So much for those lazy days of summer we experienced as youth, huh? These days, if you have an athlete in the house, summer is consumed by travel ball. Whether your kids play softball, baseball, soccer, field hockey or any other sport, they are expected to play year round in order to stay competitive If your summer is being hijacked by your kid’s sports team, here are five tips imperative to your survival.
1. Be realistic with your schedule and budget before committing.
Before committing to a travel team, be sure to understand expectations for both players and their parents. (If your season is already full-tilt, it may be a little too late for this advice.) Some summer programs carry A & B teams with varying commitment levels. Find one that will fit your summer lifestyle and budget.
Don’t commit to a competitive team with a demanding schedule if you are not willing and able to follow through. Don’t commit to a team that requires hotel stays due to tournament location if you cannot afford to stay in a hotel. Don’t guilt the coach or other players into letting you crash in their already-paid-for hotel room. If budget is a concern, work out the details in advance. Some teams will allow external fund raising for individual players. Be realistic with both your schedule and budget BEFORE committing to a team.
2) Get your vehicle ready.
Be sure to service your vehicle properly prior to tournament road trips. Have an auto emergency kit in the trunk, as well as a spare tire. If you’re not the type to change your own tires, be sure to have a current auto club membership, such as AAA; there’s nothing worse than getting stuck with car trouble on a road trip. If space permits, team up with another parent and their player in order to share gas expenses along with driving duties. Program the coach’s phone number into your contacts, just in case you do run into trouble.
Once you’ve prepared the car itself, start thinking about activities and snacks for the trip. Create playlists in advance. If you cannot agree on music, allow the kids to use an mp3 player with ear buds; there’s a time and place for radio wars and a road trip isn’t it. Road trips will feel much quicker when everyone in the vehicle is happy and comfortable.
3) Prepare for the weather.
One of the biggest challenges about playing in the summer is an obvious one: heat. It’s not just hot for the players, but for parents sitting out in the sun all day as well. Remember to apply and re-apply sunscreen and to stay hydrated. Freeze water bottles overnight before a tournament day so that you have plenty of cold water on hand.
Parents might also consider invest in a rolling cooler and stocking it with healthy food choices: chilled fresh fruit, nuts, salads, granola bars, sandwiches, etc. This can save time, money and energy.
4) Check out the lay of the land.
Do a little research about the tournament and its location. Know where to buy gas and supplies, if needed. If you typically rely solely on your GPS, have a backup plan if it stops working due to overheating when left on the dashboard of your car and/or if you are in a low-service area—it happens. Print or write down general directions on paper just in case.
5) Try to have fun.
Remember that your child is playing a sport; it is supposed to be fun. Maintain a healthy perspective and prepare in advance. If you choose to commit to a summer travel schedule, don’t be resentful that it is taking up your summer.
Try to be supportive of the coaching staff, even if you think you could do better; in most cases, they are volunteering their time. Remember that they are human and can get overwhelmed at times—offer to help.
Parents should also be friendly with other parents. Do your best to create a cooperative and positive environment for coaches, players and other parents. You will be spending a lot of time with the team and their families, so learn to have fun with them.
Years from now when you’re free to have lazy summer days again, you might just miss these days of having your summer hijacked by your kid’s sports team.