Welcome to high school sports! It will be exciting, hectic, frustrating, and hopefully fun for athletes and their families but it can also feel like a whole new world.
After four years of high school sports, I’ve learned that, at least in our family, teenagers aren’t great at getting information from their coaches to their parents. If this is your first year of high school sports, you may feel bewildered by the whole process while other families seem to already be familiar with the program. Here are a few tips to help the sports seasons run smoother for you:
Students are not permitted to practice without the required paperwork which includes a physical. Please check with your student’s school to determine exactly what is necessary and plan accordingly. Here’s a link to the Cecil County Public Schools Athletics page where you can find the latest forms required for participation.
Your son or daughter most likely won’t come home with a printed schedule but all sports schedules are posted on Countysportzone.com. You’ll want to bookmark that site on your computer or phone because you will be referring to it often. Sometimes postponements due to weather or changes to the schedule are posted here before the players are even notified. If you are leaving work on a rainy day to head to a soccer game, check countysportszone.com before leaving work.
Carpooling is a necessity
Some times your son or daughter will need to be at school at unusual times. This is especially true during fall pre-season practices before school starts when practice may start at 9 AM and end at noon or for winter sports when multiple teams are sharing the limited indoor facilities. Transportation at these times may be difficult for some families to accommodate. Fortunately, other families are often willing to take a friend or neighbor to or from practice. Remember–it takes a village to raise a sports team so please help teammates get where they need to be when you can.
Learn about practice and school attendance rules
Student athletes must participate in 10 practices before being considered eligible to participate in a game. Keep this in mind when scheduling summer vacations because practices start mid-August, before the school year begins.
Additionally, students must meet the county’s full day attendance policy in order to participate in practices and games. There are any number of reasons for a student to miss part of a school day, however, you should be aware of the policy in advance. Here’s a link to the CCPS attendance policy.
Write in pencil
I hope you like spontaneity! If you keep a paper calendar, be sure to write games in pencil because there will be changes.
Playoffs extend past the currently posted schedule
If your athlete is on a varsity team, they may play in playoffs at the end of the season. The dates for the games are posted on the MPSSAA website but we won’t know the details until the draw that happens after all regular season games have been played. Keep this in mind if you schedule any vacations during the school year. Here’s a link to the MPSSAA calendar page which also includes a long range calendar of major events for the next 5 years or so.
Give your athlete a zipper bag and large trash bag
Teams will usually play or practice regardless of the weather. Depending on the situation, they may end up playing in the rain and there may not be anywhere to store their bags. A gallon-size zipper bag is great for cell phones, wallets, and other valuables and the large trash bag is big enough to hold their backpacks and duffel bags. These two bags don’t take up much space and you’re better safe than sorry.
Find another parent
Coaches communicate with parents to different degrees; some are great at sharing schedule updates or feedback after the games via email or Facebook groups but this isn’t always the case. If the coach is a teacher, he or she may only be able to access email during their planning period or lunch. There may not be “team moms or dads” but there are always a few parents who are plugged in to the details. If your athlete is new to the team, find one of these parents and exchange cell phone numbers. You never know when you might need to get information from an adult. If you are a parent who knows the ropes of high schools sports, please befriend the new parents on the sideline.
Make sure your student-athlete is doing the student part
The school system has eligibility requirements but some teams may have eligibility requirements that are more strict than those of the school system. An athlete is of no use to the team if they are ineligible for practice or games. Eligibility for the beginning of the fall season is determined by the grades at the end of the school year so if your son or daughter plays a fall sport, remind them that allowing “spring fever” to impact their school work will make them ineligible to play in the fall. Here’s a link to the CCPS Interscholastic Athletics Regulations and Procedures
Bring a chair
Depending on the sport, you may need to bring your own chair to games. In Cecil County, there is little to no seating for fans on the sidelines of games outside of football. It’s easier to keep a lawn chair in your car all season then to stand for a whole game.
Games will start on time (and some times a little earlier)
If you show up at the field right at game time, you may miss the first few minutes of play. This is especially true if teams are trying to get a game in with bad weather on the way.
Honor the game
We all want our athletes to succeed but the games doesn’t always go our way. Players, coaches, and officials are human and will make mistakes. Please do your best to honor the game and respect the participants. No one wants to sit on the sideline and hear others criticize the game on the field. Please. Don’t. Be. That. Person. Here are some tips from the Positive Coaching Alliance
Plan for driver’s education
Learning to drive and getting a driver’s license are two of the most stressful and memorable milestones for both teenagers and parents. In preparation for that first license, the state of Maryland requires driver education training that includes 30 hours of classroom training and 6 hours of behind-the-wheel training. Trying to fit those classes around already packed school, sports, and family schedules can feel like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube (something I never bothered to master).
It couldn’t be farther from your mind as they are facing their first day as a freshman in high school but it will sneak up on you. If at all possible, have a solid plan for getting that training well before it’s required. Teenagers can’t get a learner’s permit until they are 15 years and 9 months old but they can take the classroom training before they have their permits.
To avoid missing practices or games for driver’s ed, our older son took driver’s ed over several consecutive weekends one winter when he wasn’t playing a sport and our younger son took it during summer vacation before his junior year.
End of season celebrations vary by team
Each team celebrates the end of the season in a different way. Some organize potluck dinners at school, others meet off-site. The events may include player recognitions and often include the distribution of gifts to departing seniors and coaches. Often arranged by team captains or parents, players may be asked to contribute towards those gifts.
What other tips have you learned?