Stepping on a Lego was the worst, or so I thought. Now I step on shin guards, hockey sticks and cleats. And a stray Lego doesn’t have quite the same stink as a soccer sock stuffed in the crack of the sofa. If you’ve got youth athletes in your house like I do, you may have reached a whole new level of clutter. Here are some tips for playing the ultimate defense against your kid’s smelly pile of sports stuff.
1. If you play, you put stuff away
Remember your parents telling you that you couldn’t get a puppy unless you took care of it? I treat sports the same way. If my kids want to play, they can put their equipment away. Bonus points if your coach is on board with that mantra.
When my middle son began wrestling in first grade, the head coach of the program told the kids on the very first day, “You are responsible for making sure you have all of your gear. Not your parents. The young guys in this group need to make sure when you get home, to put your laundry where your mom asks. You older kids should do it yourself.”
I wanted to give the coach a standing ovation right there and my son took extra notice because it was coming from the coach, not just Mom and Dad.
2. Keep one bag per sport
If your kids play multiple sports, use multiple sports-specific bags. They’re uniquely made for carrying the needed gear. It’s so much easier to keep track when everything’s not all mixed up. Plus, you can just grab and go.
3. Designate a right-in-the-door drop spot
Does it feel like your kids see the front hallway as their own private “finish line”? Place a large basket for each child by the front door where they can deposit all their sports gear when they walk in the door. From there, it can be cleaned up and organized before the next practice or game.
4. The uniform that plays together stays together
One of the easiest ways to avoid a “gotta find it fast” freak out before the next game is by keeping everything together to begin with. Our baseball player in the house makes sure his socks, cup, sliding pants, pants, jersey and any undershirt all stay together in one wash load so it’s just a matter of sticking it back in his bag pre-assembled.
5. Win every time with a game day checklist
I’m a visual person, so I like gathering all needed gear, equipment, drinks, snacks, etc. by the front door. My friend, on the other hand, likes to run down a verbal checklist as she and her kids get in the car.
Before they pull out of the driveway, she does an out -oud checklist. She says “cleats”, and they say, “got them.” Then she moves down the list, “socks,” “shin guards, “ etc. You can even repeat the list on your way home in order to make sure you didn’t leave any essentials at the practice, game or meet.
6. Keep the car ready to go
While the kids keep track of their gear, you can make sure to keep your car equipped. Stash a few oversized plastic bags for excessively sweaty, wet or muddy clothes. And always keep a chair, bleacher seat back, extra blankets and sunscreen in your car to keep life easier. Blankets are great for “picnics” between games too.
Part of keeping your car game-ready isn’t just filling it up, it’s emptying it out. When you come home from a game or practice, make sure dirty clothes, socks, shoes or cleats do not get left in the vehicle. Do a visual sweep when you arrive home, before you hop out. Everyone’s tired, but you’ll be glad you did when the next game day rolls around.
7. Start them young
Just like an athlete who starts their sport young will be on top of it faster, so will a young kid athlete stay organized. Even though it sometimes feels easier just to do things yourself, they won’t learn to be self-sufficient that way.
If you set the expectations starting out, then by age 8 to 10, your child will be doing it all themselves. Your life will be so much easier and that great work ethic they’re developing may even improve their game on the field.