As the edges of the housing areas in the beautiful Mesilla Valley continue to stretch farther and farther, the community maintains the feel and connection of the small town it once was, which is why it is a wonderful place to raise a family. A big part of this tight-knit community is youth athletics. During the pandemic, youth sporting events were missed both by the kids who play the games and by their parents — as the kids were running wild indoors instead of blowing off steam outside. Now that sports are back in full swing, many options are yours to choose from in the greater Las Cruces area. Here are a few suggestions to get your kids out and active!
Meerscheidt Recreation Center Activities
Hadley Avenue is the corridor and Meerscheidt Recreation Center (1600 E. Hadley Ave.) is the hub where most kids of Las Cruces enter their first athletic competitions. Meerscheidt, operated by the City of Las Cruces, hosts numerous sports for kids, including basketball, flag football, soccer, T-ball, baseball, softball, and volleyball, and also facilitates hiking treks, maintains the skatepark and BMX track, and provides many more activities that pop up throughout the year.
“Meerscheidt is the place where kids can discover what sports they like or dislike,” Recreation Manager Judy Barela explains. “We want the inexperienced. We want kids to try as many sports as they can before jumping to more competitive leagues or club teams.”
Meerscheidt has been a place for generations of athletes to start their journey toward physical fitness and education. It is a centralized venue with affordable programs, and parents can enjoy seeing their kids grow socially and personally through the cheers of victory, the agony of defeat, and the joy of playing sports with their peers.
There are a lot of little hoopsters around the City of Crosses, and leagues at all levels with opportunities for them to shoot, pass, and dribble their hearts out. The Southwest League was started years ago by Keith Whiteley to create stiffer competition for kids who are looking to take their game to the next level. The Southwest League offers leagues for boys and girls from kindergarten to eighth grade, depending on the number of participating teams. “The more the merrier,” Keith said when asked how many teams he wanted in Southwest League this upcoming season. “The more kids we get in the gym, the better the league gets.” For registration information, contact Keith at [email protected]
The Big Time Hoops Showcase is a program for young women ballers put on by Matt Abney, the head coach for girls’ basketball at Centennial High School. Coach Abney has been an extremely successful coach in Las Cruces for many years and created this unique opportunity for players to get maximum exposure in front of college coaches and scouts. This showcase is available to any sophomore, junior, or senior girl on their high school varsity team. “Last year we had 16 scholarships given to players,” Coach Abney says, “and that is what all this is about, keeping the dream alive.” For more information, go to bigtimehoops.com.
Gym Magic Kids
For more than two decades, Gym Magic Kids has been a Las Cruces institution starting kiddos off on the right track athletically and educationally. Swim, dance, and of course gymnastics are all staples of the athletic programs available at Gym Magic Kids, and children are welcome at very early ages to join these programs. Additionally, Gym Magic Kids offers Open Gym Nights, Nerf Nights, Ninja Nights, as well as a Swim Night Out. This facility has dedicated owners and a great staff that make for a positive environment for kids to learn and grow through physical activity. You can get a full list of their programs and pricing at gymmagic.com.
We have four golf courses in our area, and with more than 300 days of sunshine on average each year, golf is an easy-to-access activity for kids in our community. Las Cruces has the largest PGA Junior League in the country, thanks to Henry Stetina, director of instruction at Red Hawk Golf Course, and a sponsorship from Dick’s Sporting Goods. The PGA Junior League provides instruction by NMSU PGA Golf Management students, golf clubs for those that need them, and time on the course. “Golf is a fantastic sport,” Henry remarks. “There is no reason more kids shouldn’t be playing it.” For information, visit redhawkgc.com.
A new league has come to Las Cruces offering young players the chance to play football without full contact. Julian Rodriguez left his law enforcement career and founded the TexMex NZone league. NZone is a successful national franchise in business since 2012, and Julian started the Borderland chapter in 2020. Launching his business during the pandemic, Julian was apprehensive about what type of community participation there would be. However, he was blown away by how many parents and kids turned out.
“Las Cruces loves sports,” Julian chuckled. “We are averaging about 200 kids a season here in Cruces, and only about half of that in the El Paso league.”
NZone has three different seasons for each of its featured sports: flag football, soccer, and cheerleading. The philosophy of NZone is for kids to develop a love for sports and not be a “win at all cost” league.
“We like to be competitive, but we focus on character building and the kids having fun,” Julian professed. “We have the best of both worlds. I mean, kids are supposed to have fun playing sports.” To register your kid, visit nzonesports.com/texmex.
Martial arts create confidence and self-defense skills that will stay with children their entire lives. Guzman’s Sport Karate and Kickboxing has positively impacted the lives of literally thousands of Las Cruces kids. Eli Guzman is the master sensei and has been voted into two separate combat sports halls of fame over the years. He is proud to share his knowledge and passion with his hometown.
Another contact sport that has taken off in popularity is mixed martial arts (MMA). With the popularity of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), it was only a matter of time before gyms would start popping up all over town. Facilities like Steel Dragon MMA, Wild West Martial Arts and Fitness, and Legacy MMA have found a real attraction to the sport in the Las Cruces community. Legacy MMA opened its doors in 2016, and the influx of new students after the pandemic meant they had to move to a larger facility to accommodate class sizes.
Owners Michelle Soliz and Oscar Tinajero offer classes for kids’ MMA on Mondays and Wednesdays and kids’ judo on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They begin with younger kids, ages 3 – 5, teaching them the basic techniques and skills to succeed in the sport, then progress with a more difficult curriculum for ages 6 and older. According to Michelle, “Our classes don’t just educate our students in judo and MMA. We also help develop social skills, team building skills, and overall life skills throughout.”
Legacy MMA recently hosted the NM Judo Games at Organ Mountain High School for the first time, which excited Oscar and Michelle for the sport’s future in the Mesilla Valley. For more information, visit legacymma575.com.
Children have such great joy when they are playing together, working together, and challenging one another to be the best they can be. Sports create an environment in which all these values can be put to the test!
Story by Daniel Gonzales
Photography by Amanda Gonzales and courtesy
Originally published in Neighbors magazine.
Posted by LasCruces.com