The pandemic may have slowed families down a bit, but you can already feel the rush picking up again. With sports, you will soon be busier than ever. The idea of accommodating multiple schedules has grown progressively year after year. Some might even argue that in American culture we have become obsessed, if not addicted, to being busy. Parents often balance work with a packed schedule of extracurricular activities for their children.
According to the 2018 US Census, a whopping 42 percent of school-age children participated in sports; 30 percent participated in lessons and 28 percent participated in clubs: nine percent of those children participated in all three extracurricular activities. In the teen group, 83 percent are active in at least one extracurricular activity. In fact, studies show that there is a direct and positive correlation between children participating in extracurricular activities, however, sometimes too much can be too much!
Sports provide concrete lessons for children such as: teamwork, responsibility, passion and sportsmanship. These are all great assets to own as you mature. However, build up the interest of two or three children participating in separate sports activities and you’ll quickly realize that keeping up with home life can be difficult. So how do you handle it all? Like a family business. Simply, as a parent, there is no way to meet the demands of multiple sports-enthusiastic kids along with work, meals, and a well-organized schedule. 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 long days and long nights because schoolwork needs to be done,” says Brian Westbrook, president and CEO of Get Everything U and a former Princeton High School and Cincinnati Christian University coach. “But you have to keep your kids focused on what matters most, because life is bigger than sports.”
Westbrook says that when it comes to having children in extracurricular activities, there should be no pressure. Children are just beginning to realize what they are passionate about. One minute football is the best thing in the world, then halfway through the season they decide they just don’t like it. He knows that they will change their minds, something they will often do while they are young. parents should talk about the future from the beginning.
In other words, consider the adult lives of your children. A career in sports may not be on the cards, even the most accomplished athletes are not exempt from injuries or career changes. Balance is needed to guide them each day to understand that what is within them (their intellect, heart, and spirit) has the greatest value in getting them where they want to go. Keeping such realities up front doesn’t undermine aspirations, it gives them a big-picture mindset, and gives them much more scope to become the best version of themselves.
CREATE SHARED CALENDARS
Stephen King, a former Whitehall-Yearling High School JV coach and assistant principal at Gahanna’s Lincoln High School in Columbus, says shared calendars are the way to go if you have multiple kids in extracurricular activities.
“Between my wife, our kids, and I, what it does for us is create that organizational piece of managing time and other life events, including schoolwork and other projects,” he says. This simple tool allows your family to stay on top of what’s happening for everyone throughout the day, so they don’t miss the mark when showing up or any important events. Without structure, it’s easy to overlook one another in the hustle and bustle. Children with parents who make repeated mistakes may experience a lack of confidence and a change in attitude. Shared calendars allow the family to schedule family time, even if you are traveling to attend a sports tournament. Scheduling the week’s activities gives parents the oversight to make healthy choices. If you see everyone coming and going without much time to come together as a unit to connect, it may be time to cancel.
EMPOWER YOUR CHILDREN
Letting your kids take care of sports chores, like keeping track of their team and filling their water bottle before practice, can help parents when days get busy. As they get older, there are little things you can teach them along the way to help them keep up with practices, games, and schoolwork. Children can:
• advocate for themselves – Teach your children to speak up when their wants and needs change. Remember, children can often be afraid of letting us down. Getting them comfortable enough to say what they need takes conditioning.
• Be responsible – Teach children to honor their word. Once they decide to join a team, they agree to fulfill their end of the bargain as players. This will require learning to navigate your schedule and staying on task.
• Build a support system – Encourage your children to choose groups of friends that align with their goals and passions. Friends are influential. It makes sense for them to connect with other children their age who can provide them with positive tips and techniques to continue to thrive in play and in other areas of their lives.
LIVE A PLEASANT AND ACHIEVABLE LIFE
“Time scheduled 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 need to recognize when
things have become overwhelming for them,” he adds. And just as you encourage your kids to build support systems, find your parents allies, too. It’s amazing what a community can do together, especially to ease the stress of a packed schedule. Carpooling saves huge amounts of time, for example. Text groups will keep you informed. Leaning on other moms and dads who have athletes can be a game changer. Children should be free to be who they are: children. Finding that balance comes down to a structured home environment where there are clear expectations along with the opportunity to unwind from it all. Condition kids to be high achievers, but also constrain them to take care of themselves for the long haul.