The Parent’s Guide to Surviving Sports Season
Fall is right around the corner, which means it’s only a matter of time before football, soccer, and field hockey season comes back with a vengeance. But regardless of the sport, having a little athlete in the house can be a taxing experience for families; coordinating schedules, prepping meals, and keeping track of gear can be a parent’s worst logistical nightmare. But it doesn’t have to be!
I’ve worked with families who have several children in sports at a time, and the chaos of making sure uniforms are washed and duffels are packed can be overwhelming. So I’ve devised some strategies to help parents navigate the woes of sports season without feeling like they’re always running behind. (And the good news is, if your kids are older, you can have them do some of these steps on their own. One less thing for you to worry about!)
Write Their Names (or Initials) on Every Piece of Equipment.
That goes for helmets, uniforms, gloves, balls, and everything else. This eliminates the “Whose is this?” guessing game and makes children feel more responsible for keeping track of their own gear. I would especially recommend this strategy for families with more than one child in sports at a time.
Store Off-Season Gear in Labeled Bins.
There are few worse things as a parent than not knowing where that super expensive equipment from last season went. Instead, get a large plastic bin and write your kid’s name on it in big, clear letters. Then, when the season is over, wash all equipment, toss everything in there and stash it somewhere dry until next year. (Bonus Tip: give each kid their own bin so you don’t mix items up.)
Be Strategic with Duffel Bags.
When I was a young athlete, I used to hang my duffel behind my bedroom door to keep it off my floor. I know some families who store them vertically in closets, or have bins prepped for kids in their mudroom or entryway to drop their gear in after school. Whatever strategy you choose, make sure it’s something maintainable that keeps bags from getting a) lost and b) damaged.
Have a “Sports-Only” Hamper
This isn’t super necessary if you only have one kid in sports, but it can be a LIFESAVER for bigger families! Get a laundry bag or hamper that’s meant only for uniforms and dirty practice clothes, then pick a specific day to clean them every week. This prevents important clothing from getting lost in the laundry shuffle.
Stay on Top of Paperwork
When kids bring home forms and packets from coaches, don’t toss them onto the heap of random papers in your office. Give them their own home in a labeled folder so you can reference them later.
Make One Gig Calendar
I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone, but it has helped many families avoid confusion as schedules got more complicated. So if you’re interested, look into buying a medium-sized whiteboard and write down where every family member needs to be during the nights of the week. Now everyone can see at a glance what the plan is (or, if something is missing, they can add it to the board).
Go Through Gym Bags and Duffels Once Every Two Weeks
This gives you an opportunity to clear out any trash or dirty clothes that have accumulated, and you can restock supplies like tissues, snacks, sunscreen, etc. (Once a week is even better!)
Pack Lunches and Pre-Game Snacks Before Bed
It’s one less thing you have to keep track of in the morning, and now you can be sure that there’s enough food to last your kiddos through practice.
Remember What It’s All For
Or rather, who it’s all for. Sports allow kids to blow off steam, improve their social and teamwork skills, as well as channel their passions into a collective goal. And it’s often one of the most rewarding facets of childhood. So whenever you start to wonder why you’re putting yourself through all of the trouble, think of your little athlete; maintaining their happiness and stability can be a superb motivator.
If you’re gearing up for sports season and you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of things you’ll have to keep track of, don’t fret. Parents around the world are feeling the stress of returning to school, and just because you feel like you’re drowning doesn’t mean that you are. Pick yourself up and keep up the pace as best you can.
Best of luck to all student-athletes in Fall 2023!