It’s that time of the year, youth baseball season. The time when the crack of the bat and stained baseball pants become your reality. More kids than ever before are playing on select or travel ball teams. This means many months of rushing from game to game as well as out of town tournaments. How do you survive with your sanity and family intact?
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Being prepared well before it is time to head out the door is the key to surviving youth baseball season. Keep a designated bag stocked full of necessary items close to the door so you can grab it as you leave. Make sure to replenish it as you go through the season. Items to keep in the bag include:
Sunscreen. Stock your bag with your favorite sunscreen and be sure to remember to apply it to your child and to yourself. The worst burns often occur early in the season before it’s even hot enough to make you think you need sunscreen.
First aid kit. Always keep a stocked first aid kit in the bag. Put a package of wet wipes in the bag for cleaning dirt out of scrapes or even for sticky hands. Keep Benadryl for when allergies hit and pain relievers for headaches and other mishaps.
Bug spray. This one is pretty self-explanatory. You never know when you’ll be stuck out at a ball field when the bugs are out in full force.
Hand sanitizer. Many ball fields have restroom facilities that are less than desirable. They may even have portable toilets instead of a regular restroom. Keep hand sanitizer handy for times when soap and water aren’t available. On that same note, it is prudent to keep a roll of toilet paper (or tissues) in the bag as a back-up.
Snacks. Keeping some healthy, shelf-stable snacks that won’t melt will keep you (and your kids) from spending loads of money at the concession stand. Crackers, nuts, granola, and raisins are perfect portable snacks. A bag of suckers hidden at the bottom of the bag can help head off melt-downs from younger siblings.
In addition to keeping a well-stocked bag, make sure to keep these items in your car:
Stadium seat or lawn chair. Stay comfortable during those long games and buy chairs that offer cushioning and back support.
Extra sweatshirts and blankets. You never know when a hot day will turn into a cooler evening than expected. Also, some fields have less protection from the wind than others, and keeping warm clothes in your car is always a good idea.
Umbrellas. A good umbrella is useful to protect you from the rain or from the sun.
Pack a Cooler
On days when you have a double header, or tournament, or even just a very hot single game, consider packing a cooler. Pack the cooler full of water, sports drinks, sandwiches, and fruit. Staying hydrated when out in the sun is essential for you and your athlete.
Keep a plastic container full of cold water in your cooler with a few washcloths inside. A cool, wet washcloth on the back of a neck while in the dugout can help keep your ball player from being overheated. Swap out the warm cloth for a cool one in between innings.
Let Go of Your Expectations
Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to keep your sanity during youth baseball season and make it an enjoyable time for your entire family is to lower your expectations of yourself a little. Find some easy to prepare, quick meals for those nights when you’ll be heading to the ball field. When you grill chicken or hamburgers, make extra to have planned leftovers for those nights when you have no time to cook dinner.
Realize that clean does not have to be the same as spotless. Let’s face it – most youth baseball pants will never again be as clean as the first time they put them on. Stop obsessing about the latest tip or trick to get out dirt and grass stains. Spray some stain remover on the uniform if you must before tossing it into the washing machine but let go of the idea of a pristine uniform. Ball players tend to dive for a ball or slide into base at the beginning of the game anyway. Clean doesn’t have to mean spotless.
Remember It’s Just a Game
When the season seems stressful and your athlete isn’t performing to his or her own expectations, be sure to remind them (and yourself) why you signed up for select baseball. Likely your child wanted to be on the team because they love the sport and enjoy the comradery of their teammates.
Encourage them to learn and grow in the sport but resist comparing them to other players. Each player brings their own unique talents and strengths to a team.
When you are well prepared and relaxed you can enjoy the time watching your children play a sport they love. So sit back, practice your cheers and watch them play ball!