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.

Yippee!!


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
Propel
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)

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



Cheapest


Capri-Sun
Hi C
Koolaid
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


RedBull
Coke or Pepsi
Milk
Yoo-hoo
RedBull
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, etc....you 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.
Powerade
Propel
Yoohoo (some kids love it, some hate it, i wouldn't risk it)



Friday, September 5, 2008

Snack Suggestions for Post-game fun….

Since about 99% of my Bloogle Search* (google blog and google search) hits are due to people typing in the something to do with “Snacks for soccer game, healthy snacks for volleyball, cheap snacks, acceptable snacks for a swim meet”, etc. I thought I would create these handy, constantly updated lists, for you to refer to. I’m posting it here, but also will put a button or something on the side of this blog so folks can easily find it in the future. I also have one for drinks...coming soon.

**Why on earth they didn’t name Google Blog Search -> Bloogle Search---- is beyond me. That’s what it’s called in my head.

So here you go, here’s your handy lists (I had it in a nice organized table, but couldn't figure out how to put a table, can anyone help? ) of individually packaged junk. This is just what I’ve learned from my own kids teams and our local grocery stores, but I need more help. What’s popular in your area? What’s your kids favorite to get after the game? What does he hate to see in the team cooler? Let me know and I’ll add.



Healthy Snacks (relatively healthy, we are not talking Brocolli and Cauliflower here)
Boxes of Raisins
Rice Krispie Treats
Nuts (always one allergic kid, though)
Granola bars (Quaker Chewy bars are a fave)
Peanut butter or cheese crackers (Nabisco, Lance)
Pretzels
Cheese sticks
Orange Slices
Small bags of Grapes
100 calorie Packs of anything
Fig Newtons
Kashi Bars
Kashi Mini’s
NutriGrain Bars
Goldfish

Unhealthiest Snacks (sugar/fat content)
Little Debbies
Fruit roll-ups
Pop-Tarts
Chips-Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos, etc. (any fried chips)
Cookies (Oreos, Chips Ahoy, anything with frosting or chips)
Krispy Kreme doughnuts


Cheapest
Fruit roll-ups
Peanut butter or cheese crackers (Nabisco, Lance)
Fruit snacks (those little chews in the same section as the Fruit Roll Ups)
Jello packs
Koolaid Gels
Airheads
Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Snacks the kids love
Nabisco Cookies (Chips Ahoy, Nutter Butter, etc)-also convenient as they come in packs of 12 instead of 8 like most
Fruit Roll-Ups
Freezer pops, great and different for a really hot day (also really cheap)
Mini bags of chips (Lays, Doritos singles, etc.)
Individual Pringles
Little Debbies
Airheads
Krispy Kreme doughnuts


Snacks to ensure you are never asked to provide snacks again
Chocolate Cupcakes (esp. if it's a hot day and the kids are all sweaty)
Marlboro Lights
Candy bars
Big bowl of chocolate pudding and 12 plastic spoons
Fiber One Bars
Bubble Gum
Your kids Halloween leftovers (i've tried...they figure it out)


Please note, there is nothing on the Healthy list that is also on the Kids Love it list. Shocking.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tiny Update to the Packing List Post Below

We just returned from the first soccer tournament of the fall and I did so well. I only forgot ONE thing (important thing, but just ONE). On the 2nd day, I forgot my daughters knee brace. She played fine without it and thankfully didn't reinjure the knee; fortunately it was not truly required, she was just wearing it for extra support following a minor sprain on Tuesday. Yeay me!!

I can't even remember if I put that on my list in the previous post.... if not, add: every piece of protective, support, physical therapy wraps, braces, splints, etc. that you could possibly need.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Things to Pack for a Weekend Sports trip with your Youth Athlete


Subtitle: You didn’t have to pack this much crap when they were infants….

1) SUV or Minvan—required to carry one kid plus items #2-30

2) Sports specific equipment and uniform pieces in every color…Ex. If you are going to a girls soccer tournament, in the uniform category alone, you will need to bring: all 3 colors of jerseys, all 3 colors of shorts, all 3 colors of socks), cleats, shinguards, sports bra, hairbands (of all 3 colors), headbands (of all three colors), soccer bag, and ball. If you are the parent of the keeper, add goalie jerseys (2), goalie pants or shorts, gloves (2 pair).
And soccer has way less equipment than most…imagine your vehicle if your kid is on a hockey or football team, or is a pole vaulter, or a horseback rider (yes, you have to bring your own horse for most shows).

3) Cooler—filled with Gatorade, water, grapes, other fruit that is easy to keep and fun to throw

4) Igloo waterbottle-1 quart size at least

5) The kids (and your) other clothes like pajamas, underwear, jackets, flip flops, etc

6) Chairs for watching the game

7) Your kids regular medicine…who can forget that tournament that someone forgot their child’s Ritalin? Seriously, see #22

8) Sunscreen

9) Advil, Tylenol

10) Band-aids, Neosporin

11) Home skin stitches kit

12) Hats and sunglasses for parents watching the game in the 105 heat

13) Car Paint, in case you win the tournament so you can drive home in an embarrassing show of glory

14) Sports Magnets

15) Camera, Video Camera, film, batteries and battery chargers

16) MapQuests (or Google Maps)—before the trip it is extremely PRUDENT to get the address of your hotel, your field, court, rink, sportsplex, wherever the games will be location, and the restaurant you are having your team dinners at. Then create and print out maps from home to hotel, hotel to fields, etc. It’s even more PRUDENT to actually bring these on the trip (I have a mental block on that step for some reason). Or…if you have have a GPS navigator system in your car, all you need are the addresses, no need for printing out.

17) List of Cellphone numbers (in addition to them being plugged into your cellphone) for the other parents, coaches, and teammates for when you or they are lost or your team caravan from field to restaurant gets split up

18) Earplugs

19) Hotel with bar

20) Valium or any other member of the Diazepam family

21) Back-up hotel in case you get kicked out of the original one (high likelihood)

22) Bathing suits and goggles for siblings of the athletes- One of the very few BENEFITS for the poor siblings who must be dragged to these events is that they get to swim in the hotel pool and the athletes don’t. It certainly doesn’t make it worth it to them, but at least they have the POOL.

23) Deck of cards, magazines, games (remember the games or events are often just a small portion of the day, you must find a way to fill the rest of the day with “quiet, resting” type activities…Not Allowed are: swimming, working out in the hotel weight room, one coach even banned going to the mall as it was too much walking, and running up and down the halls or stairs of the hotels, etc.

24) Extra set of car keys (don’t ask)

25) IPod/Blackberry/Laptop and all associated battery chargers and A/C adaptor cords

26) DVDs if you are lucky enough to have a vehicle with a DVD player

27) Gameboy or Nintendo DS

28) Your Subway Club Card, cause that’s the only friggin’ restaurant you’re allowed to eat at between games or events.

29) Lots and lots of money and credit cards.

30) The kid
31)*ziplock bags
32)*ice
33)*garbage bags
34)*toiletry case and everything in it
35)*books/mags for mom to read, People/US other are great to buy and read and share w/other moms....when else do you have 48 hours to do nothing but catch up on Lindsay Lohan, Brittany and whoever happens to be hot at the moment.
36)*kids backpack and homework and novel so s/he can get homework and required reading done in the car or hotel
37)* every piece of protective/corrective equipment you could possibly need (ex. knee braces, ankle braces, splints, prewrap, shoe inserts, Ace Bandages, etc)



I have at one time or another forgotten nearly every item on this list, some of them numerous times. Actually, as I re-read over the list the only one I haven’t ever forgotten is #1, which would be impossible. So, clearly I’m an experienced idiot. I even forgot #30 once, not actually my kid, but a kid I’d promised to take to a softball tournament….nice, huh!? I guarantee there are at least 3 critical items missing from this list….as I remember and add I’ll put them in red and with asterisks next to them.

The good news is there is a Wal-Mart in every town and the coach forgot to specifically say “No going to Wal-Mart”, so that is often how we fill our time between games. Good Luck!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ranting (and Raving) about Snacks for our Tiny Athletes

So.......... you sign up for the first season of Fall T-Ball, Soccer, Basketball, or Volleyball so excited about the upcoming season. The first practice is the Big Day. Your kid is beyond excitement, he can’t wait to see what the uniform will look like, who his coach will be and which of his friends ended up on his team. You are excited too, for the same reasons as your child, but also because your kid will be learning new sports skills, getting fit, making new friends, and learning teamwork.
After the practice, you’ve been told there will be a parent meeting. What is always the first order of business?? Yup….the Snack List! That sacred sheet of paper is passed around, and you must sign up to bring a snack and a drink for the team for one game. Yes, as with nearly every move they make in the first 10 years of life, kids are rewarded after each game with food, usually sugary, trans fat-laden bars or cookies of some sort. Also, they get a box or bag of juice which is usually not juice, just water and sugar.
It’s really not a big deal, I suppose, a nice snack as a reward for doing well on the field, and cementing the notion that sports and activity are a positive, happy experienced. But GOOD LORD……..starting at about age 2, kids get rewarded and fed crap for everything they do: every activity seems to end with a snack or a gift or at the very least a stamp on your hand. Anyone with common sense knows this is not good. We all know what’s inherently wrong with this…

1. Way too much sugar/fat
2. Being rewarded for doing something that’s supposed to be fun, and a reward in of itself. This could cause them to have a huge sense of entitlement. As teenagers and adults, maybe they’ll end up a big lump on the couch doing nothing that requires any effort, unless promised an outrageous reward.
3. All those snacks throughout the day will ruin his appetite for the healthy dinner you have planned.
4. If you have a couple of games in one day, then siblings games, then a birthday party….your kid has just racked up an extra Halloweens worth of crap
5. We (the parents) are the ones paying for this, and trying to remember when our snack day is. Please don’t even remind me about the time I forgot it was my turn during basketball season a few years back…I still have nightmares about the other parents shunning me.
6. Constant food rewards might cause disorders surrounding food in the future.
7. Competition between families regarding quality of snacks provided (yes, I have been known to bring a lasagna and Italian ices to a soccer game)


But wait………………the reason this evil snack distribution (ESD) keeps on going and couldn’t be stopped by common sense any more than a mouse could stop a speeding Amtrak is because it works. Ultimately, we all want our kids to be happy and healthy, right? Looking at the big picture, ending a game (or beginners ballet session, whatever) with a common, understandable, positive snack with friends, leaves the kids in happy state of mind. They are able to wipe away some of the memory of being on the basketball court and getting beat 31-3, or passing to the wrong team, or even doing well, but not really knowing exactly what you’re doing. Beginning sports are fun, but also a little confusing and daunting to the newbies, especially those who were reluctant participants in the first place. Having your last memory of the soccer game being a Little Debbie cake and a juice box with all your new best friends is a much happier feeling than of being dismissed by the coach with a wave and a “better luck next time” or “we’ll work on your hitting at practice next week”. That feeling can be the difference in him wanting to quit and come back next week for more fun. We want our kids to love sports, get better, make friends, and want to sign up year after year, right? After they build confidence they’ll find the sport they truly excel at and love, focus intently on it and be the star pitcher in next years Little League World Series, or become the next Michael Phelps in the 2016 Olympics.

Sometimes a bit of sugar actually does the trick for that first step. There really are the subset of kids that, whether they know it or not, come back week after week just for the snacks, and throughout the season they eventually get comfortable with the sport. Poof, you’ve got the next Freddy Adu or Mia Hamm on your hands, all thanks to Capri Sun or Juicy Juice.

So… suck it up, don’t try to change the ESD by doing an email campaign to eliminate the Snack List this season (as if you’re the first person to try that! Ha), or by bringing healthy snacks when it’s your turn (yup..tried that too, I learned that it’s better to forget it’s your day than bring cider and homemade bran muffins; we had to switch towns after that) Trust me, as they get older and into higher levels of a sport, snacks brought by mommies for the whole team become extremely UNCOOL anyway. I feel it’s better that they are out their playing, exercising, and learning new things than sitting home with a bowl of broccoli.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

August: My Favorite Month of ESPN: Sizzlin’ Hot Little League World Series 2008


I’ve always loved watching the Little League World Series, this year it starts on the 15th of August through the 24th , right in the middle of the Olympics. For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched at least a few of the games on TV. As my kids have grown and gone through their various athletic pursuits (none of which were making it anywhere near the LLWS), my appreciation of the LLWS has just increased. While the games are always special, I really get a kick out of how the commentators try as hard as they can to stay positive no matter how bad a particular error is (for example “Oh my Mike, that was a really close one, he nearly caught that fly ball, I believe the sun got him at the last moment”). How I wish that was true in real life during games w/out the camera’s; some of the personal comments I hear parents make about some of the kids during games are pretty rough. Anyway….It’s like ESPN has deemed that any athlete under age 13 or 14 is sacred and, therefore, there should not be a bit of negativity shown, I like it, I really do. They know the kids and their families are TIVO’ing and taping each game and will watch themselves over and over. When a kid makes a great play they show it numerous times from numerous angles, gushing the whole time.

I also have a soft spot for all the little personal vignettes, etc. I love the “stats” on the boys: Height, Weight (Seriously...there can be 12 year old boys on the team that weigh 60 lbs. and others boys that weigh 140 lbs.), Favorite Movie, Favorite Pro Athlete, Favorite Food, Favorite movie star, etc. Also, a good bit of camera time is spent on the families of the boys. They always have nice interviews with some of the parents and siblings of the players detailing their journeys. Lots and lots of shots of the families cheering (and a bit of parental coaching from the stands, too, but nothing compared to what we all witness every weekend in our recreation leagues). They do show a bit of the losing teams crying but not much….and it’s not like we haven’t seen adults crying in the NCAA basketball or soccer finals, etc, so we know grown-up men also feel and can show the pain of losing the big one. It’s just a nice snapshot into the best of the world of youth sports.

So, the Little League World Series is starting in about a week, as you’ve probably noticed I’ve got the TV schedule linked at least 3 times for you. I know I’ll be watching quite a bit, hope you can too. It’ll be tough this year, competing with the Olympics, but thank God for TIVO and DVR.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Public Service Announcement

From our neighbors to the North. This canadian public service announcement doesn't just apply to Hockey Dads, though they were the target audience. Any sports parent should sneak a peek at this video. Picture it: Your kid just told you he wants to quit hockey, soccer, baseball, basketball, gymnastics, ballet or whichever sport he LOVED until this very second. You are in shock! OMG...he's so good, a prodigy even, he's been playing since he was four and you've supported him every single, inch of the way. When kids burn-out or decide to quit the sport they excel at and we parent have no idea as to why.......Click on this LINK for a clue. Obviously this is not the only reason kids want to quit or learn to dislike their sport, there are a ton of reasons and that will be the subject of a future post, I'm sure.

Speaking of clueless, I'm sorry I haven't figured out how to just stick in a Youtube video, yet...I've just barely gotten the hang of links. Enjoy the video, I bet we all know one parent who is pushing a bit too much.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

PART 2 - Injury Prevention for our Young Athletes

Fortunately this ACL/knee/female athlete issue is becoming well known. There are numerous places (physical therapy, sports medicine, private soccer clubs, athletic performance centers, private gyms, YMCAs) that have ACL prevention programs. They don’t actually improve the quality of your ACL, but they attempt to properly strengthen and balance the leg muscles which can protect the ACL, they improve your overall flexibility and core strength, teach the athlete how to run with a better alignment if needed, and also how to land in a safer way after a jump. Additionally, there is a push for clubs and coaches to adopt a certain type of warm up (PEP program) before each practice that has certain types of exercises and stretches that focus on ACL injury prevention, it only takes about 15 minutes and has been shown to decrease risk for ACL. I was very happy to see my daughters team this year is doing a very similar warm-up to the PEP program.

I know the additional training guarantees me and my daughter nothing, but she reports her knee pain is gone and her legs and core are much stronger overall. Fingers crossed. What I’m (and fellow parents) trying to prevent is what’s happened to a U16 team in my area that I have friends on. They’ve had 5 ACL tears in her age group in one year, one meniscus tear and numerous less serious injuries. 2 of the ACL tears were on the same girl/both knees, the 2nd coming 1 week after coming back on the field from her 1st tear.

I know youth sports injuries are not just a ‘girls soccer player’ issue. Little league baseball has been a pioneer and has dealt with injury prevention by limiting the number of pitches a kid can pitch per game and has mandated forced rest periods (1-3 days depending on pitch count). I know the coaches hate it, but who wants their kid to screw up their arm or shoulder at age 14 (or younger). High schools are forced to limit the amount of practice time for lots of sports, have a legal start date, and have a day there is no practice or games each week (usually Sunday). Otherwise overzealous coaches would have our kids out there 24/7. And….to make it worse, the kids at this level want to be out there 24/7, they want to be the best, they want to show they are the hardest worker, quickest recoverer, etc. so we as parents are fighting not just the culture, but our own kids sometimes.

Bottom line, in my mind, is that, at the high level, young athletes are being pushed to become perfect players on perfect teams who need to win every game and every tournament. The girls with the ‘best’ coaches start to adopt that winning attitude and will do anything to please the coach, including playing when in pain, playing too aggressively, toughing it out, practicing as much as possible, and on off days the run or lift. We, as parents, have to be the ones who safeguard our kids health, because everyone else (including your child) has another agenda. If 4 practices a week are too much, put your foot down; if your coach doesn’t seem to be doing a proper warm up or stretching, have a word with him (or his director), if your kid is exhausted and in pain every night make him skip a training every so often, if your kid is trying to play on two teams per season (club and school) etc, you may have to make the difficult decision to pick one—two teams at that level is a LOT of wear and tear.

Quick tip sheet for parents:

--see the big picture—don’t have a win at all costs attitude, and don’t encourage it in your child (she’ll get enough of that from her peers and coach)
--discuss health and injury prevention often at home
--think about checking out an ACL program
--ask your coach how he is trying to prevent knee injuries
--ask club how they are trying to prevent knee injuries
--encourage your kid to stretch often, not just for 2 minutes before practice
--consider having your kid do a bit of gymnastics, yoga, pilates, or ballet to help with flexibility, balance, coordination
--if your daughter has a Warrior Girl personality and focus, try (good luck!) to encourage other interests, sometimes these kids are at highest risk because they (and their self-esteem) is completely wrapped up in the sport and they do 'LOVE it LIVE it' just like the T-shirts say. French Immersion and Math Camp might be a tough sell but start with something less frightening like Rock Climbing or Horseback riding.
--ask your Doctor if taking Glucosamine and/or Chondroitin is recommended for your athlete (I’m no expert on that, so I'll let you do that research, but it's worth a look).


Back to us parents: Here's a similar situation for all levels of youth sports: Have you ever been at practice and heard thunder, seen lightning, then watched as the coach continued practice, pretending he heard nothing? It’s up to you to safeguard your kid by stepping in and getting him/her off the field. Same with injury prevention, you may be the only one looking out for your kid, so just do it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

PART 1 That Which Does Not Kill Me, Makes Me Stronger…..uh…NO, The Opposite of That (Knee Injuries and Female Athletes-Part One)


I’m reading a good, but scary book, it’s like a thriller mystery: I can’t put it down, I’m petrified, and I can’t wait to see how it will end (or play out in my life, anyway). Everything I’ve witnessed in our soccer league is written down in this book in black and white. The statistics and real life examples in the book show it’s not just a fluke that in our club and league all the girls teams seem to have girls on crutches on the sidelines. They are out with ACL tears, meniscus cartilage tears, patella-femoral syndrome, stress fractures from overuse, and other knee (mostly) injuries. The book is Warrior Girls-Protecting Our Daughters from the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports, by Michael Sokolove. Basically, it describes

1) How seriously injured our female soccer and basketball players (mostly their knees) are getting playing the game they love
2) That the coaches, girls, and even the parents are downplaying the risks and the injuries
3) How the girls are pushing (and being pushed) to tough out their recovery after serious knee injuries and surgeries and come back to playing before they’re ready, causing re-injury, re-surgery, often guaranting chronic and future knee problems (like serious arthritis at age 30)
4) How the attitudes (trickled down from the coaches) of the players to ‘play at all costs’ and ‘win at all costs’ is exacerbating the problems
5) prevention techniques (yes, finally some positive news)

To be honest, the author goes into so much detail about the knee injuries and the actual surgery that I had to have a family intervention when my daughter caught me canceling next weeks soccer camp and replacing it with French Immersion camp. She managed to get me to chill out on that one (and Math Camp), but I’m starting to feel like she should spend a few weeks this summer laying on the couch (aaack) playing video games. I may even tell her where I hide the Funyons and Ring-Dings.

Apparently, because of their build, center of gravity, the way they run, and the way they land after jumping, girls are highly prone (8:1 compared to boys) to ACL ruptures. This repair requires a pretty invasive surgery involving taking a ligament from another part of the leg and replacing the ACL with it. The recovery time is about 6-9 months. It’s getting so common of an injury that many teams are taking extra players at tryouts knowing that at least 2 or 3 will end up with a ‘blown out’ knee before the season is out. Worse than that, and because it’s so common, the seriousness is down-played and the girls are encouraged to push it in rehab and get back to the field (or court) quicker and quicker. They all know others who’ve had ACL and it becomes a competition: how many surgeries you’ve had, how quick (and strong) you came back. And the competition is not just self-driven between the girls, but can be encouraged by the parents, coaches, physical therapists, etc. The book outlines some Case Stories, some real superstars in HS and college soccer and follows them and their injuries throughout their sports careers.

My own experience agrees with the book. On my daughters team (mind you, 12 year olds) practice has just started (July 1st) for the fall season and we have 3 girls who can’t practice yet, 2 because they are recovering from Patello-Femoral syndrome (left over from last season) and 1 who’s had knee surgery for ACL rupture. That’s 3 out of 17 twelve year olds. My own had a good bit of knee pain early last fall and then a wrenching contact injury that made us go to the orthopaedic doctor and got x-rays and an MRI. Luckily her ACL and meniscus were not torn, and she had a minor ACL sprain. Oh, and tendonitis in both knees, but the orthopaedic doc says all athletes who play and practice this often (and of a running, jumping nature) have it, so just get used to it (the pain). But it was a close enough call (and a wake up call) for me, so I started researching and got her some physical therapy and when my insurance ran out, I got her a personal trainer and he (and my research) designed an ACL prevention program for her. Yes, you read that right, my 12 year old has a personal trainer! I can’t even afford to buy kettle bells (hint, hint contest people), but I spend an exorbitant amount on a weekly personal training sessions for a kid who hasn’t even hit puberty.

In Part Two, I’m planning on talking about what we as parents can actually do to help.
PS I know this isn’t the most entertaining subject, so…… (lucky YOU)...conveniently I’ve just learned how to do the web links in a blog, so I apologize for going a bit overboard throughout this post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

GAS PRICES.....gasp!

Yea, I know….you are sick of reading blogs entries and news items about high gas prices. Me too, so I’ll make it short. However, high gas prices have the potential to SUCK the life out of a small sub-section of youth sports. That subset of sports is the competitive, travel teams. Emphasis on the TRAVEL part. Generally, you have to travel at least an hour or two, each way, every weekend for the games or competitions; big tournaments can be states away, and once or twice a year, the kids may even need to fly. I know I’ve flown 4 times with one of my kids (2 different sports) and she’s only 12 now.

Additionally, if your athlete is on a really top team, chances are that team is not located in your neighborhood, so you even have to TRAVEL 3 or 4 times per week just for PRACTICE. In the club that my youngest plays soccer, there are countless kids who drive (actually they are driven) 2 to 3 hours each way, for practice (how the parents got that dedicated and can afford that much time in a car is stuff for another post). Even competitive cheerleading is that competitive; the gym I work out in has a competitive cheerleading program and there are some kids that live 2-3 hours from the gym and practice 4X/week here (I really must get a thesaurus….feel free to replace some of my competitives with: elite, high level, serious, top level, premier, travel, crème de la crème, whatever your local dialect calls for).

Don’t forget the other people (coaches, trainers, referees, etc) who have to drive or fly these distances to the games and tournaments and their gas bill is ultimately paid for by the parents with team fees.

In my neck of the woods here are some of the solutions we’ve been discussing and started to put into use:

1. Carpooling—already universally used for practices, many families have begun carpooling to games and tournaments. Sometimes this means that there’s no room for Dad (or Mom), but I haven’t heard any complaining. As the kids get past about 13 or so, they’d prefer both Mom and Dad stay home; so you could end up a designated parent in an SUV with about 4 or 5 players. If you are lucky they each come with a 20 dollar bill from their parents for gas money.



2. Check out the parking lot at the games…..not so many SUVs and minivans this year, huh? Not a single Hummer in sight at practice tonight. I’ve traded my SUV for a hybrid car…lucky we just happened to have one in driveway. Oh wait….that was a dream, dang. Well, I’m hoping to soon (right after winning the lottery next week).



3. I’ve heard it suggested, but yet to see it come to fruition, that some leagues may go back to scheduling 2 games in one day (for soccer and baseball anyway) so we (parents, coaches and officials) only have to drive to the field once per weekend.




4. Some families have decided to move their kids to a league closer to home even if the level of competition and coaching is not quite as high as they would like.



5. Clubs and teams have been making decisions to forgo certain tournaments and competitions, focusing on either on those closest to home or the most important. I personally am thrilled with this one, I’ve saved a good bit of $$ on hotels also, this summer.



6. A few parents are choosing to forgo certain competitions or games. Not so popular with the other parents and coach, though. Last minute replacements, smaller bench, and position switching is stressful on the whole team. But….ya gotta do what ya gotta do sometimes, right? If it comes to that though, I recommend seeing #1 above and sending your kid (and some cash) with another family so you don’t break his heart and make yourself the parent that becomes the focus of the weekends sideline gossip.

GOOD LUCK to all and may all your hybrid car dreams come true (Toyota Prius if we need to get specific).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

180 Seconds Worth of Action Squeezed into 6+ Hours



Yup, that’s how a summer swim meet is often described by parents, looooonnnnnggggg. Overall, the summer swim team experience is awesome, in fact one thing I remember most about my summers growing up was the swim team I was on every year. I wasn’t a very good swimmer but that so didn’t matter. It was just 7 weeks every year, but I made great friendships, got daily exercise and had a little structure every summer. Back then, I never saw it from my parents point of view. Now, as a mom to a summer swim team member for the last 6 or so years, it’s interesting to compare and contrast.

SWIM TEAM FROM THE CHILDS POINT OF VIEW


1. It's a guaranteed opportunity to be with BFF at the pool everyday, before, during, and after practice; and, of course, at the meets.


2. Meets are the social events of the week. Practice is even fun, the coaches are cool, tan, fit and happy to be here. There’s no pressure like the competitive softball/soccer/whatever travel team that’s been the focus all year


3. After about age 12, you suddenly notice that all the opposite sex swimmers you’ve been friends with since you were 5 are actually cute; I can’t tell you how many budding romances start on swim teams.


4. The swim meets themselves are an opportunity to eat candy, goof off and play with friends for 6 hours straight with very minimal work (see above title…I’m not kidding about the 180 seconds of actual swimming)


5. By June 15th, Wow!! I’m getting so TAN


6. By July 15th, Wow!! I’ve got summer, streaky, blonde hair


7. Parents are very hands-off during meet, actually no supervision whatsoever seems to be the rule (see below #3 for explanation). I don’t even remember my parents being at my meets, but they assure me they were.


SWIM TEAM FROM THE PARENTS POINT OF VIEW

1. The meets are LOOONNGGG, and mind-numbingly boring unless you have a job (see #3)


2. Your kid only swims 6 races, at most, and they are each about 30 seconds long, but you are required to be at the pool from about 4:30pm to the bitter end, usually around 10:30 or 11:00.


3. Swim meets are run essentially by the parents, depending on the size and structure, most swim meets require about 25-50 volunteers. You are probably going to be required to work at least a few meets, and when you do you are busy the entire 6 hours.


4. If you are volunteering, often you miss your own kids race…oh well, it’s just a big splash anyway, just tell him how fast he looked. You can check his times tomorrow.


5. You don’t get home until about 11:00pm on swim meet nights and have to go to work the next day..why can’t they be Friday or Saturday?


6. It’s usually about 105 degrees and you can’t even get in the pool.


7. The spectator area is so crowded and don’t get up or you’ll lose your spot.


8. You can get sunburnt at 5:00pm (and wrinkles.. and..melanoma...and...what??..you can't get summer blonde streaks in grey hair? this sucks)


9. When it’s over at about 11:00pm (unless there were thunderstorm delays and it’s now midnight) your kid is so hopped up on sugar he is not going to sleep for a loongg time. Might as well have a sleepover and invite a few BFF’s.


10. Some, but not many actually, of the parents in each age group are super, super, focused on their kids performance, his times, how much he beat last weeks times…unfortunately this means there will be screaming the ENTIRE evening. The kids swimming don’t actually hear it, but EVERYONE else does.

There are even a few positives, too, from the parents perspectives:

11. The daily practices are super good exercise and the reason many parents sign them up in the first place. Your kid gets some decent exercise 5X/week, and it’s a good, low pressure on the joints type of workout. It’s just what some kids need, a break from all the contact sports and something different physically.


12. The friendships, team work, and camaraderie of hanging with the same kids every summer is really healthy (and guess what? the kids have parents and for the most part we are also happy to see each other and hang out all summer, too).


13. Swim team practice is a good excuse to get the family out of the house regularly and have a bit of structure to each day…especially if you are a stay at home family and don’t have camps and daycare to go to.


14. Joining a swim team if you’ve just moved into a new area is often the way kids can make friends before school starts. It happens all the time and has saved many a kid from a summer of loneliness and the stress of being ‘brand new’ come September.


15. It’s a great way to reinforce swimming skills. We have lots of very young, not-so-good swimmers on our team and they basically use practices as swimming lessons. It’s totally encouraged in my neighborhood pool, hopefully elsewhere, too.


Anyway….even though you can probably tell I despise the actual meets, I think being on a summer swim team is a fantastic way for a kid to spend the summer.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Magnet Mania

Surely you’ve seen all the magnets. Most minivans, SUV’s and now, thanks to gas prices, Toyota Prius’s in suburbia have one or more magnets advertising the sports the kids in the family play. I did a brief survey of my Super Target parking lot this weekend and got the following results (I included magnets and stickers):

11 soccer balls or soccer clubs
8 hockey
4 basketballs
7 swimteam
2 lacrosse
2 wrestling
3 footballs or football clubs
3 jump rope (Got Rope..cute)
5 ballet shoes magnets
1 gymnastics
1 wrestling
i saw 4 marathon (26.2 and 13.1) stickers, but i'm assuming/hoping!! those are for the adults not the kid

Why do we decorate our cars like this? Proudly displaying what our kids love? We know we are sneered at on the highway or in our workplace parking lot occasionally.

There are numerous reasons…first and foremost (in my house) it’s because my youngest loves them. First she was content with a generic magnet or sticker for the sport she was currently in (a soccer ball or a horseback rider decal). Now she’s a more competitive athlete, playing on a traveling soccer club team with a rival team across town; and thus a more competitive magnet displayer…..She wants to be sure everyone knows she plays for Northside FC and obviously not the clearly inferior Southside FC; I’m happy for her to have this Team Pride at this point, so I indulge.

Another reason…fundraising. Purchasing a 75 cent magnet for 10 bucks certainly does have a high profit margin for the HS team or the club, most of which desperately need it.

Finally, there’s parent pride…..most parents are happy to have a magnet with their sons HS football team and his name/number, we are showing we are proud of our kid. More than just showing everyone we are proud of our kid, we are showing our kid we are proud of him. In my mind it’s like wearing that hideous Fathers Day tie he made all day and not just out the door on that Monday morning.

I must admit, though, even I have a limit. My youngest is playing soccer on two teams, a lacrosse team and swimteam this summer and not surprisingly we’ve gotten new magnets for each. Four at a time is even too much for me, so I’ve had her give Dad two and me two for our respective cars. Anymore and they will be headed for the refrigerator. I’ve told that much magnetic force on one car could cause damage to the spark plugs and axels; so far she’s accepted that-------clearly I don’t have an Honor Roll bumper sticker on any of our cars :-(

Anyway….sports pride in the form of magnets is our version of the “Honor Roll kid” bumper stickers that we’ve seen around town for the last 15 years or so. So decorate you car with pride, don’t worry what your co-workers or neighbors think. Prevent unsightly magnet build-up and damage to the paint job by rotating every season or every time you change your clocks. To get a totally fresh start, run your car through one of those gas station car washes….the magnets go flying off and you have a naked car for a few weeks. I’ve done that more times than I can count, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Answering your Questions !!


The most common (actually this is by far the most common question, in fact nearly the ONLY) type of question I get is below:

I’m moving to a new state and need to find the right Soccer program for my kids. How do I find the best ballet school in my area?
Where is a decent competitive gymnastics team in my new city?
Is there a fun, non-competitive basketball league in my area?
etc, etc.......

Conveniently, these are extremely easy questions to answer. As with everything else in life that is important….the INTERNET is the answer.


1. Type in Google search similar to this: soccer programs Houston TX. You will find quite a few different programs to do further research (both internet and telephone if you like)

2. Also try the small towns that are surrounding the large town in your searches. Mix up your searches: recreational soccer Houston TX, Sugar Land TX soccer clubs, soccer program in Houston, etc......

3. Check out each google hit and narrow down the places that look interesting, check out their website, give them a call.

4. Another thing I always do is check out the city’s (and each nearby small town that would be drive-able) Parks and Recreation department for the programs you are interested in.

5. Try the areas YMCA’s, they usually run lots of recreation level sports leagues. They all will have websites.

6. An excellent resource for the more specific questions is the http://www.city-data.com/forum/ website. It’s broken up into geographic areas of the country and you can post really specific questions. For example you can go to the Birmingham, AL forum, open up a new topic and ask: I’m moving to the area and my daughter is a level 7 gymnast, can you all please give me some recommendations? Also, you can ask this forum for opinions on some of the programs you found on your Google search. For example: “” I’m interested in having my son tryout for the Networks Basketball AAU Club, does anyone have any information or opinions on that program? “”

7. Check out the local High Schools athletic programs and their websites. You can give the varsity coach of the Softball team a call and ask her/his opinion of local club programs for your competitive softball play.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Parents!--How to Behave on the Sidelines

This post could also be titled: How Not To Look Like an Ass on the Sidelines


These recommendations work for both recreation level sports and competitive level


1) Don’t heckle or dispute the ref any more than the usual throwing up of your hands and going WHAT?? Anything more and you embarrass your spouse, your kid and the other parents. You are just showing everyone that’s it’s not about the game or the kids, it’s about YOU and how much smarter YOU are than the ref.

