Spring Sports: How We Survive

This week is the beginning of the one of the craziest times of year for us–Spring Sports season.  This season we have kids on three baseball teams and a soccer team, plus B is taking drama classes.  Matt is coaching one baseball team and assistant coaching two others.  Plus Matt is also PLAYING softball in a men’s league.  It’s basically insane how many practices and games we have every week.  And this isn’t even as bad as it’s going to get–Q and O are playing on the same team, so at least they have practice and games together.  Next year it will be even worse.  (I’m focusing on now though, I can’t think about things getting any busier than they already are!)

Last Fall, because we had so many sports and activities going on, we ended up with at least one practice five nights a week and three games every Saturday.  And I had a breakdown, to be honest.

In the Fall, there was not a single weeknight we were all home for dinner together.  There was not a single day after school when the kids could just go play outside without me having to micro-manage who needed to eat right away so they wouldn’t be starving through practice, who had the right gear for that night’s sport, who had to get homework done right away, who had showered when (usually no one and not in days).  It was way, way too much.

This Spring, Matt and I knew we couldn’t have that same thing happen again.  My mental health is directly related to having a few quiet nights when we all eat dinner together and the kids can play in the yard and not have to go anywhere.

Thankfully, B’s soccer team has always practiced the same nights of the week, every season for the past three years.  So we knew when her practices would be.  And since Matt is involved in coaching all three baseball teams for the boys, he had a say in when practices would be scheduled.  We managed to get it so that two nights a week, NO ONE has practice.  On each of the other three weeknights AT LEAST two kids have practice, but having those two nights completely off is huge for me–I’m so relieved and really looking forward to the season now instead of dreading it.

Knowing we are going to have a few very busy nights each week, I’ve been planning how best to organize everything.  This kind of advanced preparation goes a long way to making the whole season more enjoyable and less hectic.

Here’s how I get prepared for a crazy sports season:

During these busy seasons, I definitely plan my meals for the whole week in advance so I don’t have to make any extra grocery store trips–I just don’t have time for that.  I plan simple dinners–lots of salads, sandwiches, and quick stuff on the grill.  Because we don’t eat fast food, I know I have to plan meals I can realistically make in 20 minutes or less, or else the temptation to just get crappy takeout will be too strong to resist.

Since I know I’ll probably be using the slow cooker at least once or twice a week, I’ve been going through my crock-pot recipes for the nights when I can’t actually cook dinner at dinner time.  I am hoping to find time this weekend to prep a few nights’ worth of crock-pot meals in advance and freeze them so I really can just take the bagged ingredients out of the freezer in the morning and dinner will be “done” before the kids even leave for school.

On nights when there are two or more practices, both Matt and I will need to be out driving kids around.  That means that even the kids who aren’t practicing will end up with picnic-style bagged dinners at a field.  I plan for this so I can have ingredients on hand to make healthy sandwiches, roll-ups, or thermos meals that are easy to take along.  I also pack a picnic blanket and camp chairs in the back of the car and basically leave them there until the season is over. 

And finally, we will clean out and organize the garage this weekend.  It’s a complete disaster after a winter of just chucking things in the general direction of where they belong so we can get inside where it’s warm when we’re done playing.  Purging and organizing all the sports gear helps us do three things:

  1. It lets us know if there’s any gear that needs to be thrown out and replaced so we can make a list of what to purchase at the sporting goods store
  2. It allows us to organize the gear so the kids can easily find their stuff AND put their stuff away
  3. It means we can safely and confidently give the kids the responsibility for getting their gear for practices and games

Although this season can be really hectic, I also really love watching my kids do something they love–and that is the point of all this hard work.  My boys are happiest running around outside and would gladly play baseball until their arms fell off.  B loves soccer and it’s one of the few times her more aggressive, competitive traits really come out–it’s fun to watch her be a little less physically reserved.  So even though it’s busy and crazy, it’s worth it in the end and I wouldn’t give it up.

Opening Day is coming!  This is from April 2012–they look so little!
O sliding into home plate.
B (in red) lets loose on the soccer field.
G loves baseball almost more than breathing…it’s so much fun to watch him play.

Q is finally–FINALLY–old enough to play this year!

With a few seasons of this under my belt, it’s nice to finally feel like I’m getting a handle on how to get organized so I can actually have fun instead of feeling like a chicken with my head cut off.  Knowing my limits is important–I’ve realized I cannot handle five-nights-a-week practices, but I can manage three.  I know I can’t make complicated, gourmet meals every night in the Spring, but I can plan to make simple, healthy meals and be satisfied with that.  Having Matt’s support and help in planning out the practices really made a difference too.

I know I’ll look back on these full and crazy days as some of the best times we had, but I want to be able to enjoy them in the moment instead of just in hindsight.  A little advanced planning and preparation make that possible.

Is anyone else looking ahead to a crazy Spring? 

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