Balancing kids sports and activities with family life and your sanity.
With the spring sports season upon us, it's a good idea to take a look at the world of youth sports and how, for the good or the bad, it impacts not only the player, but their family. (And, as a public service reminder, if you start looking now, you may find last year's equipment in time and little Johnny or Susie can still squeeze into those cleats one more season -highly unlikely, but worth a shot).
As a seasoned veteran of many spring seasons, I spent some time with local mom Lynne Anderson to try and get some insight into world of youth sports and how it impacts their family. Most of it will ring true for those of you that are currently chauffeuring young student-athletes, and those that have "been-there-done-that". For those that haven't done it at all, we hope you'll enjoy the ride.
Long time Islanders David and Lynne Anderson have been blessed with four wonderful children. Tosh, 19, a graduate of Hilton Head Prep, is a college freshman playing baseball for the University of Rhode Island; Ian, 17, an 11th grader, is an all-region football and baseball standout at Hilton Head Prep; Grace, 13, is a 7th grader who excels at basketball, soccer, tennis and volleyball; and Riggs, 10, is a 4th grader and a very serious baseball player with some basketball and a little golf on the side for good measure.
In addition to being extremely athletic, all of the Anderson offspring are good students, involved in other extra-curricular and community activities and have inherited their parents full throttle zest for life.
Like many children that grew up on Hilton Head Island, all of the Anderson crew started playing sports at age five with Dixie Youth Baseball T-Ball in the spring (remember Barker Field before the Crossings) and Island Rec Center soccer in the fall, followed by basketball in the winter. As they got older, school and travel teams came into play which made things really interesting. Lynne confesses to being one of the few parents she has ever met that shouted "hallelujah" when Tosh started driving!
Despite the staggering complexity of their schedules, their children rarely participate in an athletic event or school activity, near or far, that you won't see David and/or Lynne and most of the rest of their gang there for moral support. But as heartwarming and important as that is, don't think for one minute that it's easy for the Anderson's or countless other families that do exactly the same thing. Just as it is vitally important to be involved in your child's school and academic endeavors, it also makes a big difference to support them in the stands.
"Since our kids were very young, David and I have felt strongly that they all needed to be involved not only in sports, but in a well rounded variety of other activities" said Lynne "and that holds especially true for their teenage years." However, with four of them ("versus two-of-us" as David is fond of saying) this is all easier said than done.
"It's nice at the end of the day when everyone is finally home to just go "whew" we did it and then start it all again tomorrow!"
For Team Anderson, it in not unheard of to simultaneously have one child playing at Prep, one at the Crossings Park and another out of town. This situation brings forth several questions such as can you make 1/3 of each game and not get stopped for speeding? Or, how about traveling with four children to a tournament in which only one is playing - what about everyone else's schedules? What about just staying home and riding bikes or hanging out with friends? Or teenagers who are no longer enthralled to travel long distances to see nine year olds play?
Other "small" day-to-day issues that come to mind are things like homework, dinner, clean clothes for school tomorrow - when was the last time someone was home to let the dogs out? Again, you get the picture. And oh by the way - when was the last time someone actually fed the dogs?
A few houses down the street from the Anderson's is another family with very similar logistical challenges. Dr. Michael Campbell and his wife Maureen, also have four athletic children (Collan, 19 is a freshman playing baseball at Motlow State University in Tennessee; Michael, 17, is a junior at Hilton Head High School and plays baseball; Kevin, 12, is a 6th grader at Hilton Head Middle School who plays basketball and baseball; and Catherine, 10 is a 5th grader at Hilton Head IB Elementary who is a serious tennis player in training at Van Der Meer Tennis Center. Like the Anderson's, the Campbell's are also very involved in a number of other outside activities.
Maureen agrees with Lynne that the key to keeping it all together is communication.
"Mornings are our time to map things out" said Maureen. She and Mike look at the schedule for the day (including a very busy optometry practice, Optical Solutions, Inc.), and divide the drop off and pick up of kids' assignments, including the two oldest boys who now drive. This exercise is often complicated - or simplified depending on your point of view - by the fact that Mike is usually coaching one of the boys' teams.
"When the younger ones were small they travelled all over the place watching their brothers play baseball. Now it's time for the older boys to step up and help with transportation and go and support their younger siblings at their games."
Springtime especially can make for some very long days at the Campbell house. "It's nice at the end of the day, when everyone is finally home, to just go "whew" we did it and then start it all again tomorrow!"
JUST KEEP MOVING.
According to Lynne there are some basic rules at the Anderson house that keep this whirling dervish of activity manageable:
School Comes First - this one is easy - hands down.
Communication - Fortunately for the Anderson's this is the family business (long time Island advertising, marketing and interactive company Anderson Communications). Even so, with this many activities and David often coaching one team himself, a last minute "I forgot we have practice at 4:00 p.m. today" on the way home from school is a recipe for disaster.
Fairness - The Three Musketeers "one for all and all for one" could be the Anderson's motto. Everyone has to be flexible and supportive of each other and trust that in the end, time and attention from their parents will balance out. Everyone has to help out above and beyond - that's a must and will make your family stronger.
Accurate and Advanced Scheduling - No air traffic controller has anything on moms like Lynne and Maureen. Lynne recommends you keep a master family calendar - color coded by child can be handy - of everyone's comings and goings. And discuss game day logistics as far in advance as possible.
Equipment Control - No I haven't seen YOUR glove, YOUR hat or YOUR navy blue baseball belt. Hold the player responsible (within age appropriate reason) to keep track of his/her stuff and have it ready to go. How many times have you, as a parent, received that "my glove is in your car and I'm at the field" call at the office when you are getting ready to head into a meeting?
Fun - Keep it all as fun and enjoyable as possible. Remember, that's why you're all out there in the first place. These times pass so quickly and you'll look back on it fondly no matter how frazzled you are while it's going on. Take lots of pictures. Even looking at a season long schedule filled with games, it goes by in minutes.
Help! - Sometimes you just can't pick everyone up and get them where they need to be by yourself. Form a network within your child's team or neighborhood and help each other out with pick ups and drop offs when necessary. Even better, request that your child be placed on the team of at least one other child that your family can easily carpool with.
Planning - If you know that dinner at home is not in the cards, try and have drinks and snacks in the car at all times. When siblings have other plans, "check-in" is vitally important so the family members at the ballpark/gymnasium know where everyone else is planted. Keep the cell phones charged!
Family ONLY Down Time - Lynne and David agree that no matter how difficult, you must find time to reconnect as a whole family.
In closing, Lynne and David just received an email from the University of Rhode Island with Tosh's spring schedule. They're doing a "southern swing" to schools in Alabama, North Carolina and beyond so this will add a new wrinkle, but they wouldn't miss it for the world. They can't wait. Getting to Ian's Hilton Head Prep baseball games, Grace's softball and soccer games and Riggs's Majors games at the Crossings Park just got even more "interesting." Better add "check tire tread" on to the list of pre-season tasks!
There is an excellent website - www.MomsTeam.com - that has a great deal of good information and interesting perspectives on youth sports and how to manage the demands on your family. Good luck to all this season. Play ball - and stop for gas!