These tips may help parents navigate the upcoming busy high school sports season

The lives of Maine parents will get a lot busier and difficult when practices for high school sports open on Monday, Aug. 17.

When another high school sports season begins, I always find that I’m pretty much repeating what I said the previous year: “Has it really been 13 years since Ryan (my son) was beginning his final season as a cross country runner at Brewer High School?” And: “Has it really been 39 years since I was doing the same at Stearns High School in Millinocket?”

Do the math and you may deduce that I’m getting closer to curmudgeon status, but since it’s still a few years away I’ll try my best to not be too preachy or cranky to a new generation of parents whose children are beginning their first seasons of high school sports.

Instead, I’d like to offer some tips that may be helpful in navigating the upcoming tumultuous days.

TAKE THE TIME TO MEET AND GREET: Most high schools will hold an informational meeting before the first practices kick off. At the meetings, parents and athletes will receive info on forms, physical exams and tests that need to be completed before the athlete steps onto the practice field for the first time.

School athletic directors and coaches work diligently to make sure everything is ready for their student-athletes and these meetings provide an opportunity for parents to take the final steps to complete that preparation.

Another valuable part of the meetings is the opportunity for parents to meet their children’s coaches and ADs. These folks will have a major role in your student-athlete’s life in the coming months and it’s a great moment for parents to make initial contact and then keep communicating.

Practice times and dates of upcoming games, meets and matches are usually also available at these meetings.

STOCK THE REFRIGERATOR AND PANTRY: It’s not necessary to become a nutrition expert, but be smart. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge and the sports drink your child prefers.

Provide a good balance of the food groups. The Food Guide Pyramid is a good one to follow and while I’ll admit to not devoutly enforcing it 365 days a year during Ryan’s running days, making an effort to be as diligent as possible results in a happy, hydrated young athlete.

BE OBSERVANT: Yes, it’s true that often your teenager seems like they may be considering joining a monastery and have decided to practice the vow of silence on you, but it’s still up to you to press your young athlete with questions of how the practices are going. Again, it’s difficult to judge mood changes, but monitor those as closely as possible and also try to detect any nagging little injuries or physical problems that your teen may not want to discuss.

If you notice any problems, especially on the injury front, don’t hesitate to discuss them with the coaches.

MARK A CALENDAR: Some parents have extremely organized minds and can easily log away practice times and game or meet days. For those of you like me, however, you may want to post a calendar with that info to your refrigerator or some other place that you see several times a  day.

Doing so will help prevent your athlete from missing practices or you from missing those games and meets.

The meets and games for your athlete are the culmination of hours preparation for a fall sports season that can start with sizzling summer days in the 80s and end with snow flurries and frozen ground in November. The benefits of working with teammates toward a common goal while also achieving some personal goals become ones that our young athletes relish.

Giving your athlete some common sense help along the way also makes your busy and hectic days worth it. A smile or look of accomplishment from them are memories you’ll never forget.

Joe McLaughlin

About Joe McLaughlin

McLaughlin (right) is a Stearns High School and University of Maine graduate who worked for three years at the Aroostook Republican and News in Caribou as a reporter and editor. He has worked on the BDN sports desk for 30 years, the last 18 as sports editor. McLaughlin and his wife, Kathy Schwigan, live in Brewer and have three adult children: Ryan, Matthew and Tess.