Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Early Christmas Gift for me!

My Christmas gift came early! Yesterday I received this email from my daughters Basketball coach:

We have decided there will be no snacks after the games this season so be sure to pack one for your child if they want one.


Merry Christmas All :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Team Manager Responsibilities

Think long and hard before you say Yes to this ‘volunteer’ assignment. Manager duties can be hardcore and with huge consequences if you screw it up. I’ve only volunteered for this once and, while I didn’t screw anything up, it was very stressful and I WON’T do it again.

To be a team manager you must be:

1. Highly organized
2. Patient
3. A person with an Excellent Memory
4. Available to attend every competition or game
5. Able to deal with complaints of every sort, none of which are your fault or can be fixed by you
6. Available by phone and email, 24/7.

Some of the responsibilities of Team Manager:

1. Signing up the team for Tournaments and competitions (you will be killed if you miss a deadline)
2. Making sure all the players have properly registered (a kid might DIE if you manage to lose his registration)
3. Keeping track of players cards at every game (your team will forfeit if you leave the cards in the other car, or bag, or purse)
4. Having the First Aid kit and knowing how to use it (yes, a kid could DIE if you don't use the Epi-Pen properly)
5. Sending out emails and calling the team about all events, information, changes, weather, etc.
6. Organizing all aspects of uniform orders
7. Organizing team dinners, parties, etc.
8. Being the person every parent can complain to
9. Being the go-between for parents vs. coach situation
10. Securing the hotel for out of town tournaments and getting all parents booked
ummm, basically everything except coaching

And guess how much you get paid?? ZERO! And guess how much all the parents appreciate you?? Close to ZERO! Guess how much your own kid will appreciate you? ZERO! So, why should you do it? Well, I’d recommend you don’t actually, it’s really stressful and tough, BUT someone has to or the team will go down in flames. Usually there is one dedicated supermom who does it and does it well. My hats are off to her!
The best way to survive being Manager is to spread the pain to the other parents.....I mean DELEGATE. You can assign certain duties to others...don't try to do it all yourself.

Next up: Treasurer responsibilities (also tough) and few suggestions for avoiding both jobs. The photo above is me after just 1 season of being a team manager (back in 2006). I've finally got my hair back under control, but I'm afraid the scowl may never go away.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Comparing the costs of youth sports ($$$)

The costs of participating in sports varies so much it’s ridiculous, but completely understandable.

1) On the low end is FREE….all school sports are free, although you may have a fund-raiser or two, if it’s time to buy new uniforms or need to travel pretty far (think High School Band) on a rare occasion. My kids on school teams have never had to pay for playing…the costs of the fields, the coach, the bus rides to other schools, the uniforms, and equipment have always been covered by the county school system or the PTA (uniforms usually). Often there are extra’s that you can purchase, like sweats with your name and number on them, and team photos, but the actual cost of playing on the basketball team is generally free. Other free sports teams/events….hmmmmm, not so much. Most things have at least a tiny fee.

2) Next up is the REALLY CHEAP…this includes playing rec soccer, basketball, etc on teams sponsored by the local Parks and Rec department, PAL (police action league), YMCA, Boys and Girls clubs, etc. Think…not privately owned organizations. In my experience there is a small price for a season of playing which includes about one game and one practice per week. The coaches are usually volunteer moms and dads. This cost is a bargain, usually between $20.00 and $80.00 per season, and they also usually get a t-shirt. This is how we always start to get a feel for what each kid likes and is good at.

3) Now comes the big step….EXPENSIVE when your kid gets a little better and a little older (9+) it’s time to decide if he’s ready to move to the big leagues: the travel teams (of which there are even more levels of skill and cost). They practice a lot more than once a week, they have professional coaches and they charge accordingly. Soccer for example, you’d think that would be cheap no matter what the level, but no, it’s not (nor is Hockey, AAU Baseball or Basketball, Cheerleading, Lacrosse, etc.). Based on my experience, you could pay from 500.00-5000.00/year to play. For example, to play on a top level travel soccer team costs approximately (in my area) 3000.00. Breaking it down:
150.00/month for 10 months for team and club fees (which covers coaches, fields, refs, etc)
300.00 for the uniform
1000.00 for 3-5 tournaments (hotel, gas, entry fees, misc. travel costs)

Other team sports are very similar. As for things like Gymnastics teams, Cheerleading All Stars, year round swimming, etc ; although the line items may be a little different (instead of paying Ref Fees, you may be paying for 6 uniforms, or a choreographer, or judges fees) but the numbers come out to the same: $2000-3000/year for top levels. You can decide whether it worth it. Depends totally on the kid and your situation....for me it is worth it because of what my kid gets out of it (which could be the subject of another post).

