There’s no shortage of resources for parents as they prepare to send their students Back to School. Retailers, educators and doctors provide ample “suggestions” on everything from routines to supplies and to vaccinations.
But what isn’t as common are the reminders and tips related to Back to Sports.
Well, we’ve got you covered! Here are five tips for parents as they manage their kids academic and athletic schedule this fall.
1. Plan ahead
Steve Sack owns Michigan Elite Volleyball Academy and runs flag football and basketball leagues, and he’s always sad to have a tough — but inevitable — conversation with parents. “A parent calls me a day before our league starts and says, ‘I was out of town for three weeks, can you still sign them up?’ And I have to tell them, ‘I don’t have a single spot.’ That always breaks my heart because we want to get every kid involved.” Sack suggests that parents watch what sports their kids watch on television or play with their friends, then see if they want to play the sport. Then, armed with that information, the parent should research options in their area, from the local Park & Rec program to the YMCA or club level organizations. If you can, spend some time asking around about the organization or the specific coach who will be working with your child. Sack adds that it’s important to recognize that many teams form long before the season starts. “Our tryouts for (elite) teams that start in January happen in the fall,” Sack says.
2. Get fit
National Fitness Expert Ali Holman, founder of CoreCamper.com, insists that too many kids suffer injuries because they aren’t physically prepared. “The biggest mistake kids make is they don’t start conditioning until the first day of tryouts,” Holman says. “You need a solid four weeks to not only perform your best but to reduce injury.”
As an example, Holman says an adult wouldn’t just show up and run a marathon. "Parents think, ‘Kids are kids, they can do it.’ But you see a rise in injuries," Holman says, "and a lot of that is poor conditioning.” Holman and her husband Mark emphasize the importance of nutrition and conditioning long before a season starts, and the family does workouts together, often in their yard and cul de sac.
3. Double-check equipment
Nothing is more embarrassing than your child showing up to his or her first practice and not having cleats, a ball or the right-sized uniform. Not the ideal way to make a first impression! So be clear about the equipment they’ll need for the respective sport, and make them try on everything at least a few weeks in advance. Because kids grow so quickly, there’s plenty of second-hand sporting good stores that sell gently-used cleats, skates or other key equipment. So with a little planning, you could save a significant amount of money.
4. Encourage multiple activities
Sack has three children, and he encouraged all of them to try multiple sports and activities. “Encourage your kids to try new things,” he says. “They may love baseball, but why not try also tennis, or golf, or archery?” Though Michigan Elite Volleyball has some of the top teams and players in the region, Sack encourages the athletes to diversify their extracurricular time. “There’s so much information that shows multi-sport athletes are better for their full development and their physical development,” he says. So whether it’s music, the arts, volunteerism, supporting your children to be well-rounded will pay off in the long run.
5. Be supportive
Isaiah and Felicia Hale live in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and they tag-team to shuttle their children to different practices and games. Jordan loves volleyball, and she has four practices and at least one game per week, while Joshua plays basketball and baseball. “We tell them sports is a means to socialize with friends, do something they enjoy and gain some physical activity and fitness,” Isaiah says. “If you are good enough to make a middle school team or high school team, then that’s just a bonus. But our focus is on education and school, so they know sports will go to the side if their grades slip.” To that end, the Hales also encourage other parents to not be so “gung-ho” about the sport. “Let them experience it,” Isaiah says. “The kids are just feeling it out.” Sack adds that the drive home after games can be a critical time. “Don’t analyze and criticize,” Sack says. “Just be supportive and let them have fun, especially from 8 to 13.” Another way to help aid their experience, though, is to ensure you have a network in place to support them. “You have to have a network of family and friends who will help support that commitment,” Isaiah says, “because even at the rec level, there’s usually two practices and a game each week.”