Travel Team Woes: Making Sports Weekends Fun for the Whole Family

posted: 09/10/16
by: Katie Morton
Travel Team


Fall youth sports will soon reach peak competitive fervor. If you have a child playing competitive sports, we don't have to remind you that the sports calendar from September to December will be chock full of team practices, intense games, and weekends of travel (not to mention wear and tear on your washer to de-muck those uniforms)!

If your family has one student athlete to cheer on, then you know the toll that weekend sports trips can take on the whole family. Double (or triple) that stress and travel if you have more then one kid to watch from the sidelines.

Luckily, there are plenty of good ways to make sports weekends fun for the whole family! Here are our top tips:

1. Pick the Right Activities

Fall sports demand an enormous commitment--not only from the young athlete, but also from the entire family! Weekday practices, multiple games, and out-of-town tournaments can certainly take a toll on your family's time and energy.

The number one tip from youth coaches and pro parents in the trenches is to avoid misery. What does that mean? It means that you want to make sure you're committing to the right activities, both for your athlete and for your family.

If your child suddenly develops a cold or rash or aching foot each time they have to pack up their soccer bag, then maybe they're not in love with the sport, the team, or the coach. If you have to drag your kid to practices or games, then they're trying to tell you it's no longer fun or enjoyable for them.

Check in each season to make sure your child is happy and thriving in their chosen sport and on their chosen team. Don't wait until you're three months in and they have a mid-field meltdown because the pressure is too much.

2. Calendar Your Commitments Early

As soon as you get the team's schedule, add it to the calendar. If you have a conflict, such as a birthday party, then make the effort to address it at that moment. By addressing conflicts immediately, you avoid those last minute, crazy moments.

If you need someone to carpool, then set it up weeks in advance. If you're "snack parent," then pick up a crate of oranges the next time you're at the market. The more you can do to make things run smoothly the day of the event, the better off you'll be. Less stress getting out the door = more fun on the field.

3. Book Family-Friendly Travel

If your child is playing in an out-of-town tournament, then make the tournament an excuse to get away with the whole family. Book a room in a family-friendly hotel and make it a mini vacation for all of you. When you're not on the field, look for local attractions. You can take the younger kids camping or to the zoo, anything to make them feel as though they're also being treated to a special mini break.

No matter where you end up staying, you can't go wrong with a hotel that has an indoor or outdoor pool. Kids of ALL ages love to blow off steam with a dip and you can relax (a little) by the water's edge with other team parents.

4. Sports Aren't Always King

If you have more than one child, then it's important to recognize that your other children may not feel the same as you do about attending each and every game.

Realize that your other children have activities that are important to them, and make an effort to attend those in equal measure. Making young Cal Ripken's baseball schedule the focus of the entire family will do nothing but build resentment among siblings. Don't miss out on concert recitals, art shows, or just a lazy afternoon at the playground with your other kids.

5. Don't Neglect Your Own Life

Any parent with a budding, young athlete will tell you that there's a particular sense of pride from watching your prodigy compete. That said, you can easily and quickly get bogged down by youth sports commitments. All of a sudden, each and every weekend revolves around watching your child on the field, mat, or arena.

As you know, weekend time is fleeting and precious. Make an effort to maintain your own interests and activities. You'll be a happier and healthier sports parent if you make an effort to attend to your own fun. It's also important to set boundaries for your own sanity. Realize sometimes it's ok to say "no." If a particular event is going to cause undue family strife or a hefty financial burden, then it's fine to decline gracefully.


It's true that youth sports require commitment and sacrifice, from both the young player and their family. Making sports weekends fun for the entire family just requires some planning and an effort to include everybody. Know that the bottom line is that sports are supposed to be FUN for the kids. Keep the focus on the fun, and your whole family will benefit.