So……is there a $$ level somewhere between #2 and #3? YES, but often it’s hard to do, and you may have to mix and match services. Often a child at those critical “in-between ages and skill levels” really wants to make a big commitment to playing his sport at a higher level than the once/week YMCA rec volleyball team. However you, your family’s finances and quite possibly your child are not quite sure you’re ready for the commitment of a highy competitive, expensive team. There are plenty of things you can do to bridge the gap, test the waters, etc. I’ve tried all of these with much success. After a few years, it will be obvious whether moving up to the “big leagues” is the right move for your kid and your family.

a) Multiple rec teams/same sport—sign little Mia Hamm up for 2 rec teams this spring. She can play soccer with 2 local parks and rec club teams; most weeks she’ll end up with 2 practices on weeknights and 2 games on Saturday, thus she's getting twice the fun. Yes there will be a few conflicts, but for the most part this has worked great for my kids. If she is loving it and consistently the best player on the teams, maybe next year she can tryout for a Classic or Premier team. It’s still cheap as hell, and it will give you a sense of the insanity of running across town 4 times a week, juggling various practice, game, and snack schedules, and keeping track of numerous uniform pieces. Can you handle it?? Does your kid love it?? If Yes, you can keep doing this or move to the next level next season (one big team, well skilled, better coached, with lots of practices per week)

b) Training program or clinics—most sports have private clubs that offer weekly training skills training in a specific sports. So your young basketball player could play Rec level basketball on a Parks and Rec team, with one practice and one game per week AND he could attend a one night per week attend a basketball skills clinic at a private organization. Usually these programs cost 50-75/month around here and focus solely on skills. I’ve noticed considerable improvement everytime we’ve done this (we’ve done it with swimming, soccer, and basketball in the past 5 years or so…..oh and also had one son do a speed and agility session which he still credits with helping him make a special basketball team a few years later)

c) Multiple-sport rec teams/different sports. If you kid is just not getting enough activity, let him play on rec soccer team and a rec baseball team during the same season. This is still a really cheap option, and will have the same pitfalls and adventures as #a above, but will let him explore more options… It will also show him and you what he enjoys most and what he is most naturally talented at. Maybe even one team sport and one individual sport (karate, swimming). The biggest pitfall of this is that for a small subset of kids, they never want to give one up next season..they want to keep playing both soccer and baseball, and probably want to add Football too.. That’s when you know you have a true youth athlete. Eventually, if they do want to play at the higher level, they’ll have to pick a sport (or possibly 2), but at this age let him do as much as you both can handle.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Happy Beginners

We all know that enjoying sports and fitness activities as a youth can lead to a lifetime of good health (both physical and mental), confidence, and happiness, right?

So then, why do so many of us parents totally ruin sports for them by the time they really need these positive feelings and good exercise habits…namely the teen and adult years. I can’t answer that question, but I can give a few recommendations as to how to help your young child (sports beginner) get the most out of playing sports.

Actually, having fun at sports is really easy, it’s a natural thing….I think I’d better focus on some recommendations on how to NOT to screw it up for your child when he’s young. The goal is to get him/her to keep playing and improving season after season. We want to them to build confidence at one sport, so they will want to try more things as they get older and eventually find what they love, whether it be soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse, ballet, piano, or whatever. I’ve known kids who’ve wanted to (and did) quit sports for life by age 6 because there was too much pressure and it wasn’t fun enough, thanks to dad being too gung-ho or mom being too competitive (or vice-versa).

1) Follow your kids’ lead. If he wants to play soccer with you after soccer practice, or go to the batting cages, that’s great! But please don’t try to teach him anything or do the drills the coach just did (ie. if you are setting up cones in the backyard, you have a problem). Let him show you what he learned and play the way he wants to….Let the play time with you be FUN, no pressure.

