The Importance of Scheduling in Free Play

Today’s parents – and kids – are busy, busy, busy. There are schedules to be followed, clubs to be attended, and homework assignments to be completed. But free play is important too, so how can you schedule some in?

Being a parent isn’t easy. In fact, at times it can be downright difficult. You want the best for your kids, you want them to grow up happy and confident and you want them to look back on their childhood with a sense of wonder. Experts often stress the importance of free play, but how can you allow for it in the modern world?

When you’re busy ferrying your kids around their after-school activities and clubs, it can be almost impossible to find the time to spend doing nothing. If you work long hours and want to soak up as much time with your kids as possible, you may find the weekends fill up pretty quickly too.

The Benefits of Free Play

There are many benefits to letting your kids take the lead for a little bit. Free play means that kids are free to play whatever and however they want. There are no rules, they don’t have to play in a certain way, and they can change what they are doing as often as they like. Free play allows children to develop a sense of independence, to develop problem-solving skills, and to learn  valuable skills which prevent boredom. If done in a group, free play allows your child to hone their social skills, to learn about conflict resolution, and to perfect negotiation skills.

3 Tips for Scheduling in Free Play

Now you know why it’s important, let’s look at how exactly you can fit free play into your lives:

1. Make it Routine

It sounds almost counter-productive, doesn’t it? Scheduling in free play surely isn’t free play? After all, if it’s scheduled, it can’t really be free. Well, yes, actually, it can. And if the rest of your week runs to a tight schedule, you might need to schedule in free play. And that’s fine. By including free play as a part of your regular routine, you give this important activity the time and commitment necessary. You could schedule free play for a couple of hours on a weekend afternoon or take a night off from your commitments each week to indulge in some free play. Whenever you decide to do it, make it routine.

2. Do it with Friends

Kids love free play, they can get completely and utterly immersed in a totally made up world with their friends. And, whilst the kids are distracted, you can enjoy some time with your friends as well. You can be anywhere you want to be, a local park on a glorious summer day, bundled up in raincoats in a woodland forest in the pouring rain, or in the comfort of your own home. Let the kids go wild whilst you catch up with your friends. Time well spent.

3. Encourage it

Kids are easily distracted. You ask them to go outside and play, then stumble across them inside 30 minutes later engrossed in a game of pirates. It can be frustrating, but try to remember the benefits of free play. Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, and your new found love of free play is no excuse for being late for school. That said, however, if you have nowhere to be, allow your child to embrace free play.

Do your kids get to enjoy free play time each week?

Children sitting in row and reading books at the park

3 Books Your Sporty Child Will Love

All parents want the best for their kids. You want your children to hold their own on the field but also have an imagination that loves getting lost in stories. If your children aren’t big on reading, here are a few books that could change that.

Not all kids fit into the stereotypes of booky or sporty, plenty of kids are both avid readers and avid sports fans. Sports are great for teaching your children important life skills and helping them to stay healthy, but books are a great way to nourish the mind. If your children are not big fans of reading, you may be wondering whether there’s anything you can do to unlock a hidden love of books in them. Well, there is and it could be as simple as finding enjoyable and meaningful books.

Your sports-loving kids may like to read books about sports. There are plenty of novels and fiction books that tell stories about sports, about teams and about challenges on the field. By choosing a subject matter your children can relate to, you might find that they engage more easily with the book. So, here are three books for your little sports fans to get lost in:

1. Summer Kicks: The Soccer Series #1 by Simon Alder

This is the perfect book for any soccer fans out there. The author clearly has a lifelong love of soccer which is present on every page. A gifted striker ends up on the losing team and must work hard to pull their team out of the gutter. This book focuses on the importance of teamwork, good sportsmanship and working together. It’s a motivational read and includes some great positive messages. It’s part of a series, so your child will be able to read more if this one just isn’t enough.

2. The Batboy by Mike Lupica

For any baseball fans out there, Mike Lupica’s, The Batboy, could be just what you need to draw out their inner bookworm. This much-loved book is a hit with children and parents alike. It tackles some of the big issues in modern sports from doping to role models, and allows the reader to investigate these themes further. The lead character, Brian, is the batboy for his hometown team, and his idol has recently joined the team, but will he live up to expectations or prove himself to be nothing short of a let down?

3. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

If you’re looking for a book with a strong female role model, this might be the book for you. Jessica is a runner who gets into a tragic road accident and discovers she may never walk again. Far from letting that stop her, Jessica decides to work harder, to fight back and to dream big. Will she be able to win running competitions after the accident? This book is about determination, it’s about passion, and it’s about following your dreams. A must-read for any sports fan.

Which sports books do your kids love? Share your recommendations in the comment section.

Crowd or group of different people isolated in white

5 Things All Soccer Parents Have In Common

Being a soccer parent gives you magical powers to spot any other soccer parents within a 5k radius. Soccer parents are your community, they know what you’re going through and here’s how you find them.

It’s important to have parent friends who know what you’re going through. This is just as important when your kids are in middle school, as it is in those early newborn days when you’re covered in puke and busy changing diapers. As a soccer parent, you’ll need some soccer parent friends to support and celebrate with you. Being a soccer parent isn’t easy, in fact, it can be hard work. Other soccer parents know what you’re up against, they have the tips and tricks that could make your life easier, and they understand just how important those games are to you. Here are five things all soccer parents have in common:

1. Messy Cars

As a soccer parent, you have no chance of keeping your car clean. You spend so much time driving around in that thing, it’s pretty much your second home. Your kids eat their dinner in the car on the way home from practice, they kick off muddy boots as soon as they climb in, and you’re forever driving over muddy puddles on the way to the field. Look around the parking lot, if there’s another car as filled with Tupperware, covered with mud and stinking of sweaty feet as yours, you have found yourself a fellow soccer mom.

2. A Total Lack of Free Time

Ah, free time. Remember that? Remember when you used to enjoy sleep-ins on Sunday mornings instead of waking early to ferry your kids around for soccer games? Remember when you could spend your evenings watching TV instead of organizing sports kits and baking cookies for team fundraisers? Those days are long gone. If you see another parent who looks like they haven’t slept in years, has a to-do list trailing behind them on the floor, and is already running late for their next appointment, they might just be a soccer parent too.

3. The Ability to Create Healthy, Nutritious and Portable Dinners

When your kids are using their energy on the pitch, junk food won’t do. You might not get to enjoy quite as many sit down meals as the average family, but that doesn’t mean your kids suffer nutritionally. In fact, as a soccer parent, you know just how important it is that your kids eat right. You know how much protein they should be getting, how much energy they need and what the best fast-acting high-energy snacks are. And, in true soccer parent style, you can pack a healthy, balanced dinner into a Tupperware for your kid to enjoy in the car. It’s your soccer parent badge of honor and you can always spot a fellow soccer parent by how many pre-cooked and delicious family meals they have packed into Tupperware in the freezer.

4. A Hoarse Voice

Soccer parents are no strangers to cheering. You can spot your comrades easily at the grocery store after the weekend, they’re the individuals who are hoarse from shouting words of encouragement by the side of the field. You’ll see them but probably won’t be able to say hello because you lost your own voice after a particularly enthusiastic bout of cheering during yesterday’s game. Hey, you’re a soccer parent, that’s what you do.

5. They Know Everything There is to Know About Soccer

You might never have kicked a ball in your life, but you’re an expert when it comes to the rules of the game. You know everything happening in the national league, as well as, how your local team has been doing this season. You know all the lingo, can explain the offside rule without pausing to think and can hold your own in a sports bar. The other sports parents are the same. You all eat, sleep and breathe soccer for your kids, and that’s a part of why you all make such amazing soccer parents. So, now you know how to spot those soccer parents, go and find yourself some soccer parent friends to chat strategy with.



Never Give Up phrase made with 3d retro style geometric letters.

How to Survive Getting Cut from Your Favorite Sport

The friendship between Diane and Alicia started six years ago when both began playing soccer in their local recreational program. After attending elementary school together, they were looking forward to being in the same middle school home room. Before their middle school started in September they decided to try out for the soccer team together. On the first day of school, both girls were faced with a personal dilemma. Alicia was named to the soccer team. Diane was not, as she was one of several players not making the final roster.

