I can’t believe Spring 2022 is on the horizon! If your family calendar looks anything like mine, it is already getting filled with practices and games. For my household, baseball is already stirring and cranking up the busyness of the season. Other spring sports include track, baseball, soccer, softball, tennis, lacrosse, and more. Moms, get ready! We are going to spend significant time on fields or at ballparks in the coming months.
I have had the pleasure of watching at least one child in spring activities for the last eight years. I want to be the best cheerleader for my littles. The gears of my planner brain are turning to make the most of the coming days. The days are indeed long. It is not uncommon for us to arrive at parks before sunrise and finish championship games around midnight.
The word I can’t overemphasize regarding these marathon days is Preparation. It sounds cliche but I guarantee preparation is key. Whenever I fail to prepare appropriately, the entire day feels out of sorts. It is paramount during the sport seasons that I keep a running list of to-dos in my phone’s notes and reminders app. Here I will share a portion of that list to help lighten your load on practice and game days.
For the Athlete
Ensure your player has his or her gear ready to go the night before leaving. He or she may be able handle this responsibility solo based on age. However, my littles are not there yet. My husband and I work together to ensure the uniforms and gear are accounted for when it is time to load the van. We tend to be extra cautious by having an extra set of pants or shorts with us on game day. Other gear on my checklists includes the following:
- body protection
- water bottles
For the Environment
It is well known that Alabama weather can change among all four seasons in one day. Be aware of the weather in the city you will play. There have been times I needed both a fan and heater on the same day! Tents function as protection from sun, cold temps, wind, and rain.
Not all parks have bleachers, so I must have chairs and blankets with me. I prefer my chairs to have some cushion in the seat, a cup holder, and pockets for storage. In those pockets or my carry-all bag, I keep sunscreen, bug spray, and sanitizer. My nose and my feet have both been crisped by the sun when I didn’t remember to bring or apply sunscreen. As the temperatures rise, expect to see more gnats and mosquitoes. The bug spray will be clutch. Hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes are great because the bathrooms don’t always have working soap dispensers. I purchased a wagon to help carry these items that are necessary for braving the elements.
I’ll be the first to admit that concession stand snacks can be good, but over the course of the season you will be surprised by how much you’re spending on eating out. I’m a sucker for a good funnel cake and snow cone, but neither my waistline or pocketbook need them on the regular. When visiting new parks, I like to know if coolers containing outside food and drinks are allowed. If allowed, I get the whole family involved in picking out and packing their favorite snacks. I like easy to pack, easy to travel treats. I try to include protein, fruits, something salty, and something sweet.
- Protein: jerky, ham sandwiches, meat roll-ups
- Fruit: grapes, watermelon, oranges, apples, bananas
- Salty: chips, popcorn, cheese, sunflower seeds
- Sweets: snack cakes, cookies, candy that won’t melt in the heat
It is important to keep the refrigerated items at the right temperature. I need the cooler to keep drinks cold and have a separate compartment to keep food cold. The food should not swim in melted ice. I recently learned about freezing drinks at home the night before to save on the amount of ice required. Also, if you must buy water from the concession stand but want added flavor, pack your own flavored powder to add to the bottles. Lastly, in my carry-all bag I have napkins, plastic utensils, and small trash bags.
For Sibling Entertainment
With my crew it is inevitable that there will be a bored younger sibling at some point during the day. If I am not careful, my younger two will eat all the snacks within minutes of arriving at practice or showing up for games, so I have to plan for their shorter attention spans. It is always a bonus when a playground is near the field. The slides, swings, and games of hide or seek usually make the hours fly by for the younger spectators.
When a playground isn’t in the vicinity, I bring out the stash of activities. I like to run by a dollar store and find bubbles, coloring books, crayons, chalk, small balls, puzzles, dry erase boards, and travel games. The trick is to bring these out one at a time, spaced throughout the day to keep it fresh. Also, be wary of using sidewalk chalk. Some facilities prohibit its use on their grounds.
On occasion, the kids will bring their tablets. The tablets are a great distraction, but remember to bring chargers. We were glad to be sitting near an outlet at one tournament last year. After that weekend I ordered portable charging banks to keep on hand. The portable chargers are also needed for our phones after draining the battery from taking videos and photos throughout the day.
For the Team
Coaches, other kids, and other parents need support. Week to week, I meet other amazing parents. I encourage you to bring a friendly face and lots of grace. These are the years my kids are making lifelong friendships. They are creating memories to laugh about years from now. Soak up the fun and fellowship. Cherish these days.
I wish I could say this is an exhaustive list but that would be false. I wish I could say that because of preparation, my park days are never stressful. However, that would also be false. Injuries happen. Bathroom accidents happen. Nevertheless, if you are a first time sports mom, I hope this was a good orientation. If you are a seasoned mom, keep the conversation going below with items I may have excluded.