2) Praise his skills (‘that was an amazing catch you made in left field’)

3) After games, win or loss, don’t make a big deal of anything. Just say “You were awesome!! Was it fun? ” then move on “lets go eat lunch”. If s/he wants to talk about the game he will, if not: no big deal. Even after a big win, don’t make a HUGE DEAL about it because s/he eventually realizes that “wow if my dad is that excited about me winning, he’s gonna be pissed or really disappointed in me when I lose”.

4) Bring good snacks on your snack day, let her pick them out with you at the grocery store.

5) Praise his attitude (‘what a great friend and teammate you are, you showed that when you helped Jasmine up after she tripped’)

6) Don’t compare him/her to you when you ‘were his age’. Your memory is really fuzzy, you probably weren’t as good as you think and it’s not fair for him to already be competing against you (or your memory).

7) Think twice about coaching his/her team. It’s usually a very positive experience for all; but there are certain kids who are better off being coached by someone else.

8) Praise his overall self with no regard to his sports ability, or lack thereof. (“you’re an awesome kid, I’m so proud of you’)

So, your overall goal is for your child to get some exercise, teamwork-training, and sport skills training, but for them not to think about it that way. All you need them to know at this young age is they are having a great time and they want to come back next week!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Puberty – our Canary in a Coal Mine for the Benefits of Daily Exercise

Note=this one is not really about youth sports, just about the benefits of exercise for all ages.

As toddlers, kids moods seem to be fairly predictable, and are usually related to eating and sleeping patterns. But it’s still dicey and, at times, there are screaming tantrums that come and go with no real obvious cause. I think it’s nature’s way of preparing you for puberty.

Then, as small kids (say about age 5-10), and about the time they start playing outside for whole afternoons at a time with friends, having regular PE class, having regular recess, and/or doing organized sports and fitness programs the moodiness stabilizes and they are usually in a good mood. Thus the kid and the family is happy, they get mostly what they want and the cycle continues: happy happy happy. They start playing some sports, you notice they really like it and are usually in a good mood, etc. Thus you are lulled into thinking you have a happy, healthy, well rounded human being on your hands. Thank God we have this time and become thoroughly enchanted and bonded with our child(ren) and develop unconditional love. We will surely need it soon….

It never really occurred to me to question WHY they were in a good mood and so agreeable during this time. It’s the activity and the exercise, duh! (obviously it’s the sleeping and eating too, but I’m way too unmotivated to try to research that).

After raising quite a few kids (all athletes of some sort) and witnessing the drastic effect exercise has on their moods I have come to believe regular, high energy exercise on a daily basis is extremely important for our children’s mood/happiness factor/whatever you want to call it. Puberty is like a canary in a coal mine for proving this true and could save lots of research dollars….all you have to do is grab any one kid with his/her first few zits and a cell phone, and start taking notes.

Now that I’ve got yet another one, the last one (thankfully) in the beginning throes of puberty, I can very clearly see that there are very very distinct mood patterns and the signs are easy to read. For example last Saturday (which happened to be rainy and soccer practice had been cancelled) at approximately 3:05 pm, my daughter was skipping around the house with a phone attached to her thumbs and actual butterflies and unicorns were gently wafting out of her butt. Her face had the look of Brooke Shields right after kissing Christopher Atkins in the Blue Lagoon. The words spewing out of her mouth were “Sure, mom”, “your hair looks awesome Mom”, and “I’ll do the dishes for you” etc….. All was well (a little too well). Then suddenly at 3:19 with no warning sirens at all, I heard the sound that causes the rest of us to involuntary cringe…a distinctive moan, a beating on the wall, then horrible words start flying out of her mouth. They were words which I can’t even type w/out attracting the wrong elements to this blog. Just suffice it to say we (all people over the age of 25 and anyone living in our house) are totally ‘mentally handicapped’ and no one has any emotional intelligence whatsoever at our house. Furniture was kicked and broken bits of My Little Pony’s flew thru the air. Her face was red and contorted and resembled the Creature from the Black Lagoon. 18 minutes later, there is crying, sounds of depression and regret and then depressing silence. 27 minutes later….the butterflies and unicorns are back. This cycle continued throughout the day until, she went for a long walk with the dog which turned into a jog, and built up a good sweat. The rest of the evening was awesome.

