Surviving Busy Sports Seasons Edition
This may be the most advice-y thing I’ve written, which is funny considering how we scramble to keep things together this time of year. These are things I’ve noticed work for our family when I do them. They may or may not be of any use to you. You may sit down to a gourmet meal together with ample time for travel and arrive at your activities on time. (And if so, I may wonder if you possess alien DNA.)
To my mind, this is the key to a satisfying outing for the whole family. Family dinner time is a high priority for us, but when after-school activities and evening sports events encroach on the dinner hour, planning is key. Grabbing something on the fly is one way to handle it, but our dining-out budget is lean, and with a family of six, we’re likely to exceed our limit with only a couple of meals out. The best solution I’ve found is to plan the week’s menu in advance, choosing meals and recipes based on the amount of prep and cooking time required and events on the calendar. I work backwards from game time, calculating time for warm-ups, travel, and eating. From there I determine what time dinner needs to be on the table. This is always a struggle for me, especially if I have to pick a child up at the conclusion of an after-school activity. When I get it right, it makes for smoother sailing. If time is really crunched, your plan can include a picnic dinner for the spectators and a take-along meal for the athlete.
Bring Snacks & Drinks
Spectators inevitably get thirsty. And hungry. Especially kids who snubbed their noses at dinner. I make sure each child is armed with a water bottle. When I’m on the ball, I’ve also got a secret stash of giant chocolate chips cookies for dessert. While concession stand profits often benefit the players, resorting to the “confession stand” as on of my kids sometimes calls it, can be a recipe for disaster both financially and nutritionally. By going prepared, the kids get to indulge in an occasional Ring Pop or other treat without every complaint of “I’m thirsty” or “My tummy’s grumbling,” resulting in dehydration or the loss of a ten spot and consumption of a questionably-cooked hot dog.
Keep It In the Car
If you’ll need it regularly – or unexpectedly – during the season, keep it in the car. That includes camp chairs or a blanket, jackets, umbrellas and rain gear, sunscreen, sunglasses, and stuff to amuse the little ones when there isn’t a nearby playground, such as bubble solution or a ball. We keep the baseball gear bag in the car, too. The only tricky part is when vehicles are swapped.
Designate A Place for Dirty Uniforms
Ask me how I know this is important. Go ahead. Last week, my softball player put half of her uniform in one hamper and the other half in another. Result? Only half was clean and dry in time for her game. I’ve since instructed everyone to put dirty uniforms in their proper hampers. I’m also quick to remind a kid when a not-so-dirty uniform can be worn again if there is a game the following day and it looks like getting laundry done beforehand is unlikely.
If There’s an App for It, Use It
Both the baseball and softball teams my children play for use the same app, Sport Ngin. (It’s phonetic, en-jen, not an abbreviated form of noggin.) Now that I have a smart phone, I love this app. Practice and game schedules, locations, times, and opponents are all at my fingertips – and mobile to boot. This sure beats the times I’ve driven to the wrong field or been unable to receive a cancellation email. Short of using an app, it’ll help if everyone has their calendars synced.
I don’t think our family could handle travel supports for many reasons. Not only are we not producing highly-competitive athletes, but the time and financial costs for us would simply be too high. If it works for your family, great! I mean that. In our case, our children are playing sports simply to learn, get some exercise, and have fun. I’m thrilled that my son’s baseball games are almost exclusively played within five to ten minutes driving time from our home. My daughter’s away games have us traveling a bit farther, but not by too much. And except for rare occasions, no games or practices are scheduled on Sundays.
Don’t Sweat Missing a Game
When my husband played baseball as a kid, the coach drove around and picked up the boys, loading them into the back of his pick-up truck to take them to the game. Parents weren’t even involved. In my case, one parent usually came to my softball games. When I played high school volleyball, I think my parents came to senior night. Things have changed. No more riding around in pick-up beds. Parents are now spotted watching every game and sometimes even practice. All things considered, kids appreciate having their parents cheer them on, and parents enjoy seeing their children’s progress. But it’s okay to recognize that sometimes dividing up the family is necessary due to simultaneous events, work schedules, illness, etc. Sometimes locations with playgrounds for the wee ones will determine who goes where. Sometimes weather will interfere, and you simply can’t keep the baby out in thirty-degree weather for two hours. It’s okay if both parents aren’t present for every minute of every game. Can a teammate’s family give your kid a lift? Great. If the family misses some games here and there, the child won’t be scarred. I’m living proof.
What tips do you have for surviving a busy sports season with kids?
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