Putting your kids in organized sports is a lot more involved than just paying your fees and showing up. When we signed our now-8-year-old up for T-ball at age 4, I had no idea how much my life was about to change.
With all three kids in sports now, we have definitively left the playgroup years and entered the team sports years. It’s actually a lot of fun most of the time.
Here are 5 tips to help get off to a smooth start!
1. Choose the right sport for your child’s age and personality.
We made the mistake of putting our son in T-ball when he was four. For another kid, this could have been a good match. Not for our extra-active little guy. He didn’t have the patience for a game with stop and start play.
We switched to soccer the following spring, and he loved it. His younger sisters, on the other hand, were overwhelmed when they started soccer. More easily intimidated, it took a few seasons before they felt comfortable on the field.
2. Find out what to expect.
Every sport and every league has its own way of doing things. If you live in a larger city, you may even have several leagues available in each sport. Ask around.
You’ll want to find out about the following:
- Expectations for parent volunteering
- Cost of registration, equipment, and all other fees
- Location of practices and games (not always the same)
- Length and frequency of games/meets/matches/etc.
- Culture – competitive vs supportive
3. Think about your philosophy and goals.
Before the season starts, take a moment to think about your goals for your child. Discuss your kid sports philosophy with your co-parent.
We started organized sports fairly young, and our main goal has always been for the kids to have enough fun that they’d want to continue to play.
This philosophy dictated how we handled everything from complaints about not wanting to play (“You had so much fun at practice last week. How about I warm up with you?”) to how we cheered during games.
You may have a different top objective. Perhaps you want your child to learn teamwork, be physically active, or meet friends. Be realistic – expecting your four year old to be a star player right away may backfire!
4. Organize the gear.
Find out what gear and equipment you should have, and make a plan for keeping it organized.
We have arrived at swim meets without goggles, soccer practice without cleats, and completely lost shin guards for a week.
It helps me to have a dedicated bag for each sport, but perhaps given my history I’m not the best one to give advice on this item!
I’d probably do better if I used checklists and got everything ready well ahead of time. It has also helped to train the kids. With a reminder, they now take their gear out of the car and put it in the laundry room or back in the sports bag when we get home.
5. Make Friends
You’re going to be spending a lot of time hanging around the ballpark, soccer field, pool, or court. Chances are, you’ll see some of the same parents season after season.
Don’t be shy! Get to know everyone else on the sidelines, and learn their names and kids’ names.
If you’re a stay-at-home parent, it’s a great opportunity for adult conversation. If you work outside the home, it’s a chance to connect more with what’s going on in your kids’ world.
Bonus Tip: Prepare Your Child
Before the season starts, prepare your child by practicing a little at home if possible. Show your child video clips of the sport and read stories about it.
If you have any tips of your own to share, I ‘d love to hear them in the comments below, or on the Books and Giggles Facebook page.