parents just don't understand

You may think you know how to be a effective parent with regard to your kids’ sports events.  However, if you have only assisted your child with games played on a field, you may have to rethink your position.

parentsFor field sports, (let’s just pick soccer), the first thing you have to do is get your kid and his equipment to the field (I am using “he” but of course we all know girls are great at soccer, and further, this is not the forum for gender identity grammatical gymnastics, so we are going to agree that “he” means any and all of your children that you have probably spent years of your life cheering for from the sidelines.)  Now, you and your kid are on the way to the field.  This means he has put on his shorts, game shirt, shin guards, cleats, perhaps some sunscreen.  If he forgot the sunscreen, it might be ok, because the game is only about an hour long and even if there is a mandatory half hour practice before game-time, you’ve still got less than 2 hours in the sun.  The main piece of equipment is his soccer ball, and it is right there in his hands.  He’s got a water bottle all filled up.  There may be a parent coordinated snack list so at half time your child can re-energize with some nice quartered oranges or sliced watermelon.  You can even fit a few other players in your car, so some of the parents can avoid watching that half hour of practice and show up for the game, in a chair which may be designed with a cup holder, and perhaps even an attached umbrella.
Now, let’s contrast that with getting to a regatta.  Your child is dressed in shorts and shirt, hopefully made of fabric that can keep out both the sun and the rain.  Over the shirt is the mandatory PFD, which you used to call a life jacket, but now you know it is a personal floatation device.

Over the PFD, a regatta-ready sailor will wear a pinnie, which will identify him on the water, along with all the others in his sailing class, which is not easy to do, since boats can spread out quite a bit during a race.  When a soccer player starts running the wrong way, it is embarrassing, and quickly remedied by his own teammates or coach.  When a sailor is headed the wrong way, he may end up at Mystic CT or Manhattan, depending on the currents.

You need to read the Notice Of Race (wait, the what?), the document that tells you the details about this specific race.   Your kid should read it at home and bring a copy, preferably in a ziplock bag.  Make a copy for yourself.  At a soccer game, you can just ask the parent in the chair next to you “Hey, I just got here, what’s the score?”  When the answer is given you’re pretty much up on all the relevant info.    You can check the big time clock to see how much time is left until you’re back in your car and thinking about lunch.  You’ll soon see, it’s not quite the same at a regatta.    Anyway, back to the NOR, first warning may be at 9:00, or actually 0900, and no races after 3:00pm, or 1500, but this is only a broad overview of what the day may look like.  Your sailor may spend all of those hours on the water, either racing, or waiting to race, and sunscreen is not negotiable.  His lunch will probably be on a coach boat, and you can only hope the two will meet up sometime before 1500.
Now, the “equipment” part must be dealt with.  Remember that soccer ball your kid grabbed on the way out the door?  Let’s get that boat to the venue!!  If you have an Opti, the good thing is, you can just pop it on top of your car, you do have racks, don’t you?  You’ve alerted your significant other the night before so you have some help, right?  The typical Opti kid is under 100 pounds, and tends to be short, so he’s not going to be any help.  Hopefully your straps are nice and tight.  Don’t go too fancy on the straps, I have shed many tears of frustration trying to use “ratchet straps” because I thought they had some sort of advantage physics-wise, but take my word for it, just use the regular kind, and pull with all your strength, and then have someone pull with you,  (not the useless 77 lb. sailor) and pray as you take to the road.
Shortly after you are comfortable with all the aforementioned, your sailor will grow too big for an Opti, and will begin to sail a two person or, double-handed boat.   This is generally good, because you can often split the driving of the boat with the other parents.   Be sure you pick a family with an SUV of some sort, plenty of straps, and a ball and hitch.  Are you familiar with ball and hitch hook-ups?  You will be.  As far as I can see, there are only two sizes of “ball” but the chances are only 50/50 that you will have the correct size on regatta day.  You’re now ready to go.  Do not rely on your GPS for directions. It will send you merely the most direct way, which will likely include the use of parkways, which you can’t legally drive on with a trailer.  You can however, use highways.  Leaving on Playland Parkway?  Just act like it’s normal and hopefully you’ll get away with it!  Many regattas take place on Long Island.  You will have to drive on the Long Island Expressway.  Is that a highway, or a parkway?  In this case, an expressway is a highway, so you’re good to go.  Fantastic!
There’s actually lots more we can talk about, and perhaps there will be another column with tips on how to be a spectator at a regatta, and how to stop for food on the way home, and how to un-hitch in the dark when you finally get back to the club.  For now, let me just tell you one more important thing: it’s all worth it.
At the end of the summer, you will realize that not only did your kid learn a lot, and he had a fabulous summer, you did some things you didn’t even know you were capable of.  Not only did your kid make inroads into life long friendships, you did as well.  You will see other parents that struggled like you did in the beginning of the summer, trying to figure out if the brake lights on the trailer were operational, and even if it is just in passing, in the supermarket, stocking up for a snow storm, your eyes will meet, and you’ll know.  You’ll know you passed basic training for sailing parenting, that you both know some of the secrets to getting it done, and having some fun.  Your sailor may not say so, but you’ve grown a bit in his eyes.  You will share his sense of pride and accomplishment at the end of the summer and you’ll smile a little, knowing those cushy soccer parents have got nothing on you! – Anarchist Paula.
Title inspiration thanks to – duh – DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince.