10 Game Day Hacks for Parents

Whether you’re a first-time sports parent, or a seasoned veteran, these ten things will help keep you prepared and make game days easier.

1. Pack equipment the night before.

Getting your child’s youth sports uniform out the night before and making sure their equipment is packed is key. If she’s playing soccer, make sure those shin guards are packed! If anyone needs a change of clothes, make sure those are packed as well. This will save you so much time and energy while rushing around the morning before a game.

2. Bring snacks and drinks.

Not just for your athlete, but for you and any other family members tagging along! Packing plenty of water is key for youth athletes. Sports drinks can help as they get older and play at higher intensity levels, but at a young age they aren’t as necessary. Snacks are also good to have on the sidelines as a parent. For your athlete, we recommend bringing snacks, but saving them for after the game. They will need the snack to refuel their energy, and snacks could accidentally become a choking hazard if they have access to them during the game.

3. Let the coach, coach, and the officials officiate.

This one is important! We know it’s hard not to be the “backseat driver” at the game, but if you’re on the sideline as a parent, you must remember to let the coaches coach and the officials call the game. It is not your job as the parent to coach the team or make the calls. Interfering with either of these can slow the game down and create a negative playing environment. If you truly have a concern about the way the team is being coached or the way a play was called, we recommend chatting with the coach or official privately after the game. Remember, this is youth sports, the kids are there to have fun no matter how old they are! The outcome of that call will not change your child’s future as an athlete.

4. Support, don’t pressure.

The pressure to win gets to everyone at some point whether you’re the parent or the player. It’s important to remember that support is key when motivating youth athletes. They receive so much pressure from others around them including the other team, coaches, and even themselves. As a parent, kids need you to be the one that supports them and reminds them that they have someone in their corner who believes in them!

5. It’s a cheering section, not a critiquing section.

Not only do you believe in them, but you’re telling the whole world about it! Cheer loud and proud all you want for your kids. Just remember, cheering does not include critiquing their form from the sidelines. They’d much rather hear, “great job,” than “straighten out that kick!” Cheering on your child and the entire team is a great way to keep athletes motivated at a young age.

6. Post game positivity.

The same goes for after the game is over. Many parents use the car ride home as a teaching lesson rather than a recovery period. You may think now is the right time to talk about those suggestions you’ve been holding in all game, but in reality, you want to keep the positivity going even on the way home. Your kids just played a hard game, they are tired, mentally exhausted, and need to refuel. Let them recover a bit so they’re in the right mindset when you try to have a conversation about their form or the way they played. Many times, it’s even better to let them bring it up on their own.

7. Encourage exploration.

Youth sports provide the perfect environment to explore new sports. Maybe your 7-year-old has played soccer for 3 years and has an interest in trying baseball. We suggest letting him explore that route! Kids are still developing both mentally and physically, so it’s a great time to let them try multiple sports.

Maybe your 7-year-old wants to play soccer in the spring and basketball in the winter. We call this multi-sport participation, or you may hear the term cross-training in more elite levels of play. Playing multiple sports helps kids develop strength in different areas. For example, if your son plays soccer in the spring, he’s working on his foot coordination, agility, speed, and likely improving his leg and cardiovascular strength. If he then tries basketball in the winter, he will also be incorporating arm strength and hand-eye-coordination into his athletic development!

Let kids be kids and explore whatever sport they think will be fun! Don’t focus solely on the sport you want them to play (we’re all guilty of it at some point, it’s ok).

8. Rest days are allowed.

Motivating your kids can be difficult. There are some days you don’t even know how to motivate yourself let alone your little ones or your angsty teens. Some days your kids may just not be feeling it at practice, and that’s ok. As an adult, you probably wake up and just aren’t feeling it some days too. Some days kids may just need a rest day, and that’s ok. You’re not going to inevitably raise a lazy kid if you let them skip practice or sit out of a game occasionally, especially at a young age. Everyone needs rest days.

9. On time is late.

If you’re a first-time sports parent, this one may come as a surprise. Being on time for most sports as an athlete means you’re actually late. Let us explain.

If practice starts at 5pm, you typically want to be there at least 15 minutes prior to the start time. Otherwise, you’re showing up at start time and the team is already out there while your kid is still tying his shoes! It can take some getting used to, but trust us you don’t want to be that parent. Plan to show up earlier than the start time.

10. There are no scouts.

This one is important to remind yourself as your kids get older and start playing at higher levels. Many parents, and even kids, dream of getting that D1 scholarship to play a sport in college thinking that’s their golden ticket to a free education and maybe even the pros one day.

We’re here to remind you, this doesn’t happen at the age of 5, 7, 11, or even 16. In fact, it may very likely never happen! As hard as it is to grasp, and as much as you want your kids to believe they can achieve anything, realistically less than 2% of high school athletes will receive any type of athletic scholarship at any division school, let alone D1. There also typically will not be scouts at the local youth sports games. They may show up to the older travel team games, but most of them are going to focus their time at the high school games.

Use this to remind yourself not to pressure your kids to play a sport just for the sake of a scholarship. If anything, you should remind your kids that they play the sport because they love it! When an athlete is in it purely for the love of the sport, they’re more likely to excel, stick with the sport no matter how challenging it may get, and it may even result in that golden ticket.

5 boys with blue i9 Sports tball jerseys on, with their left hands in the air yelling "go team!"