Is There A Better Way To Sparent (Sports Parent)?
My kids’ sports take up so much time and money that it can start to feel as though sports are ruling our lives. There’s not a lot of “me or we” time between driving three kids to dozens of practices each week, working a full-time job, making dinners (or picking them up), errands, grocery shopping, not to mention co-running a website – one can really find themselves grinding it out and just getting by. Finding the time or energy to feel productive and healthy or connected to friends and family seems like a distant dream. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes we just need a change of perspective or a little creativity to turn some of those negatives into positives.
Here are four suggestions for taking a fresh look and approach to some of the yuckiest parts of competitive youth sports (for the parents).
- ALL THE DRIVING. Yes, this sucks. Yes, I complain about this ALL the time. But what if instead of just mindless driving and complaining, we did something with that time? What if we took it upon ourselves and our young athlete to learn a language or listen to and discuss a book we both like or a podcast on topics that interest you both? It’s a pretty simple process; most cars’ Bluetooth hooks right into your phone on which you can easily load up programs to play through your car. My favorites are: Tumble, a podcast that brings science to life with funny stories and Duolingo.com a website with free language apps.
- The LONG periods of time in between games. Instead of camping out at the local Panera Bread and watching your cleated kids run through the restaurant aisles for three hours, you could discover a local attraction with your child; a simple Google search will let you know if there are any museums or areas of interest. Or plan ahead with some team-bonding games and exercises. Maybe this task can be rotated to different parents. Have your child bring along their homework to study. For the techy teams, you could use the down time for a film session with your coach in a restaurant or at the field under a tent. All of these take some planning ahead, but they truly aren’t that difficult to execute.
- PRACTICE. Instead of plopping down and watching your child do drills and analyzing their every move, use that time to make you more efficient in your daily life. Do your grocery shopping for the week (bring cooler bags for perishables). Get your mani-pedi out of the way, work out at the field or nearby gym, read a book, call the grandparents and old friends from the car, pay your bills, practice meditation. Do anything that improves your life instead of sitting and watching practice.
- THE MONEY. Youth sports is a big business and there is no way around a lot of the costs. But here are a few ideas to help your bank account and your conscience. Find a program to donate used sporting equipment. A few options that exist…Passback, Let’s Play It Forward, or Leveling The Playing Field. And to save a few bucks, especially if your child is trying a sport for the first time, shop at a used sporting goods store. You can easily pick up everything you need at one of these stores and for a fraction of the price: Play It Again Sports, EBay Sports, or take matters into your own hands and try an exchange: Swap Me Sports or Sideline Swap.
As someone wise once said, “When life gives you lemons, ask for salt and tequila!