Why Roster Cuts?

It can be difficult for youth athletes to understand the team tryout process and the eventual roster cuts which are made. The decision to make cuts, especially for school-related teams, may be one based on financial reasons as the cost of operating a team can directly affect roster size. While some larger school districts – particularly at the middle school and freshman levels – may create additional teams to avoid player cuts, financial realities make this impossible for smaller districts.

Achieving a higher level of competitiveness may also be a reason for player cuts. In a perfect world, every coach would have the ability to properly rank the talent of those players trying out. However, the world is not perfect nor is any coach. For example, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks was told by his coach he was too short for high school ball.

At the high school level, many coaches utilize the tryout/cut process to avoid situations where players become disheartened over not seeing any playing time. Whether a starter or a player listed last on the depth chart, every team member must put in the required ‘sweat equity’ at each practice. Just as the starting midfielder has to do his homework just before bed time, so does the player never leaving the sideline. In some instances, not cutting players can have an adverse effect on the team.

Bouncing Back from Disappointment

Increasing Effort – When Anthony was initially cut in high school, was he disappointed? Yes, but he did not allow it to consume him. He continued to work on his skills. A six-inch growth spurt during the summer and a school transfer certainly helped put Anthony’s basketball skills in front of college recruiters, but had he given up would that have happened?

Keep Your Friends – As in the scenario of Alicia and Diane, there are going to be times when one friend makes it and another doesn’t. Don’t let resentment and disappointment ruin a friendship. And for the friend ‘making the team,’ make it a point to include your friend in outings and pick-up games.

Look Elsewhere – There may recreational leagues not affiliated with a school. This goes with getting better at the sport. Or, try another sport which is played at the same time. In the case of Diane, her running stamina for soccer may make her a candidate for the school cross country team.

Athletics Mirror Life

While getting cut may presently seem to be the most devastating event in a person’s life, it is merely a bump on the road toward becoming an adult. Taking time to reflect on what happened is going to be a natural occurrence, but in time you will grow from the experience. Refresh and reboot to a more positive future. Most importantly, never give up.

hands holding four pieces of a puzzle with copy space, gray background

Welcoming New Teammates

Roger has been on the same basketball team for five years. In that time, he has made several friends and has even attended the same school as most of his teammates. Roger’s comfortable situation is about to change. His father’s promotion at work requires the family to move to another city. Amongst other things, a family’s relocation has immediate impact on a child’s athletic life.

Parents ‘Checklist’

Relocating brings about sudden changes in a child’s life. A new neighborhood, a new school, and a new sports team are just few of the changes coming to mind. It is natural to check out the schools and neighborhoods before moving, but for parents with children in sports activities it is just as important to do the homework on the athletic organizations of their new surroundings. While the web is a wonderful starting point in gathering information about teams, leagues and competitiveness; parents should also make direct contact to gather the necessary information. When speaking with an official of a prospective athletic organization, ask for a contact list of other parents or coaches on the team.

Parents: do not hold back on the questions.

Ask specific questions about coaching expectations, any past conflicts or incidences which have occurred and the overall goal for the players of the team. Is the organization built on winning games or developing individuals through athletics. Ask what each person likes best about the organization and the overall experience for the children. Don’t stop there. Ask the real estate agent if there is a personal connection with the organization, and if they can set up a short question and answer period over the phone. All of this assists parents in making the proper decision.

The ‘New Kid’

When a youth player like Roger joins a new team, there will be a short awkward period for the new player as well as the ‘new’ coach and ‘new’ teammates. Coaches must take the first step by properly introducing the player to teammates. The coach could also take it one step further and meet with the new parents one-on-one prior to the first practice. A natural next step is for the coach to introduce the ‘new’ parents to the parents of the other players. These easy guidelines will get rid of the awkwardness much quicker.

