Balancing School Days and Sports

Kids are about to start school, and parents with kids who play sports are about to start planning for ways to make sure homework gets done and games and practices are made.

It’s no easy task, especially when you have multiple children playing on multiple teams. When those children attend different schools with different dismissal times, and the sports events are at different locations, the strategizing gets more complex.

But rest assured — you can do this! Here are some tips to help you survive the next few months.

Put everything on a calendar. Get a good-size monthly box calendar — you can print out PDFs from various websites — and list each day’s activities. Put the morning events at the top, afternoon events in the middle and evening events at the bottom. You can even use different color highlighters to color code the events and make it easy to see which child has what activity.

Be sure to include slots in each day when homework and studying will be done, and when you’ll have dinner. Being able to see the whole day in chronological order will help you come up with a plan to successfully navigate the day.

Make sure your child knows the day’s plan. Including the child is important, both in helping get through the day and to help the child learn responsibility. If there is reading that can be done in the car while a sibling is practicing, put it on the child to remember the book. Your children should also be responsible for bringing the equipment they’ll need for that day’s sports activity. Giving them a role in managing the day provides a valuable life lesson.

Team up with other parents. Once you get to know the other families on the teams, you can help each other by carpooling and keeping an eye on each other’s children. Getting to events at different locations is challenging for everyone, and even more difficult if you are a single parent or if one parent is unavailable that day to get a child to a game or practice. Get everyone’s cell phone number in case of emergencies. If you can get some help from an adult with a child on your son or daughter’s team, and that family lives close to you, you can help each other get through the day.

But it’s important to remember that whoever is responsible to picking up the child at the end of practice should be there before practice is scheduled to end. The coach should not have to wait around for parents who come late to get their children. The coach may have kids playing on other teams like you do, and he or she might need to be someplace right after practice. Respect the coach’s time.

Sometimes you have to accept the fact that you’re only human. The best planning can go awry, and there will be times your child will have to miss a sports event because of a conflict or a school responsibility. Yes, you should find reasons to get your child to a sports event, and not excuses why you can’t. But when it’s impossible to do so that day, level with the coach. He or she likely has had to deal with the same challenges themselves and should understand, unless it happens often.
If you find your child is missing too many of a team’s practices or games, your schedule just might not mesh with that activity or team and you should probably look to sign up him or her someplace else.

The outdoor sports season is the most difficult time of year, since there are so many different sports at so many different locations. Things should calm down somewhat once the weather forces the change to just indoor activities. More than anything, don’t build up the commitment of your child playing a sport bigger than it is. You can get through it. There are 168 hours in a week; 10 of which are generally required to dedicate to playing a team sport. Although the math makes it look easy, it does take some juggling and prioritizing – but with some commitment, it can be done!

Joe LoVerde has coached youth sports on Staten Island for more than 40 years. He’s also a longtime newspaper editor and sportswriter.