For many sports parents at this time of year, truer words could not have been spoken. Late February/early March is a time when all sports converge in a two-week frenzy in Texas. Parents and kids in my neck of the woods are ripping across the prairie at breakneck speed to accomplish a season's worth of activity in 10 days, with sports either closing out their winter seasons - basketball and hockey in particular - just as the spring sports are tuning up with tournaments and pre-season "leveling" events.
The boys are all looking forward to warmer weather for baseball, lacrosse, soccer, and yes, of course, football! The fairer sex - what I will call the "bows heads" - are flying around the Dallas metroplex to get to volleyball, softball, basketball, cheer and dance competitions, too.
So how does a sport parent juggle all of their responsibilities and keep from going crazy? Here are some tips:
Since my husband and I have two kids, we employ - to borrow a phrase from football (or basketball) - man-to-man coverage. My husband was tasked with the basketball/football challenge 2 weeks ago. When he returned early one morning from a two-week overseas trip in balmy South America, I greeted him at the door with a cup of coffee, his car keys, GPS, 2 uniforms, and a jug of water, and sent him off with my son to a 7-on-7 football kick off tournament. (Remember, this is Texas, where we never, ever stop playing football!) Bleary eyed, and ill-prepared for the misty and windy 40 degree chill of Texas in late February (he was still in his shorts and sandals!), he had no choice but to obey his marching orders and jump in the car, because I was tasked to head out on the road with our daughter to spend the next 18 hours in a gym watching her compete with her high school drill team in a dance competition.
Before you start to think that I gave myself the cushy job, you need to know that my husband did get his first choice of assignments. 18 hours in a loud gym filled with glitter and hair spray, all for just 18 actual minutes of seeing your child perform makes being a dance mom one of the toughest jobs of all sports parents; the hardiest of football dads crumble at this form of torture!
But there was no rest for the wicked: Sunday was my son's final regular season basketball game before tournament play began. That meant up and out the door with no time to think before 8:00 a.m. By the end of the weekend we had driven over 120 miles and piled up 36 hours in sports participation. And compared to our neighbors, we had the easy weekend!
Okay, you say, what about a family with more than two kids playing sports? Well, then it's time to play zone. My neighbor has 3 kids, ages 8, 11, and 12, participating in various sports. Needless to say, I have not seen much of her this month. As my man-to-man family was out on the trail, she was spending 3 days trying to figure out just how to get 2 boys and their younger sister in 5 different sports where they needed to be. Her husband took the oldest to a 2-day baseball tournament. (Because baseball isn't timed, of course, it defies just about any parent's attempt to manage) Meanwhile, my friend was driving all over God's green acre (thankfully, in HOV lanes) with the other two kids in a minivan filled with basketballs, soccer balls, lacrosse sticks, and her folding chair. All tolled, the family logged over 200 miles and 40 hours of sports in the 2-day weekend span. When I saw her on Monday, she was still wearing her mom team jersey from the last game on Sunday afternoon.
Running the option
The most advanced formation, which takes years to learn, is for the families with more than three children playing sports. All other parents bow down in awe to the organization, the precision and the finesse of families who run "the Option" (yes, another phrase borrowed from football, and, yes, I know it's an offensive, not defensive, formation). Parents are involved, of course, but the key to successfully running the Option is to broaden the team providing coverage to include members of a sports parents' extended family, whether they be part of their actual extended family (grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles etc.) or the family comprised of the other families on their kids' teams, to whom they can hand off the ball, er, responsibility, when they, alone, can't get their kids every place they need to be.
I have been a small part of the Option system as a member of a car pool, but will never know how it is managed, how it works, or how those kids ever get home again. You have to be an independent kind of kid to be part of an Option family. You must have faith in the system and know that your mom or dad might not be there to see you play. With many kids in many different sports, The Option is best managed by having a child pick only one sport or activity in which to participate. There is no telling how many miles or hours in the weekend Option parents rack up. These are special people and a special class of sports parents. Just contemplating the hours they must spend planning the weekend blows my mind. But the toughest part of the Option for these parents isn't arranging the car pool, it is choosing which child to watch, at what time, playing which sport.
The last two weeks in February are certainly a test and testament to the dedication of families to their children and sports. I realized we hit a new level when my church started offering a late Saturday night service in February and March so parents could take a rest from the road and have some inner reflection time; time to forgive the ref for the bad call they made, ask for their own forgiveness for what they thought about, or said to the ref; a brief respite between loads and loads of laundry and re-packing the indoor and outdoor gear for Sunday. Yes, I went. The church was fuller than I thought it would be, and it was all good.
So, thank you, Woody Allen. Sometimes we sports parents do spend 90% of our lives just trying to show up on time, at the correct field/complex, with our kids wearing the right uniform (freshly laundered,hopefully) and with the appropriate equipment.
What do we do with other 10% of our time? That's easy: We go back to our jobs - and rest for 5 days!