With fall sports for kids starting up for the season, you might need some tips on how to survive the busy sports schedule. Get ideas for planning meals, packing bags, surviving the long practices (and even longer drives to away games or tournaments), with these tips.
These helpful hacks come from parents who have been there — and they can help you make it through a hectic season of fall sports and extracurriculars with less stress.
Scheduling & Time Management for Fall Sports
One of the trickiest parts of fall sports season is that it falls right in the middle of the busy back-to-school schedule and the holiday season. These tips will help you and your family stay on top of your schedules while you’re navigating all the practices, games, and competitions.
Use Multiple Calendars
With all the things going in fall, sports and otherwise, it’s easy to lose track of dates and events. That’s why using multiple calendars is important. We suggest three working calendars for your home and schedule.
A digital calendar on your phone to help you add events, practices, and games quickly.
A large family calendar somewhere your entire family can see and contribute to.
A specific calendar just for sport and school events. Keep it somewhere your child can see it every morning to get an idea of how the day and week should go.
Double Check the Schedule for Holidays
Nothing is worse than scheduling that visit with the in-laws only to realize there is a dance recital or soccer away game that weekend. Even if you don’t mind missing the visit, you might not want to make the phone call to break the news that you’re double booked.
Always double check the sports schedule before committing to something else. This helps you set realistic expectations for everyone and prevents any potentially upsetting conversations with extended family or your kiddos.
Add Major Projects & Tests to the Schedule
In the middle of practices and away games, your kids still have school to think about. As major projects, papers, and tests are mentioned throughout the year, add them to the schedule. This helps your kids stay on track and prepares them for those tougher weeks when exams and major competitions fall during the same week.
If you have major projects or work events, make sure they're on the calendar where everyone can see them. Your schedule is important too!
Leave as Much Margin as Possible
Margin feels like a unicorn in the middle of a busy fall schedule. But, we promise it’s possible. When you notice a free afternoon or an evening with no plans, block it out on your calendar. This keeps you from over-scheduling yourself and your family and allows for needed rest or family fun.
Meal Planning & Food Prep for Fall Sports
While you’re double checking your schedule, add some time for meal planning and prep. You and your kids are going to be extra hungry after a busy afternoon and a lengthy practice. Preparing meals ahead of time, choosing simple options when you need to, and packing the best snacks will help satiate those post-playing appetites.
Plan Snacks Ahead of Time
When you’re thinking about meals for the week or starting to make that grocery list, think about the snacks you’ll take to practice. Get your kids involved so you can plan for some fun things they love to eat. If you know what snacks you’re taking ahead of time, you’ll be sure to purchase plenty and set those expectations for your kids.
Pack Simple Snacks & Quick Meals
During the busy fall sports season, simplicity is your best friend. Cute snacks with all the details are awesome, but they aren’t realistic in every season of life. Sticking to what’s simple is totally okay. Fruit, granola bars, and easy meals will help you thrive in other areas that demand more of your attention this time of year.
Simple elements for making sandwiches in the car or after practice will keep everyone from getting hangry on the way home.
Try Slow Cooker Meals
Fall is already the unofficial season for crockpot meals. But, your slow cooker is also helpful during the busyness of extracurricular activities.
Set the slow cooker early in the day with a hearty meal and you’ll be ready to eat as soon as you get home in the evening. This works for eating before practice and games or after. Whenever you do cook a meal on the stovetop, double the recipe so you have leftovers for practice night.
Fast Food Can Be a Good Resource
We’re not saying you should go through the drive thru every night. But, it is a good resource when you need it.
There will inevitably be nights when you don’t have time to make dinner or the kids are begging for food before the two-hour drive home from a game. Fast food might just be your best friend in these cases — and they’re an opportunity to have some fun with your kids at their favorite restaurants.
Simple Ways to Keep Everyone Happy During Sports Season
You can schedule everything perfectly and prepare the best meals, but there are still little hiccups and frustrations that pop up along the way. These hacks will set you up for success during fall sports season and keep everyone — including you — as happy as possible amid the busyness.
