From the time my two daughters were toddlers, sports have been the perfect outlet for their boundless energy. And they’re still in the game. One has earned two varsity letters in softball, and the other loves to play middle-school basketball. The hours I’ve spent on the sidelines have taught me that a little prep and planning make the season run more smoothly, for parents and kids alike.
Consider these tried-and-true tips as your game plan for a championship year.
• A Chair That Cheers
Home or away, you can show your team spirit — and let other parents know who your favorite player is — with a removable chair pennant that you can change with the season (or kid). To make one, cut a felt banner sized to fit a folding chair, then decorate the banner with fabric paint and felt cutouts adhered with craft glue. To attach it, place self-adhesive Velcro strips on the back of the banner and on the back of the chair.
• Sideline Survival Kit
I’ve occasionally been called Mary Poppins because of my seemingly bottomless bag of sideline supplies.
But even I can’t think of everything, as I discovered the day I had to take off my socks to replace my daughter’s waterlogged ones! Here are the items I’ve found most useful to have on hand:
- First aid kit
- Water (for player and parents)
- Umbrella (for rain or shine)
- Healthy snacks
- Old towel for drying benches or protecting car seats from muddy legs
- Trash bags for wet or dirty shoes and equipment
- Pre-Wrap — so many uses!
- Insect repellent
- Headband, ponytail holders
- Permanent marker for labeling equipment and other stuff
- Snack-size plastic bags — handy to keep track of jewelry, barrettes, even lost baby teeth
- Extra shoelaces — and spare socks
A High Five for High-tech
Send a game report, learn game rules, and organize a team snack schedule, all from the comfort of your sideline seat. These free apps and websites should be in every sports parent’s playbook:
This app’s templates for most major sports let you keep score, then share the final result via e-mail or social media. iOS
-iReferee (Referee Signals)
View photos of referee hand signals so that youíll never wonder about a call again, and find rules for dozens of sports, including soccer and lacrosse. iOS
Raise your organizing IQ: schedule team practices and snacks for the entire season, generate automatic reminder e-mails, and more.
This site is a virtual hub for sports parents, with links to instructional videos, drills, articles, podcasts, and online games for kids.
Feeding the Team
When it’s your turn to bring the snacks, individually bagged servings are a breeze to hand out. Divvy up snack mix into plastic bags, then label each with the player’s name or number written on a ball-shaped tag.
For tournaments and doubleheaders, the team will need something a bit heartier than snacks, such as these mix-in breads. And there’s no chance the kids will fumble the fillings: everything is baked right into the loaves. Prepare a pound of your favorite bread dough, gently knead in one of the additions below, and bake according to the bread directions.
Season 1⁄2 pound of browned ground beef or turkey with your favorite taco seasoning, then add 1 cup of shredded Mexican blend cheese.
Add 1⁄2 to 1 cup of crumbled feta and up to 1 cup total of the following: sliced black olives, diced sun-dried tomatoes, and finely chopped green pepper.
—recipes by Ellen Harter Wall
Team MVP (Most Valuable Photographer)
Capturing your team in action can be harder than hitting a curveball. Over the years, these tips have improved my luck.
- Snap away during warm-ups, when everyone’s in on the action. Then relax and focus on following the game.
- Make the most of cloudy days to keep shots of squinting players and harsh shadows to a minimum.
- Some of the sweetest and funniest moments happen off the field, so watch the bench and sidelines.
- For a unique perspective, get down on the ground to shoot.
The Amazing Pre-Wrap
With as many uses as there are dimples on a golf ball, Pre-Wrap has earned a permanent spot on my roster. I use this squishy, stretchy stuff to tame flyaway hair, cinch a too-big jersey, identify equipment, decorate fences, and more.
I love that it comes in all sorts of colors and patterns. $3 to $5 for a 30-yard roll; pre-wrap.com
2-4-6-8, Who Do We Appreciate? Coaches!
Helping players learn new skills is its own reward, most coaches would say.
Still, presenting a coach with a small gift or keepsake is a winning way to wind up the season and to acknowledge all the overtime he gave to the team.
Let’s Go to the Video
Want to preserve the season for the record books? Here are a couple of ways to turn your photos and videos into fun highlight reels.
Animoto.com (or the iOS app): Upload images from a computer, camera or photo-sharing site, add music, and create a slide show in minutes. Free for a 30-second video; $5 a month for unlimited use.
Videolicious: Transfer clips from a camera, choose music and click: this free iOS app produces finished videos you can distribute via e-mail or social media.
Sports Jersey Memory Board
Bring a beloved team jersey out of retirement and transform it into a display of your athleteís memorabilia.
1. Cut a team T-shirt so that the logo is centered on a 1-foot-square cork panel (available at office or craft stores) and 3 inches of fabric hang over on all sides.
2. Fold the edges of the shirt tightly over the cork panel and secure them to the back with duct tape.
3. Using a craft knife, cut a 1-foot square of foam core (an adult’s job). Attach the foam core to the back of the cork panel with double-sided carpet tape.
4. Add self-adhesive wall fasteners to the back of the foam core to hang the bulletin board on the wall.
For a coach who’s spent extra innings at the field, a gift certificate for dinner with her family at a local restaurant is the perfect thank-you.
Going with a gift card? Present it in a special game ball.
Cut a shallow slit in a foam ball and insert the envelope. If you like, have players autograph the ball with a permanent marker.
The Gift of Sparkle
After hauling muddy equipment around game after game, Coach’s ride could likely use a cleaning, by professionals or the team. While the vacuums, rags, and buckets are out, offer to clean up the gear, too.
To create a sweet souvenir, ask parents to contribute digital shots for a collage or a photo album, then have everyone on the team write a note of thanks.
For easy custom photo books, check out Blurb.com, Snapfish.com, or Picaboo.com.
— Ruth Spiro, FamilyFun magazine