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Running good trials and selections

Time management for busy sports parents (and their young athletes)

With the start of the school year just around the corner, parents around the country are steadily preparing themselves for the busy and hectic schedule that comes with it. The start of the school year brings a lot of changes, such as new teachers, new classes, new schedules, and new responsibilities for both parents and children. For sports parents, the start of the school year also brings the challenge of balancing their child’s sports commitments with family life, school and other responsibilities and commitments.  

A key role that many sports parents will be familiar with, is that of ‘chief coordinator’. Whether it be managing schedules, taxiing young people to and from games and training, leading fundraisers, supporting working bees – the coordination and logistics that happen around the sport in youth sport can at times be immense. 

So, to help parents (and their young athletes) prepare themselves for the year ahead, we’ve outlined some of our favourite time management tips. 

Priority setting 

As the cliché goes, time is our most precious resource. So, we ought to be diligent in thinking about where we spend it. While the messy reality of life means it doesn’t always pan out that simple, as a parent, taking the time to work out what’s most important for your family, and then what does that mean in terms of where your family and its members spend time, is a useful mental exercise to conduct every so often. 

Typically, we might see families list out their priorities in the following order: 

  • Family time 
  • School & work 
  • Personal wellbeing 
  • Other commitments and responsibilities, including sport 

For you, this order might change up or down, or there might be other things you could add. The important thing is getting a sense of what are your priorities. A useful framing question is given a certain amount of time (like a year), where do you want to allocate time spend first? 

When it comes to setting priorities for a family, encouraging all family members to have input is an important part of the process. It ensures that all family members feel heard and have an opportunity to state what’s important to them.  

Scheduling 

Now that you’ve got a sense of priorities for you family, start documenting key events and commitments, such as: 

  • Work 
  • School 
  • Practices and games 
  • Family commitments and holiday 

This might be on a shared calendar or could be a schedule board in the family home – key is everyone family member can see it.  

Note, where there might be more importance put on some commitments, for example, exams coming up for sport. Key project milestones for work. Trials or championship events for sport. 

Where there is schedule conflict and compromises need to be reached, make sure you use the priorities that you’ve set as a family as a key lens for making decisions. 

There’s no such thing as a perfect schedule. New opportunities, events and commitments will most certainly present themselves and force parents to make decisions about where to spend time. 

Know when to say “no” 

Young athletes are afforded a plethora of sports opportunities these days, whether that be lots of different sports, or development or extension opportunities. For some parents, saying “no” can be hard when these opportunities come along. 

A couple of things to keep in mind here: 

  • Keep ‘balance’ in mind – whether that be balance between sport and other facets of life, or balance between sports – long term, a sensible approach to ‘balance’, ultimately provides a more nurturing upbringing 
  • It’s okay to say “no”: It’s important to remember that it’s okay to decline an opportunity or say “no” if it doesn’t align with your family’s priorities or if you simply don’t have the time and energy to commit to it. 

Check-ins 

What’s important to young people can change over time. Make sure you have some form of semi-regular check-in with your family about family priorities and schedules. As a start, once a term, is a good cadence for check-ins to begin with. 

Technology solutions 

There is an ever-growing number of apps and other tech solutions to help busy parents and families stay organised. For sports parents, some of the solutions worth looking into include: 

Car pooling 

It goes without saying that the taxiing component of sports parenting, can be one of the most consuming.  

Coordinating with other parents around carpooling is a great way to save time and money. It’s also a good way of getting to know other parents in a team.  

Here, some simple ground rules communicated between parents can help everyone. Examples include: 

  • Schedule rotations for carpooling with other parents 
  • Communicate as early as possible if there are issues (and remember to be flexible – adjustments may be needed as life happens) 
  • Set guidelines on arrival and departure, such as pick-up and drop-off times and points 

Systems for sport gear cleaning, storage and maintenance 

Setting up systems around cleaning, storing and maintaining sports equipment and uniforms is one of the best ways to provide children with opportunities to develop and demonstrate responsibility. It’s also another way to save the stress that comes with organising sport. Simple tasks that children can take responsibility for include: 

  • Packing bags, the night before training 
  • Cleaning boots 
  • Hanging up uniform to dry 
  • Doing a regular maintenance check on equipment, such as a bike 
  • Making sure equipment is stored in the ‘right’ location around the home 

How can coaches and sport organisations help? 

There are a few things that coaches and sport organisations can do to help busy sport parents and busy youth athletes). 

  • Communication – provide as much information to help inform parents as soon as possible (training times, fixtures, breakdown of costs, expectations around commitment, how to connect with other parents, etc.). Sometimes you might be relying on other organisations to pass on information (e.g. tournament dates). Flag this with parents ahead of time, and follow up in due course when you can.  
  • Provide clear messaging to parents around your organisations approach to balance. There is likely an element of this shifting with the age and stage of the participants, however, ultimately, it’s important to keep the wellbeing of athletes and the centre of youth sport. Encourage parents to take a proactive approach to monitoring for overuse and burnout, and to helping coaches and sport organisations understand the other commitments their child has. 

In summary 

We’ve discussed a number of tips and strategies for sports parents to effectively manage their time and balance the demands of sports with other responsibilities such as work, school, and family, including: 

  • Setting priorities as a family 
  • Creating a schedule 
  • Knowing when to say “no” 
  • Having regularly check-ins 

For those parents, who a gearing up for another busy and hectic year, we’d encourage you to implement some of these tips. 

Image Soruce: matimix from Canva

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