Some of my daughter's trophies
Some of my daughter's trophies
Photo by Jef Rouner

5 Things to Know When Your Kid Gets Into Sports

My daughter has been enrolled in various sports programs since she was five, and even before that her daycare provider was also a karate teacher by night and added basic karate as a freebie to the class. Like most parents, over the years I’ve compiled a list of things that I wish I’d known when I got started. Today I’m going to pass some of that along.

5. Stuff You Should Buy BEFORE You Get Started

Every sport has a list of gear, and most of it is expensive. However, there are some things not on the list that you’re definitely going to want to have handy.

*A dedicated backpack that exists just for sports stuff and carries day trip essentials. These include snacks, cheap sunglasses, a box of band aids, couple of books, notepad, pen, miniature umbrella, earplugs, sewing kit and a change of clothes for the kid. Keep it stocked; keep it with you.

*A rechargeable battery for electronics that can help on long car trips to events or waiting in the stands.

*Folding chairs for soccer/baseball/football and/or stadium seats indoor sports. Bleachers are not comfortable.

*A good insulated water bottle. I recommend Hydro Flask over Yeti as they’re cheaper. You call get them engraved or purchase name stickers for them. We have unicorns. They’re good for making sure the right water bottle comes home.

4. Always Pre-Register

If an event or class offers pre-registration, always do so. It tends to be cheaper, and in my experience every tournament/picture day/whatever is generally chaos. Do everything you can online, and screencap proof you did so. This will help you avoid long lines and confused volunteers. Keep an eye out for other things that you can take care of beforehand, like nameplates for trophies or commemorative T-shirts. The less you’re wandering around at an event wondering who to pay or where to be the better.

3. Uniform Deals

Uniforms can get very expensive, but the kids have to have them. However, there are ways to get around the price tag. The easiest is to ask other parents if their kids have uniforms they’ve outgrown. A lot of kids stay in the same organization as they age, so they go through multiple uniforms. Since they don’t get worn daily, they tend to last longer. It should go without saying that if your own kid outgrows a uniform you should let the other parents on the team know in case they need a replacement. Don’t forget shoes.

You’re going to want to talk to the suppliers, as well. Some suppliers will fix or replace worn pieces at discounts or even no charge. That happened with my daughter and a faded cheer top last spring. It never hurts to ask.

2. Plan to Stay Overnight

Texans get used to a three-hour drive counting as a day trip, but if your swim meet takes you to Dallas or even to Austin I highly recommend that you consider staying at least one night there rather than trying to commute back to Houston. Competitions can be very emotionally draining as well as physically demanding. The last thing you want is to be trapped in a car with a tired and disappointed seven-year-old trying to get home. You’re better off taking them to a nice dinner afterwards, getting a good night’s sleep and then leaving in the morning. Plus, it can feel like a mini-vacation, which can take the sting out of a bad showing. Speaking of…

1. Prepare to Lose, But Don’t Be Surprised if Nothing Makes Them Feel Better

When my daughter went to state cheer her squad finished last in their category, and she was utterly distraught. My wife and I tried everything we could to console her. We told her that last place meant she was still fifth-best in a very big state, and that she had performed her routine as perfectly as possible and that no matter what she was better than she was before. None of it stopped the tears.

Losing hurts, and watching their hearts break isn’t fun at all. All you can really do is have as much ready to ease the blow as possible. That’s really what all the prep I’ve mentioned is for. Leave as little to chance as possible, keep what’s needed handy and you can be fully-committed to the emotional and physical needs of your little sports star. They practice, and so should you.

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