2) Do NOT ever tell your kid or someone elses kid what to do during the game. This includes everything from detailed instructions on what do next to even yelling: “Run” or “Go”. The only instructions kids should hear are from the coaches or his teammates. Parents and other spectators trying to tell the player what to do is extremely confusing, and to be honest, you are probably not even telling them the correct thing. You should be cheering and only yelling positive stuff: Great Job!! Nice One!! Yeay!! Etc.

3) No critiquing the play of the players during the game. Even the slightest insult, like: “Oh…Cody should have passed to Brandon” will really piss off the parents of Cody; and make you look like a jerk (since there’s a 99% chance that Brandon is your kid)

4) No bragging about your own kid (out loud, or even to your spouse) during the game…you can gloat all you want in the car or at the office or to the grandparents. No one needs to hear how awesome your little Beckham Jr. is, they are also watching the same game and they think their Freddy Adu is the real superstar of the game.

5) Do not say anything negative about individual kids on the opposing team. Their parents can hear you and even if they can’t, how does it look for a 40 year old dad to insult a strange 12 year old to make his own kid look better, pretty pathetic, huh?

6) Don’t help the coach during the game unless he asks, although if you want to pick up trash after the game or put away the sports bench while he’s giving the kids the post game speech, it would probably be much appreciated.

7) Try not to cheer (or laugh) when the other team screws up. Nothing looks worse (or could really hurt a child) than you cheering when someone drops an easy fly so your son makes it to first base.

8) Don’t run out on the field if your kid gets hurt. I know it’s your first instinct, but it’s a big no-no. If it’s serious, you can meet him back at the bench when the coach carries him over.


How to be a GREAT sideline parent: do the complete opposite of the above. Your child will appreciate it. By just quietly watching the game, cheering good plays and appreciating the entire game, not just your childs achievements, you will enhance it for everyone. After the game tell your child how great s/he was and ask if s/he had fun. Nothing more. No suggestions, no asking about specific plays (unless it’s real positive like: “wow, I bet that homerun you hit felt great, huh?”). Let him know by your comments he’s awesome in your eyes no matter what.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Dad Coaches (or Wannabees) are great!!! To a point


Okay….being a coach of your childs sports team has been a dream you’ve had since before you even had kids, go ahead admit it. Totally healthy. It’s a great way to bond with your child, share something you love and get to spend lots of time together doing something you love. From age 6 to about 9 at a rec level, it’s fantastic for you, him, your family, etc. Also, most recreational leagues are run by volunteers and coaches are sorely needed and valued. Beyond that (into competitive levels) it can be successfully done, but it’s rare. The above are all the positives, but I’d like to focus on the negatives and the common problems so you can recognize them in yourself if necessary.

AT THE RECREATIONAL LEVEL

-Don’t favor your child. At all. For any reason. Duh.
-Don’t be harder on your child than the other players.
-Equal playing time, no matter how much better your child is than everyone elses. You almost have to bend over backwards or err on the side of less time for your child, the other parents are all counting the minutes, really.
-Don’t put up with whining from your child
-Discuss with her/him before the season starts that s/he must treat you like a coach, not a dad. Of course s/he can still call you dad at practice
-If you notice your child not listening and treating you they way he treats you at home, he may not be ready for his dad to coach and truly benefit from another coach.
-If you want to coach because your child is whiny, high maintenance, hard to control, etc and you think yourself being the coach will help, please think again…it’s always worse.
-At the banquet, when you are giving out trophies, please don’t say, when calling up your son, “And now, My favorite Fighting Cougar player: Connor”. I know you think it’s adorable and cute and super special for your son, but it sucks for the other twelve 7 year olds, who truly think they are your favorite (and the best player on the team). I can’t tell you how many times this has been done in my experience and it usually sucks the fun out of the party room at Pizza Hut… I swear. He already knows he’s your favorite and you can tell him in the car if you want to make sure.
-Sometimes at young ages, your child only wants to play soccer/t-ball, etc if you will coach, and this situation can have 2 outcomes: a) you introduce her to a great sport which she soon loves with a passion and that she would have missed out on if you hadn’t coached, or b) she didn’t really want to play soccer, just hang out more with you, and she becomes clingy and annoying at practices and games and it has a negative effect on the team. Only you can figure out which your situation will be.

AT THE COMPETITIVE LEVEL

-All of the above 8 tips, of course, and
-Coaching your own child’s team at this level is much harder to do, in fact at the highest levels (classic soccer, AAU basketball, competitive gymnastics, etc) you can’t, due to rules and coaching requirements.
-At this level, you may be asked by the professional coach to assist him. That is a great honor, but know your place. It’s to ASSIST.
-Understand that there is a very big chance that your child would benefit from learning soccer from a professional with more experience coaching
-If your child is a gifted athlete, consider that by keeping him on your team (say a mid level competitive league or team) instead of encouraging him to tryout for the Elite level (whatever that is in your particular sport), is very selfish.
-Even though he says he wants you to continue to be his coach, you may need to put your foot down and explain it might be better at this point to see baseball from a new perspective. You can still show him all your tricks and super moves in the backyard later.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Summer FUN for the even the Youngest


It’s not to early for your child to learn that SUMMER = FUN and SUMMER = New things, new sport skills, and new friends.


So, your preschooler is in a great routine. Either:

1) He goes to daycare/preschool for most of the day while you work…this provides great structure, social time with all his friends, education time, exercise, outdoor time, naptime, exposure to other adults who love him and take care of him, OR

2) He stays home with you all day, and, being the awesome parent you are: you provide him with structure, social time with his friends, exercise, outdoor time, education time, naptime, etc and of course, the bonding time with mom (or dad) on an all day, everyday basis, OR

3) He goes to preschool part-time (9-12) and gets all of the above (except the nap).


Either way, it’s a great life…no pressure, no tests, no teachers dirty looks. However, the one thing it is…it’s the SAME (duh, structure is good, we know that) every day…every week….every month. Since it is working so well, we hesitate to change it in the summer and most pre-schoolers just continue with the same routine all summer long. But, summer, even before they start elementary school, can be an awesome time of change and learning for kids…time for some NEW EXPERIENCES.

There are many ways to make summer special with structured activities and sports opportunities for the little ones that can be as short as day or last the entire summer.

They can try:

Ø Daycamp specializing in a particular sport, most YMCAs (but also local universities, city parks and rec departments, and private sports clubs have these and usually a 5 year old (heading to Kindergarten in the fall) can participate. At a young age, spending just one week playing a new sport with a good coach can make an non-athlete become a superstar in the fall league. They are sponges at this age (not just of educational material, but sports skills too).

