Recreation activities for ‘tweens’ at issue

A La Jolla mom, worried that middle-school children are being overlooked by La Jolla’s community recreation facilities, says she wonders if others share her concern.

Julie Coan of Bird Rock, whose children are ages 7, 8 and 11, questioned the availability of recreational opportunities in the Jewel for “tweens” - children ages 9 to 15 - in a recent e-mail to the Light.

“It’s too bad we don’t have an indoor gymnasium in La Jolla,” Coan said.

Children, especially girls that age, she added, end up being forced to travel to North County, Del Mar, the La Jolla YMCA or rec centers in Clairemont or Pacific Beach to participate in volleyball or other indoor recreational sports.

Middle-school children are a tough age group to accommodate, said Jason Milosh, department head at La Jolla YMCA.

“Ages 9 to 15, there’s a wide range of capabilities physically, emotionally, socially and mentally,” he pointed out. “So programming is challenging.”

The Y, he added, offers a multitude of “tweens” programming: sports like swimming and gymnastics, even off-beat, social-oriented things like youth government and model United Nations.

‘Variety the key’

The organization has found that diversity is the key to involving youth of those ages. “You’ve got to offer a lot of different things, both competitively and non-competitively, to attract them,” Milosh said. “At that age they’re not sure what they’re interested in because they’re so distracted dealing with hormonal adjustments, peer pressure and technology and so much information as they’re moving into adulthood.”

While aware of offerings like those at the YMCA and other facilities, Coan said she’s most concerned about what’s available in the Village area for children like her own.

In particular, she noted, preliminary plans recently unveiled for a long-term, multiphase renovation at the La Jolla Rec Center don’t include adding any indoor facilities.

Coan said she realizes it is a historical building and that certain parts of it can’t be touched.

More landscaping?

“But the La Jolla Rec Center does not need more landscaping and more tot lots,” she said, asking, “Why isn’t this rec center as equipped as other rec centers?”

Dianne Brittingham, the center’s director, said the nearly 100-year-old center does everything it can to accommodate middle-school youth, but between budget cuts and physical limitations of the aging facility, only so much can be done.

“We have tried classes with teenagers but they just don’t come and sign up,” she said. “This rec center with its three playgrounds is really geared toward the 2- to 8- or 9-year-old span.”

Nonetheless, middle-schoolers do use the La Jolla facility, sometimes heavily.

“You’ll see 50 to 100 junior high kids here every Friday on the basketball courts and the soccer fields,” Brittingham said.

Off to PB

Since the La Jolla center has neither a gym nor playing fields for older children, they’re typically sent to their “sister” rec center in Pacific Beach to fulfill their recreational needs.

Richard Crider, director of that center at 1405 Diamond St., confirmed he gets a lot of La Jolla early- and mid-teen referrals.

“They’re probably about 15 percent of our total,” he said, “and that’s growing.”

Chip Rome, president of La Jolla Recreation Council that oversees the La Jolla center and Bird Rock Park says as a coastal community, local middle-schoolers have recreational alternatives - surfing and other ocean activities - that are available to them but not to their inland counterparts.

They also have the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex on the La Jolla High campus.

Pool time

“We have all sorts of stuff - coached club swim teams for age groups, water polo for boys and girls,” said Randy Franke, aquatics director. “And there’s always the opportunity to come down and swim.”

Coan, the Bird Rock mother, said she hopes local foundations or other fundraising groups might take up the cause of increasing recreational opportunities for middle-schoolers.

Though she doesn’t have time to get more personally involved with promoting recreation opportunities in town, she’d like to get together with others to discuss the issue and share concerns. She can be reached at

Basketball players fill the courts at La Jolla Recreation Center, where one mother thinks there should be more ‘tween’ programs.