Tips for Sports Parents
It doesn’t matter if you have a child in soccer, football, volleyball, dance, cheerleading, equestrian, or even golf, the life of a Sports Parent is hectic! Let’s also include drama, computer club, chess club, Bible study, swimming, track, and every other possible extracurricular activity a child wants to do. They are too many to list here! While we want to encourage children in their pursuits, we want to stay sane while doing it. Many parents work on top of juggling grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments, and household chores. Face it, the expectations of society to do all the things are unrealistic.
How do we allow our children the opportunities presented by sports and interest clubs while managing our regular day-to-day responsibilities? After 20 years of being a Sports Parent, I want to give you some tips.
- Get Organized
At the start of every season, I sit down and put all the practices and games on the calendar. Not just my calendar, though. We have a shared family calendar on our phones so everyone can see the schedule and get reminders before events start. I also used to keep a wall calendar before the youngest two got their phones, and I color-coded it for each person so we could see at a glance who had something that day.
Some good options for electronic shared calendars are Google Calendar and Cozi. Apple also has a shared calendar if everyone has an iPhone and Family Sharing is turned on. Other apps that can work as a shared calendar or list system are Google Keep and Trello. I’m sure there are others out there, but I’ve personally tried these and know they work. Find something that fits your family’s style, then have a quick family meeting so everyone can download the app and learn to use it.
Pro tip: To get your family used to checking the calendar, simply ask them if they looked at the calendar when they ask you what the day’s schedule is. Within a few days, you will all be calendar pros!
- Meal Planning
I suppose that technically this is part of getting organized, but it really needs to be addressed separately. At some point, you will find yourself rushing out the door to practice only to remember you didn’t thaw the chicken for dinner. There’s only so much fast food you can eat before your body starts to feel sluggish. This is the time to embrace the culture of slow cookers, instant pots, and freezer meals.
Take 15 minutes once a week to plan your meals, make a grocery list, and thaw out any meat for the week. Look for recipes that are easy and quick, cooked in the crockpot, or that can be made ahead. Take an additional 30-60 minutes to prep as much of the meals as you can, such as chopping vegetables.
Need inspiration? Six Sisters Stuff has compiled a list of 10 slow cooker freezer meals that you can assemble in an hour. What could be easier?
Pro tip: Don’t freeze the freezer meals. Prep them, keep them in the fridge, and dump in the crockpot on your way out the door in the morning.
- Everyone Pitches In
Last year, I shared how to share the mental burden of running a house. It was specifically for a partnership, but children can help, too. Kids as young as three years old can do simple chores. Granted, you will spend a lot of time helping them initially, but as they get older, they will be more independent. It is good for children to help take care of household tasks. It teaches them responsibility and work ethic, and they appreciate you and what they have a lot more.
While your child is doing their chores, you can be nearby working on something that needs to be done, such as making that meal plan. It takes some of the burden off of you while your child is learning skills they will need as adults. It might be a fight at first if you are just introducing this concept, but stick with it as the rewards will be worth it! My children all do their own laundry on their assigned day, take care of all the animals with little help, do the dishes, and even cook dinner once a week. We make adjustments based on their schedules, though, so if they’re overburdened with homework and sports, they aren’t also feeling overwhelmed at home.
There are many articles out there that list suggested chores by age, but here’s something to get you started.
Ages 3-5 can feed pets, dust, remove laundry from the dryer and help fold it, empty the dishwasher (remove any sharp knives first), and pick up toys.
Ages 6-10 can wash, dry, and put away laundry, load and empty the dishwasher, and take out the trash.
Ages 11 and up can help prepare or even cook meals, help younger siblings with their chores, mow the lawn, vacuum, sweep, and mop.
Pro tip: Create a chore chart. Make a photo one for younger children, one with photos and words for beginning readers, and then just words for older kids. You can print it off, slip it into a page protector, and they can use a dry-erase marker to check off their chores for the day. At the end of the day or week, wipe it clean, and it’s ready to use again.
- Say No
It seems as soon as our children enter school, we are asked to volunteer in the classroom, for a special event, or even as a coach. Your church, best friend, cousin, or coworker may also ask you to help with things. Saying no when you already have a full schedule is important! You may feel guilty at first, especially if you usually say yes. But after a few times, you will discover that limiting your volunteer work will be empowering.
I’m not saying never to volunteer, but consider a few questions before you say yes:
- Is it important to you? If it’s something you’re passionate about, go for it! If you’re doing it out of a sense of obligation, gently bow out.
- Can someone else do it? Frequently, people ask the first person they see or think of when they realize they need help. Is it possible another parent has more time and can do the job just as well? Let them have the opportunity.
- Do you have time? I don’t mean can you squeeze it in your schedule between work and taking your child to baseball practice. Do you truly have the time needed to dedicate to the project? If not, then do not agree to help.
Pro tip: You do not owe anyone an explanation for why you can’t help. This includes family and close friends! A simple, “I’m sorry, I can’t help right now” is good enough. If they pressure you for a reason, say you don’t have the time needed to do a good job. Keeping your response straightforward and short will help to ease your mental burden.
- One At A Time
With four children, I had to make a rule of one extracurricular activity per child at any one time. Some might find this harsh, but frequently my husband worked out of town or long hours, and it was up to me to get them to practice, games, and performances. I would enlist my family and friends as I could, but they were busy with their own lives. There were times I had to choose which child’s game I went to, as schedules sometimes overlapped.
Creating this rule ensured that my children picked what they were most interested in and allowed me a little breathing room in my schedule. As they’ve gotten older and started driving or even moved out and had families of their own, this rule is more relaxed. Now, if the schedule permits, they can do pretty much whatever activity they desire.
Each family will feel differently about this, but I want to put it here for those who might feel swapped in football, scouts, karate, and chess club. It is okay to ask your children to pick just one or two activities and let the rest go. This also gives your child some space to just be a kid. Contrary to popular belief, children do not have to be busy all the time to be happy. In fact, children thrive from downtime and even boredom. That’s when their creativity and imaginations are the most accessible.
Pro tip: If your child is having a hard time choosing between activities, help them make a Pros and Cons list. Then they can pick the thing that most interests them.
There are many more tips and tricks out there for Sports Parents, but these are the ones I have found to be most effective and sustainable. Regardless if your child is just starting extracurricular activities or if you’re an expert Soccer Mom like me, doing these five things will make the season less stressful so you can both enjoy it more. You may even discover that you continue to follow these recommendations in the off-season.