Pack Bags for the Younger Kids
If you have little ones in tow during sports season, try this hack to save your own sanity. Pack a backpack just for them with snacks, toys they love, and anything else that will keep them occupied on the sidelines.
Bring (or Wear) Layers
Fall sports often season means hours of being outside in very moody temperatures. Early afternoon is sweltering, but as evening sets in you start to shiver. Plan ahead for layers for yourself and your family members. Light sweaters, zipper hoodies, and lightweight sweatshirts might help you survive the uncertain climate of fall.
Blankets are also helpful this time of year. Keeping one or two in your bag or in the car will help you stay warm on those surprisingly chilly evenings.
Pack Bags the Night Before
It’s so tempting to crawl into bed at the end of a long day and let tomorrow worry about itself. But we all know what that leads to: a hectic morning of quickly packing sports bags and forgetting everything you need. Or, even worse, having to stop at home to pack one at lightning speed right before practice. Save yourself some drama and pack everything you and your kids will need the night before.
If your child’s team has a locker room or designated cubbies, use this to your advantage. Have them keep anything that doesn’t have to go to away games or competitions inside their locker. Add in a change of clothes, a jacket, and any other things they find they need often. Whenever they’re at practice, they’ll already have the things they need on hand.
Create Space to Process
The life of a competing athlete, no matter the age, is often fast-paced. That leaves little time or space for processing intense moments like team losses or personally challenging moments. But the ride home is a great opportunity to offer your child some time to themselves.
Avoid asking a ton of questions and just let them tune out, listen to music, and have the time they need to process and accept the events of the day. You can always offer advice or encouragement at a later time.
Find Wi-Fi or Use a Hotspot
Why sit on the sidelines at every practice when you can be productive? Ask about available Wi-Fi or bring your own hotspot so you can work as your child is practicing. Even if you aren’t working on tasks from your job, you can still make phone calls, write meal plans, or make your to-do lists.
This sports season hack is great for practices. But you will definitely want to stay engaged during games and meets so your child has your full attention during their big moment.
Bring Things for You to Do & Eat
If productivity isn’t your vibe during a practice, try something restful or enjoyable instead. Bring your current read, a favorite snack, and headphones. You can catch up on podcasts or simply enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
Carpool When You Can
Anything to make the fall sports season easier, right? Carpooling helps out a ton and allows you to help other parents as well. You can swap days for taking the kids to practice and ride together for away games and competitions.
Keep a Bag of Essentials in the Car
In the craziness of the evening rush, you’re likely to forget something. But with all the essentials in your car at all times, at least it won’t be something super important. Keep a bin in your vehicle for all the things you need:
First aid kit
Have a Laundry Basket in Your Trunk
Can we talk about the amount of space all of the sports equipment takes up in your car? Especially when you have backpacks, snacks, and your work equipment in tow. A laundry basket in your trunk is a great way to keep it all in one place so you can make one trip to unload the car once you get home.
A trash bin in your car is also helpful. Once it fills up with post-practice water bottles and the remnants of dinner in the car, you can take it all inside and dispose of it properly.
Get Other Family Members Involved
Just like anything in parenting, having a village that helps you really makes a difference. If you have family members who love being a part of your child’s life, this is a great place to let them get involved.
Grandparents can join you for games or help with practice drops off.
Teens can drive younger kids to practice or help them with at-home skill improvement.
Extended family members can jump in during busy weeks or plan visits during a big game.
Embrace the Chaos
Of all the ways you can prepare for the fall sports season, the most important is to learn how to embrace the chaos. There will be days you drop the ball or forget to pack the night before. Some evenings will be hectic and tensions will run high after an intense practice.
The key is to embrace the season, no matter how chaotic, and know that perfection is not the goal here. Just as it is with the sport your child is playing, the goal is to have fun and make meaningful memories.