The pandemic may have slowed families down a little, but the need for balancing family and sports is back. With sports, you’ll soon be busier than ever. The idea of accommodating multiple schedules has progressively increased year after year. Some might even argue that in American culture we’ve become obsessed, if not addicted, to being busy. Oftentimes, parents are balancing work with a jam-packed calendar filled with extracurricular activities for their kids.
According to the 2018 U.S. Census, a whopping 42 percent of school-aged children were involved in sports; 30 percent were involved in lessons and 28 percent were involved in clubs – nine percent of those kids participating in all three extracurricular activities. In the adolescent group, 83 percent are active in at least one extracurricular. Studies do in fact show that there is a direct and positive correlation between kids who participate in extracurriculars, however, sometimes too much can be too much!
Sports provide concrete lessons for kids such as: teamwork, accountability, passion and sportsmanship. These are all great values to possess while maturing. However, compound the interest of two to three children involved in separate sports activities and you quickly realize that keeping up with home life can be tough. So how do you manage it all? Like a family business. There is simply no way as a parent to meet the demands of multiple sports-enthused kids along with work, meals and a well-organized calendar. It requires strategic planning and many sacrifices.
MAKE FAMILY THE PRIORITY
Two former Ohio coaches and parents of athletes, explain what it takes to achieve balance. The secret is much less complex than we might believe: education comes first and family is the priority.
“It’s going to be some long days and some long nights because school work must get done,” says Brian Westbrook, president and CEO of Get Everything U and former coach of Princeton High School and Cincinnati Christian University. “But you have to keep your kids on track with what matters most, because life is bigger than sports.”
Westbrook says when it comes to having children in extracurricular activities, there should be no pressure. Kids are only beginning to figure out what they are passionate about. One minute soccer is the coolest thing in the world, then mid-season they decide they just don’t like it. Know they will change their minds – something they will do often while they’re young. parents should talk about the future from the beginning.
In other words, consider your children’s adult life. A career in sports may not be in the cards — even the most superior athletes are not exempt from injury or career changes. Balance is needed in guiding them each day to understand that what is within them (their intellect, heart and spirit) has the greatest value in carrying them where they want to go. Keeping such realities at the forefront does not undermine aspirations, it provides a big picture mentality and offers them many more possibilities to become the best version of themselves.
CREATE SHARED CALENDARS
Stephen King, former JV coach of Whitehall-Yearling High School and assistant principal of Gahanna’s Lincoln High School in Columbus, says shared calendars are the way to go if you have multiple children in extracurriculars.
“Between my wife, myself and our kids what it does for us is it creates that organizational piece of time management and other life events, including school work and other projects,” he says. This simple tool allows his family to stay in-tune with what is happening for everyone during the day, so they don’t miss the mark on showing up or any important event. Without structure, it is easy to overlook one for another in the hustle and bustle. Kids with parents who make repeated mistakes can experience a lack of confidence and a shift in attitude. Shared calendars allow the family to schedule family time, even if it’s on the road for a sporting tournament. Calendarizing the week’s activities gives parents the oversight to make healthy judgment calls. If you see that everyone is coming and going without much time to come together as a unit to connect, it may be time for a cancellation.
EMPOWER YOUR KIDS
Allowing your kids to take over sports duties such as keeping track of their gear and filling up their water bottle before practice can help a parent out when the days get busy. As they grow, there are little things you can teach them along the way to help them keep up with practices, games and school work. Kids can:
• Advocate for themselves – Teach your kids to speak up when their wants and needs change. Remember, kids can oftentimes have fear of letting us down. Making them comfortable enough to say what it is that they need, it takes conditioning.
• Be accountable – Teach kids the honor in their word. Once they decide to join a team, they agree to hold up their end of the bargain as a player. This will require learning to navigate their schedule and staying on task.
• Build a support system – Encourage your kids to choose friend groups that align with their goals and passions. Friends are influential. It makes sense for them to bond with other kids their age who can lend positive advice and techniques to keep thriving at the game and in other areas of their life.
LIVE AN ENJOYABLE, DOABLE LIFE
“Scheduled time to do nothing is important!” King emphasizes. “We all need a break, especially our children. Of course, we want them to finish what they start, but we also have to recognize when
things have become overwhelming for them,” he adds. And just as you encourage your kids to build support systems, find your parent allies, too. It is amazing what a community can do together, especially to alleviate the stress of a jam-packed calendar. Carpooling saves major amounts of time, for example. Text groups will keep you in-the-know. Leaning on other moms and dads who have athletes can be a game changer. Kids must have the freedom to be who they are – kids. Finding that balance comes down to a structured family environment where there are clear expectations coupled with the opportunity to wind down from it all. Condition kids to be high performers, but also condition them to take care of themselves for the long haul.