Preparing for March Madness

Springtime Sports Tips for Families

If you have kids who play sports year-round, March usually comes in like a lion.

Basketball, or maybe bowling, is winding down. Baseball, softball and soccer are revving up. Maybe mix in some flag football. You often find yourself going from one game to another, plus practice, fitting in homework and dinner wherever it works, and sometimes having your child change his or her clothes in the car with the frenetic pace of an Indy crew at a pit stop.

There are lots of options to consider. Do you need to dress your child for an indoor or outside activity? Dry weather or wet? Warm or cold? March will throw every condition at you, sometimes changing from day to day. And if you have more than one child, the challenge grows exponentially.

How do you get through it? Here are some spring sports tips to help you survive.

For starters, have a well-stocked vehicle trunk. Make your car a sports locker on wheels. Keep your child’s equipment there — soccer balls, baseball gloves, cleats, etc. Make sure you have a jacket or winter coat (at least through April), as well as gloves or mittens and wool caps for every family member. Store a case of water bottles, which will most likely remain more than cold enough.

For the “fans,” keep a blanket — or, better yet, a sleeping bag to be used as a blanket — to drape over you on the really cold days. Have as many canvas folding chairs as you have family members in the car. Bleachers are not available at every location and metal bleachers can be quite cold in frigid weather. In March, temperatures can range from 30 to 70 degrees; and the wind can affect the real feel, especially if the games are at Miller Field.

Towels to dry off wet athletes or bleachers should be on hand, as should umbrellas and sunscreen. Also, stock sunglasses and a ball cap to keep the sun out of your eyes since the sun sets early in the spring.

One item we acquired during our youngest’s college baseball career in the northeast were a couple of personal pop-up tents (Under the Weather, for example, available at Dick’s Sporting Goods or Amazon). These convenient tents fit a single chair and will keep parents and grandparents protected from wind, rain and cold. I highly recommend picking up several. They’ve kept us comfortable in many conditions.

Keeping everything in the car will make sure your child and you will be prepared for every weather condition. It’s easier to run to the car to get a sweatshirt if your child is cold than to have to run back home for it.

Spring weather can be tricky in more ways than one, especially when it comes to pop-up thundershowers. Just because you’re experiencing a downpour at home doesn’t mean it’s raining at the field location. Don’t give up on the game being played or practice being held without hearing from the coach, as you run the risk of leaving the team short of players.

Getting your child to games or practices on time can be a challenge, especially if you have more than one child playing more than one sport and you have multiple events scheduled that day. So stay organized. Find parents you can trust to carpool with. And don’t be late to pick up your child. The coach may need to be someplace immediately after practice and shouldn’t have to worry about waiting for you to show up. Make sure you have the coach’s cell phone number and he or she has yours in the event of an emergency.

Keeping track of all the games and practices can be one of your greatest challenges. Trying to wing it will just add anxiety to an already stressful task. It’s important to stay organized.

We always either made, purchased or printed out a calendar with boxes large enough to fill with a listing of who had a game or practice, when it was and where it was. As soon as the game schedules were distributed, the games were entered on the calendar. Practices were filled in as they were announced, and other family commitments, weekdays off from school, etc., were noted on the calendar. We used different color ink depending on which child had the event. This made it easy to see the busiest days at a glance, thus eliminating a lot of the anxiousness. It gave us the feeling that “we got this.”

There will be days when getting everyone where he or she has to be won’t be possible. There will be conflicts and time challenges, traffic and other commitments. Don’t beat yourself up if you are unable to get a child to one of his or her events. You’re only human. Your child’s sports are activities; they are not jobs. They are playing a sport for the fun of it, and watching your children socializing, learning sports and enjoying themselves can be pleasant for you, too.

Finding the time to make or even sit down to eat dinner also takes planning. Preparing meals in advance and being able to just heat them up after practice or before a game is a great time-saver. There will undoubtedly be nights where you will have to settle for takeout. Little League snack stands are convenient, but eating hot dogs, hamburgers or chicken nuggets every night might not be the healthiest habit. Avoiding field food might be easier said than done when game schedules are at full swing, but planning can help make that possible.

There’s no doubt that March with throw you more than a few challenging situations. But if you follow these steps, you can survive the madness.

By local sportswriter Joe LoVerde, who coached youth sports on Staten Island for nearly 40 years.