic leagues in Skokie, DeLeonardis plans to organize a youth travel basketball league for players in grades 5–8. Stay tuned for information regarding the potential new league.

So check out pages 22–33 to find a program that will get your body moving and your competitive juices flowing. At the Skokie Park District we specialize in helping you to learn and play just about every game and sport imaginable!

For more information about athletics in Skokie, contact Bob DeLeonardis at (847) 929-7183 or at

In addition to the Skokie Park District’s athletics program, please see pages 3–19, where the district’s specialized sports facilities offer swimming, rowing, golf, figure skating, hockey, and a full service fitness center with exercise studios.

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