Ø Swim teams: many neighborhood pools have swim teams and kids can start as young as 3. Some have requirements that your kid can make it one lap, but some will even let a non-swimmer join (like my local pool) and treat the daily practices like swim lessons. Swim team is usually a HUGE benefit to families, they provide daily practices (exercise), daily socialization with new friends, and the swim meets tend to be major social events for the kids and parents. Most kids are not stressed about the 6 or less times they get to race, they spend 90% of the meet hanging out with their buddies stuffing their face with candy (for energy, you know) and smacking each other with towels. I can’t recommend joining the neighborhood swim team any more highly.

Ø Weeklong ‘classic’ camp: I mean the type of camp we all think of when we think of camp: it’s in the country (or at least feels like it), you go swimming, do crafts, ride horses, do archery, canoe, have cabins. This is a great summer tradition and if your child is confident and comfortable with being away from home (it’s great to do this kind of camp with a friend), now (the year before kindergarten starts) is a perfect time to start exploring. The kids learn new skills and make new friends. Often they get bonded with the group and want to go back year after year. They make new friends from out of town and write letters throughout the next year. Obviously age 5 is pretty young and many kids are not quite ready for an entire week away from home yet (I would never insist a child go at this age), many camps have option of ‘commuter’ camper where they go ALL day (usually till at least 9:00pm). I’ve found my commuter campers usually love camp so much that next year they always chose to be sleepers.


Ø Vacation Bible school—many, many churches have these, usually week-long bible classes, that young kids can attend. They are always quite fun and focused on the child enjoying himself. You can always find one to fit your schedule as the churches seem to stagger the weeks, the programs and the hours (some are in the daytime and some in the evenings). It’s beneficial sometimes to attend one that is not given by your own church as a way of making new friends, meeting new teachers, etc. That can also make it a ‘special’ summer activity, otherwise he will probably end up with the same teachers he has year round for Sunday School.


Ø Mini-camps (usually 9-12 each day for a week) given by local parks and rec departments, private schools, science or art museums, good daycares and many other organizations. These often have a theme such as: Bugs, Space, Pottery, or Sports week. This is a phenomenal way to get you kid into new things and see what types of stuff he prefers (science vs. sports, etc)


Whatever you do with your child this summer, emphasize FUN, EXERCISE and LEARNING something NEW. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tryouts-The Aftermath

I couldn’t have been more correct (if I do say so myself) to call Tryouts the scariest ride of the summer based on my own families past experiences. If asked, I’d name it the Emotional Rollercoaster.

First of all, the tension and worry in the week before is there for all but the most confident players and their families. Last post I talked about how to minimize it, but it’s still a stressful time. Due to that, it’s pretty common for a kid to get sick, break an arm, or have his first seizure the day before tryouts. I know one of mine once actually fell out of her seat in math and scratched up her arm and twisted her ankle the day of tryouts….Geez, like I don’t have enough to worry about, now I have to worry about math injuries?! One year my son had a broken thumb during tryouts from doing back handsprings at the gym the week before. Fortunately thumbs aren’t necessary in soccer. I saw quite a few pink and blue casts this week, all arms thankfully. If your child has a major injury or illness (broken leg, torn cartilage, acl tear, spinal meningitis, etc) and can’t tryout, s/he should still show up, talk to the coach if you haven’t already. If he’s a known player to the club, they may still place you on the proper team. If you are new to the club you may be screwed for the year.

Next are the actual tryouts themselves….not much stress for parents IF you’ve followed my instructions in the previous post and gone to the mall (or the gym) each night (or BAR, how on earth did I forget that one?). But for your child, they feel tons of pressure. Every time they touch the ball, good or bad, they want to look to see if the coaches saw it and are writing all about it on their clipboards. Usually it seems every time a kid does something really amazing, the coaches’ backs are turned.

As the week (usually it’s 3 or 4 days) wears on, the kids are split into groups of somewhat equivalent players while the coaches watch them scrimmage, move them around into different positions; and over to different fields. There is nothing more ego-killing than being moved to a lower quality game while the coaches watch the top group. They also will pull some of the newer or ‘bubble’ kids up to the top group to see what they can do against the best. Again, not for the weak hearted. And this kind of maneuvering is a good reason not to ask for any details when the kid gets in the car….he’s still trying to wrap his head around it himself, if he wants to talk about it he will.

Now…back to a perfect example of a past emotional rollercoaster ride to hell and back. The boys (100 of them vying for 64 spots) are told on the last day or the tryouts that the 16 that will make the A-team (top team/best coach/best tournaments/best training that everyone wants) will be called next Tuesday night by 11:00pm. If you don’t get a call on Tuesday, you didn’t make the top team. The rest of you will get a call on the Friday or Saturday after that telling you whether you made a team and if so, which one (the B, C or D). So…..Tuesday night comes and goes (100 boys are on pins and needles, even the most confident boys who’ve always been on the top team) and NO calls are made (but of course they don’t know that). If it was a girls team, they’d be all calling each other and figure it out, but no…..14 year old boys are too cool for that. They all think they didn’t make the top team and are devastated. Calls go out to the top 16 the next day, and they ride to the top of the rollercoasters in their heads. But the damage has been done, they all know that feeling of failure, of not making it, of being 2nd best. Not a bad life lesson actually, but it was a horrible 24 hours for most (and the parents, too).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The scariest ride of the summer: TRYOUTS

This month is tryout season for most competitive (Premier, Classic or Travel) soccer club teams. Thus, it’s the most stressful week of the year for the kids and parents (not to mention the coaches and the club administrators). Most large clubs hold tryouts for 3 to 4 nights and by the end of it, they will place the players on the A, B, or C classic teams and the rest don’t make it at all. The stress of making a team is big, but the stress of which team you make, who made what team, which coach you get and why, can push even the most level-headed, sane parent over the edge.

Ways to limit your stress during tryouts

1) go to the gym or mall, do NOT stand around and watch with the throng of other parents who are watching and commenting on every move, every child makes.
2) Afterward, do not ask your child about any details (you don’t want to know them, trust me), just say "did you have fun?" "Were the coaches nice?" Enough to let your kid know you care, but that’s it.
3) Don’t go walking with any other moms unless it’s your BFF. They claim it’s to get away from the tryout stress, but really you end up talking shit about the other kids/coaches/parents…actually it was pretty fun last night, and I vow to repent and rise above it tomorrow (I hope)
4) Volunteer to help with registration….this keeps you away from the field and from obsessing with your child. It also can potentially get you some really good information if that’s what you need (tryout lists, gossip partners, opportunity to give the kids the wrong numbers and completely screw up the whole thing, etc)
5) Duh….valium
6) Double duh….don’t go……..let your kid ride with a friend


ways to limit your childs stress during tryouts

1) Do not ask your child about any details (they probably don’t want to discuss them with you, she justs want to chill w/music or text messaging or both), just say “id you have fun?” “Were the coaches nice?” Enough to let your kid know you care, but that’s it.
2) Don’t attempt to redirect their tryout stress by adding school stress like I did last night, “How did the math EOG go today?” that was the mistake I made in my minivan last night.
3) If it’s their first high level tryout make sure they are prepared with what to expect the day or so before, make sure they have all their equipment, proper clothes, water bottle, ball, shin guards, etc…normally they should be responsible for this, but I always do a double check for tryouts so she doesn’t freak out over a missing shoe, or having to tryout with no shorts, etc. that we just discovered were not in the bag. Tell him/her the basics, but in a very calm, no big deal manner...stuff like: "Have fun", "Play hard", "don't walk around on the field: run", "don't goof off with your friends today", "make sure your shoes stay tied" "there will be guys watching you with clipboards and pencils, but don't worry about it"
4) If he's a veteran, before the actual tryouts don’t act like this is the big deal that it is…..no last minute lectures, words of wisdom, advice….he should already know and your stress is just transferring over to him



Ways to stress out the other parents (soooo easy) Just in case a few of you can’t take my advice above to go to the gym and feel the need to create some Drama…

1) Tell an annoying parent that the coach of the B team (or C or D) was just seen talking to her kid,
2) mention that the A team coach had his back turned when said child did something amazing,
3) say nothing, just click your tongue everytime said child touches the ball,
4) start rumors by saying things like “I hear that Coach A likes “insert any adjective here” (short, tall, heavy, wiry, loud, quiet, blonde, brunette, no braces, webbed toes, anything just make it up) players


Don't worry, Tryouts never last more than a week..but the fallout can take all summer to deal with

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Reluctant Participant


Instead of infants, I’d rather discuss kids and sports starting about age 3-4 years when parents are no longer encouraged to join the classes. Yes, I’m sorry but you must start now. We all know if you don’t start them at 3 years of age (not 3 ½), they have already lost the college lacrosse scholarship at a Division 1 university…and a Division 2 school is looking a bit hopeless too….so hurry up, sign up, there’s not much time left, it’s time to lay down the groundwork (begin playing ominous music and the slow, lingering drain of checking account). I’m not saying you have to put your 3 year old in Stanford or Duke University’s 3-week summer, overnight, lacrosse camp for Elite players, but get cracking on the gymnastics and mini-kickers soccer classes. At this age, the kid is able to join groups and be taught without a parent in the group. It’s usually harder for the parent than the child. If you’ve worked them up into a proper frenzy (ie. done a proper preparation) in the last 3 or 4 days, most kids at age 3 barely turn around to wave BYE to mom when they run off to their first karate, soccer, or gymnastics class.
However, about 10% of kids are not interesting in doing anything without mommy and thus in EVERY SINGLE activity/sports group you will see from age 3-8, there is at least one kid clinging to mom and hiding behind her back (often crying) while the coach/teacher starts. Yes, I know this is totally uncomfortable for the coach and mortifying for the parent. You know all the other moms are already hanging out in the lobby having the best hour EVER, drinking Starbucks, and reveling in their supreme ability to spawn and raise perfect, athletic, over-achieving, super-confident children. Try not to worry about this, but, to be honest, that’s exactly what they are thinking…they’re not saying it, but they are thinking it. Now is a good time (while your kid is hanging on your leg and the coach is droning on) to say my Serenity Poem :

God, grant Jimmy confidence to do gymnastics without me next week

And, please give Madison and MacKenzie’s mom some extra crows feet


Now…..Preparation for the first day if you think you might have a Reluctant Participant on your hands.

Sign up with a friend…it doesn’t even have to be his friend, your friend with a similar aged kid will do…it helps the reluctant to go with someone he already knows. If your child is not the one who originally mentioned gymnastics/soccer/ballet/whatever, then, before you sign him up, you should ask him about it and make sure that he does actually want to. If he shows any type of inkling of interest, then go for it. It’s even a good idea to show him how fun it will be by taking him the gym or field with another class in progress before you say anything. Timing here is everything….he’s got to be in the right frame of mind. Playing in the backyard, kicking a ball or doing handstands is a good start, then say….hey, wouldn’t this be fun to do with other kids instead of just me and daddy? About 3 or 4 days before the first day, start mentioning it “ooh, I just remembered, only 3 more days until you get to start gymnastics” “only one more day until you get to play with the kids at karate”, how he reacts to those will give you some good clues on how it will go.


Anyway, being nervous and preferring not to participate at the moment the class starts is totally normal for some kids….how the mom and coach deal with this child at a young age is critical for his future in sports. To the parent, I recommend:

1) have “no worries” attitude,


2) go ahead and go out there with him and hang out with the group, trust me, coaches and teachers are used to it at this age


3) if you already know your child will be insecure, mention it to the coach beforehand


4) during the introductions act like whatever the coach is saying is totally interesting,


5) learn a few of the kids names during the first week so you can talk them up before next week…”guess what Jimmy…tomorrow we are going to get to see Jonathan again, won’t that be awesome!!!”


6) if he’s completely miserable, crying, screaming, hysterical, you may want to reconsider and think about doing it again next season after he’s had more time to become confident with separations and practiced interacting with new people one at a time, then in small groups,


7) you know your child best, often if just takes kids 20 minutes, or one session, or enough time to make a new best friend, so don’t give up unless you know it’s not going to work this time (again….you know your child best). But every time you let him quit in the moment of stress will make it harder the next time.



To the coach I recommend:

1) Have a ‘no worries’ attitude

2) Learn the kids name and talk to him directly a few times, but don’t ask anything that requires an answer…for example you can say “Jimmy over there looks like he already knows how to do a handstand, his arms look really strong” or “Jimmy has brought the right size soccer ball, that’s what we all need next week, a size 3” then move on to another kid.

3) Don’t pressure him to do much, but don’t ignore him either, you could be the hero that gets him going…every once in awhile look over and say “hey, Jimmy want to be Jacobs partner?,your mom can stay”

4) Hold his hand, if he’ll let you.

5) If he’s crying or screaming, just let his mom take care of him.

6) No matter how little he interacts, at the end of the seesion tell him “you did great Jimmy, see you next Sunday”.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Do they make Speedos in size 0-3 months?


We start feeling the peer pressure to enroll our kid in organized activity about age 2-3 months….but it can start earlier if you are a real go-getter. Parent Tot classes are things like: Mommy and Me, Little Gym, and Gymboree groups where the infant and mom do body movement to music, sometimes involving colorful parachutes (why parachutes??? I’ve never figured that one out). Also, there are water familiarization classes at the local pools where a parent and an infant hop into the pool together with a teacher and a few other pairs and gently splash the water and hope the baby likes it. I’ve heard that for some families, water births are planned for the sole purpose of getting ahead of the neighbor kids with regards to the year round swimming and diving teams. It’s hard to dispute your intentions when the birth announcement photo features the new baby wearing $40.00 swim goggles.


I think mom/infant organized activities are great if you are in need or want of company, but really not necessary for your baby at all. Most folks do this stuff at home without even thinking about. On the other hand, if you and your progeny are together all day and you’ve caught yourself asking the diaper genie what he thinks about the democratic candidates views on immigration and then arguing with his views, it actually may be a really great way for your kid to get used to new environments and for you to get out of the house and meet other moms/dads desperately searching outside contact with humans over the age of 4.