Sports parents can spend hours watching their young athlete train and play. Here’s everything you’ll need for your child to have a great time on and off the field.
We started our sporting life around 15 years ago. We’ve hung out at football matches, basketball, hockey, swim meets, gymnastics competitions and volleyball. We’ve huddled on ovals on windy winter nights. And weathered the baking sun of summer for a morning of cricket.
I now have a grasp of what sports parents need to support their kids and enjoy the experience themselves.
Everything a sports parent needs to be a winner
I’m not talking about your child being a winner, but you.
Let’s face it, you can’t make your kid a champion. But you can be a champion in their lives and give them a great environment to not only play in, but grow up in too.
Some of these things are for taking to practice and games; others are for at home. But if you’re wanting to enjoy the sporting life as much as your kids, everyone one of these is worth investing in:
- A cushion. Most seating is either in metal bleachers or concrete stands. If you’re going to be there for a few hours, it pays to be comfortable.
- A “getting ready to go” routine. A smooth departure is vital for a good day of sport. Having things ready the night before, a plan of when we’re leaving and what we’re taking makes life less stressful.
- An insulated flask. There’s nothing better than having a cup of tea or coffee when you’ve got settled. Unless they have decent coffee nearby and you don’t mind forking out the money!
- A place to store sports equipment. Having things lying at the front door, or shoved in the boot of the car can be a pain. Find a space for equipment to return to after use. It will definitely save your sanity when you’re getting ready to use it again.
- A picnic rug or camping chair. Unless you like standing, join the seasoned parents and bring a seat.
- Strapping tape. We seem to go through rolls of this in our house, so I try to keep one or two ahead of the game. Buying in bulk or buying through the physiotherapist has been the cheapest option.
- Paracetamol. Kids need pain relief from time to time, so it’s good to have a supply at home. And I always keep some on hand at matches to counteract the effects of too much cheering or too much sun.
- A good approach to food. I’m not the best parent when it comes to healthy eating. But I do try to serve meals that are heavy on vegetables and include less processed foods. It’s important to do our best and aim for a balanced diet that also lets kids live a little.
- A blanket. For those cold, wet days at a match when the wind is whipping through the stands.
- Pain relieving gel or massage cream. Muscle aches and tightness affect sleep and can lead to injury.
- Snacks. Kids who play sport tend to need fuel before and after training and games. Having some snacks on hands means you can avoid the canteen.
- A physiotherapist. All kids will get injured from time to time. Having a physio who gets to know your child, or better yet, your family, helps to reduce the impact of injuries.
- An umbrella. I just keep one of these in every car now. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to head home wet over the year.
- A camera. Some of my favourite family photos are from sporting events. Win, lose or draw. Sure you can get nice photos on your phone, but having a good camera makes a world of difference.
- A folding basket. This is a great way to keep everything together, particularly when you’re heading off to a sports event that takes all day.
- An understanding doctor. Some doctors are cautious when it comes to sporting injuries. It’s understandable, but not always in the best interests of the child. Find a doctor who will help you make good decisions both for the short-term health of your child, but also for their long-term wellbeing.
- Spare hair ties and shoe laces. Anything that can break during a game or competition is worth having in your handbag or sports kit.
- Ice packs. The go-to response to anything that hurts and isn’t bleeding. We have a stack of these that live in the freezer.
- A friend. Heading to cheer your kids on at a game where you don’t know anyone can be a lonely experience. Be brave and introduce yourself to someone else looking a little lost.
- Heat packs. Anything that isn’t fixed with an ice pack, generally responds to a heat pack. We have a few wheat bags that we heat up in the microwave. They also help warm up cold toes on winter nights.
- Money. Kids’ sport is expensive. Be clear what you’re committing to, and what you can afford. If your kids know that they can’t get a new training shirt at every competition they go to, then they’ll be less likely to bug you for one. And watch the little expenses that can build up, like buying food at the canteen or entry tickets.
- Antiseptic and bandages. I’ve lost count of the number of sore fingers, knees and ankles I’ve bandaged, not to mention the cuts and grazes. A well stocked first aid kit and a strong stomach get a workout in any sporting home.
- A good supply of drink bottles. The best drink for hydration is water. So having a few drink bottles that can come and go from training and games is essential.
- A bucket and stain removal product. I always seem to be soaking sports clothes, do you?
- A sense of humour. The world of kids’ sport can be far too serious. It’s good to look at the lighter side and keep things in perspective.
- A vacuum cleaner. Our car fills up with dirt and grass, crumbs and all sorts of mess from running back and forth to training and games. Having a regular clean out not only keeps the car looking good, but deals with the horrible smell of discarded football socks.
- Lavender oil, Epsom salts and bicarb soda. This is my go to bath soak for sore bodies. I mix up a cup of Epsom salts and bicarb soda in a warm bath with a few drops of lavender oil. A 30 minutes relax can do wonders! By the way, you might know bicarb soda as baking soda.
- An old towel in the car. Again, this is one I’ve learned the hard way. If you have a child that plays field sports where mud is a possibility, a towel will help them dry off and protect the seats in your car.
- A blender. Smoothies are a great food source for young athletes. You can pack them with plenty of fruit and a bit of yogurt to give a good energy hit before or after training.
- Patience. Kids get frustrated in sport, either with themselves, team mates or the opposition. Be a listening ear, but let them work things out as much as you can.
- A sports psychologist. Not every sports parent might need one of these. But if your child is chasing big dreams, at some point they may need help to overcome fears, deal with pressure or improve their performance. Have a look for someone the sporting bodies us as a starting point.
One thing I have found in the last couple of years that doesn’t fit on this list, is to savour every moment. Our kids grow up all too quick. Before you know it, they take on their adult life and sport is something they do casually on their own, or not at all. So these 31 things should take nothing away from the joy of spending time with your kids and watching them do something they enjoy.
What things would you add to this list or get rid of? I’d love you to share your thoughts below.