Orlando: A Paradise for Young Athletes

Orlando’s myriad sports facilities make it easy for young athletes to keep up their training while on vacation.

Everybody loves Orlando’s theme parks, right?

“Uh, sort of,” counter my two kids, ages 11 and 16, who are junior golfers competing on an elite level where everyday training is almost a necessity.

Chances are, if you don’t see your adolescent youngsters going bonkers over the announcement of an Orlando vacation, there might be an underlying reason.

My kids are much like a lot of teen and pre-teen athletes these days who are totally immersed in their sports activities. If your kids are competing at a high level, they know they can’t afford to let their skills get rusty. 

Fortunately, in Orlando, there are numerous top-notch facilities to practice in between rubbing shoulders with Mickey, Donald and Shamu, and riding roller coasters and attractions that no youngster should miss. With some solid, pre-trip planning, you can balance an Orlando visit with lots of fun and training time that will keep your young athlete prepared to compete successfully when they return home. Better still, they’re great places for adults to work off some vacation calories: Here are some options:


Situated only four blocks from Universal Orlando, the Lake Cane Tennis Center at Shadow Bay Park is arguably Orlando’s best public facility to play and receive instruction. The complex has 17 lighted hard courts, a pro shop, an instruction program, a ball machine for rental and certified racquet stringers on duty. Several of the local high school teams use the facility for practice and matches, so there’s a good chance your son or daughter can find a game. Lake Cane hosts more than 30 U.S.T.A. sanctioned events yearly. Reservations can be made 24 hours in advance.  Weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. the cost is $4 per court per hour; weekdays 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.-$6 per court per hour; weekends 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.-$6 per court per hour. Contact information: 5108 Turkey Lake Road; tel. 407-254-9170; www.lakecanetennis.com


Orlando has more than 100 golf courses within a 30 mile radius of the city, so there is no shortage of places to tee up. What junior golfers and their parents need are places where they can walk, since junior tournaments don’t allow participants to ride in a golf cart.

Some of the courses in the area that allow walking are the 9-hole Oak Trail Walking Course at Walt Disney World, the 9-hole Winter Park Golf Club in Winter Park and the 18-hole Winter Pines Golf Club in Winter Park. Other possibilities include, Celebration Golf Club near Walt Disney World, which is junior friendly with a special set of tees for juniors and a mini 3-hole course for the pee wee set; Faldo Golf Institute, with 35 acres of practice grounds and a 9-hole course; and Grand Cypress Academy of Golf, a 21-acre practice facility with three Jack Nicklaus designed practice holes. Contact: www.orlandocvb.com.

Volleyball, Basketball, Baseball, Football and Lacrosse

The Champions Sports Complex, a 92,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art training facility, co-owned by former Cincinnati great Barry Larkin and former Boston Celtics star Dee Brown, is a five-minute drive from International Drive, Orlando’s main tourism corridor. The expansive facility has a wood floor gymnasium with eight volleyball courts and four basketball courts, indoor, synthetic turf fields for football, soccer, lacrosse, softball and baseball, and automated batting cages ($30 for 30 minutes). There’s also a full-service restaurant, conference rooms and a sports rehabilitation center. Personal training sessions are available in all sports. Contact: 6700 Kings Point Parkway; tel. 407-351-9700; www.championssportscomplex.com.

Horseback Riding

The Grand Cypress Equestrian Center at Grand Cypress Resort has a 44-stall barn, lighted covered arena, outdoor jumping ring and dressage area, four tack rooms, riding trails, and features both Western and English riding experiences. Contact: 1 Equestrian Drive; tel. 407-239-1938; www.grandcypress.com.


For advanced skateboarders looking for some big air, Vans Skatepark has a 25,000 square-foot indoor street course with pyramids, step ups, rails, ledges and a verticle ramp. Contact: 5220 International Drive; tel. 407-351-3881; www.vans.com.


Designed for wakeboarding, wakeskating and waterskiing, the Orlando Watersports Complex, near the Orlando International Airport, features a cable system that can pull skiers up to 36 m.p.h. The cable park has a full-size, competition standard, six-buoy slalom course. In addition, skiers can train behind Ski and Air Nautiques, headed by a professional coaching staff. Contact: 8615 Florida Rock Road; tel. 407-251-3100; www.orlandowatersports.com.

Disney Sports

It’s a good bet that if your child is an accomplished athlete, he or she will eventually compete in a national event at Disney’s Wide World of Sports, a world-class, Olympic-style, 220-acre facility that hosts more than 170 amateur and professional events a year, including many AAU competitions. The sprawling complex encompasses a basketball field house, baseball fields, football and soccer fields, track and field complex, cross country course and tennis courts. Personal training available. Contact: 800 South Victory Way; tel. 407-828-3267; www.disneyworldsports.com.

Destinations: Florida, Orlando

Themes: Family Travel, Golf

Activities: Golf, Horseback Riding, Tennis