Compare this to the following Saturday: she had a soccer game, which is an hour of warm up, stretching, cardio and light jogging, followed by a very rigorous game. The mood for the rest of the day: Awesomely, supremely, even-keeled. While we didn’t get the unicorns and buttlerflies, we got the normal, happy well balanced little human (she still had the zit unfortunately) we had grown to love during the happy age 5-10 stage.

So I think no more research need be done…it’s OBVIOUS: vigorous exercise improves mood in everyone. It’s just super obvious/enhanced/pronounced/underscored in the moody pre-teen. FINALLY… a use for them. We can stop sending them to boarding school, they have a purpose. They are the fruit flies of behavioral science.

There is tons of actual scientific proof (just Google it), but I feel my current demon/angel child (and the ones that came before her, all proud graduates of one boarding school or another) is proof enough.

I’ve witnessed it a lot:

1) Tantrums are wayyy worse when they’ve been laying around the house all day
2) Homework takes forever and seems much more painful when they haven’t exercised; and once they hit middle school the homework is too hard for the parent to do anyway so you can’t even it do it for them while they are crying into a pillow for no reason.
3) Once they get in the cycle described above they can’t be motivated to exercise or listen to any sort of reason, so it’s good to have things pre-planned early in the day if they don’t a practice or a game
4) Lack of sleep in Puberty is a terrible, circular pattern thing, they naturally want to stay up really late, but still have to get up early for school. Exercise definitely helps them get to sleep earlier.

Possible solutions:

1) if you know there are no games/practices for the day/evening pre-plan something physical like walking the dog, mowing the lawn, inviting a friend over to ‘play catch, play soccer, go to the pool, etc.
2) avoid at all costs a day with nothing planned but watching tv or movies, unless you child isn’t suseptable to this violent mood swings
3) I’ve even heard of parents who’ve paid their kids to go for a run with them; you know, try to treat it like mowing the lawn, or vacuuming, etc. they don’t have to know you are really paying for an enhanced mood.
4) Start young, way before puberty, to get them started in the early sports programs and make it positive experience, and if and hopefully by puberty you will have a kid who is playing at least one sport on a regular basis well into their teens.

Good luck! Puberty and moody kids can be a real rollercoaster no matter what, but I can’t think of a thing that helps even it out more than regular exercise and structured, competitive, team or individual sports. I’ve tried pharmaceuticals, and exercise wins.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Juice and Drink suggestions for Post-Game Fun

Sorry for such a long delay, I meant put this up a day or two after the snack lists....but with school, club soccer, and school soccer all starting simultaneously, I've been a complete mess. It's a miracle that I've remembered to go to work; I even forgot my password to this blog. So anyway...Below is the twin to the snack list below, except, obviously it's for drinks...which according to some is even more important...something about hydration. Of course you want your kid to have access to water before and during the games, especially if it's an outdoor sport on a hot day, a hockey game, or it lasts longer than an hour. But below is more focused toward what individually packaged drinks could be provided after the games or competitions. Again, please let me know anything you'd like added...My goal is for these list to be ever evolving.

Healthy Drinks (relatively speaking)

Any 100% Juice,
Minute Maid
Welchs juiceboxes
Juicy Juice
Gatorade (Gatorade-G2 has the least amount of sugar and calories)
Capri-Sun individual packs of waters
Vitamin Water (extra points for "cool" factor)

Unhealthy Drinks (too sugary)

Hi C
Hawaiian Punch
Those gross, colored, sugar-water drinks in the plastic bottles (but, boy are they cheap)


Hi C
Hawaiian Punch
Those gross colored, sugar- water drinks in the plastic bottles (but, boy are they cheap)

Drinks to make sure you are never asked to provide snacks again

Coke or Pepsi
Full Throttle
Coffee Energy Drinks
Grape Juice
Prune Juice
Double Expresso (although parents would love these for themselves; especially at long, boring competitions with lots of waiting, like a swimmeet, gymnastics meet, cheerleading competition, could probably make some extra cash)

Drinks the kids LOVE to get

Gatorade, any type, but especially Fierce, which seems very popular at the moment.
Yoohoo (some kids love it, some hate it, i wouldn't risk it)