Coaches and parents should encourage the players to actively involve the ‘new’ player. Kids tend to do this anyway, but there are ways to expedite the process. Take the first 15 minutes of practice for every player to introduce themselves. Adding a simple ‘elevator speech,’ having the current players talk about what they like to do or what they like most about the team or sport can bring a sense of comfort to incoming new players.

Be Yourself

For the new player ‘in town’, the biggest advice is to “Be Yourself.” Do not try to come in as a know-it-all or as someone determined to ‘beat out’ the star player. Listen to the coaches, participate in drills, and interact with teammates in a positive manner. It will not be long until new friendships are developing and the ‘new’ team aura disappears. That’s when the sports activity gets the desired results – to compete and enjoy what you’re doing.




5 Reasons To Keep Playing Sports

It’s quite common for lifelong sports fanatics to suddenly question whether there’s any point in playing team sports anymore. Here are five reasons why you absolutely should keep at it.

As life gets busier, academic demands increase and you gain more freedom to spend time with your friends, it’s only natural that you reassess how you manage your time. There are only so many hours in the day and you need to make sure you’re using yours effectively to get the most out of life. Many teenagers find themselves under a lot of pressure from school, friends, family and even work commitments. How can you do all of the things you need to do, without missing out on any of the things you want to do?

Sadly, many teenagers choose to give up the sports they have been involved with for years as a way of freeing up some extra time. Of those, many later regret the decision. So, if you’re currently wondering how you can free up more time, here are five reasons why quitting your sports team isn’t the answer:

1. It’s Good for Your Health

Your involvement with team sports is one of the things keeping you healthy. The time spent training each week, not to mention the hours spent running around on the field, are what help your body to stay in shape. You’re exercising whilst doing something you love, you’d have to be crazy to give that up. Even if you drop out of the team, you’ll need to replace the activity with other exercise to make sure you stay healthy, so it may not even buy you much in the way of free time. Your health is important and team sports are a great way to stay in shape.

2. It’s Not All About Your Future Employment

Many young people decide to give up playing sports when they realize they’re not going to make a career out of it. If it’s not going to be how you make a living, it can suddenly seem like a waste of time. But playing sports isn’t just a career opportunity, it can also be a lifelong hobby that you can enjoy with friends and family. You don’t need to quit the team just because you’re not planning on playing soccer full-time. It’s perfectly ok to play for fun – in fact, what better reason could there be to play a game other than that you love it?

3. It’ll Be Good for Your Resume

You might not be planning to take up basketball as a profession, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to help you out in your professional life. Playing team sports teaches players a lot of valuable skills and employers know that. When they see that you play regularly in a league, potential employers assume you’re a team player, a fast thinker and somebody who isn’t afraid to work hard. Having that on your resume could make all the difference between getting an interview and never hearing back. Isn’t it worth it for that alone?

4. It’s Fun

You know how much you’ve always loved sports? The adrenaline, the team spirit and the celebration when you score – it’s undeniable, sports are fun. Playing on a team allows you to enjoy all of these positives whilst having fun. Okay, not every game is fun. Some games you’ll twist your ankle, miss the goal or go home empty-handed. But even on those days, you’ll have had fun, let off steam and work as part of a team. You don’t need to give up this slice of fun to juggle your school work and social life.

5. Your Teammates Are Your People

The great thing about playing sports is that you have a ready-made group of friends for life. Your teammates are your people. They know you and support you. Of course, you can stay friends with these people when you leave the team, but it will never be quite the same.




For Athletes Time is Just a Number

Your parents are worried your increased interest in athletic pursuits will have a negative effect on your grades. You make the promise nothing like that will ever happen, but the nightly two-hour practices are eating into your homework time. What can you do to keep the promise to your parents?

You aren’t alone in this situation. The leap from childhood to the teenage years – includes a natural increase in the amount of homework you stash in your book bag. Around the same time in your life, you decide to ‘step up your game’ by trying out for stronger and more competitive athletic teams. You want to make the jump from the ‘recreational’ athlete to that of performing in the more competitive ‘select’ or ‘travel’ arena.

The twice-a-week recreational practice and once-a-week game schedule has now become a week filled with four practice days and two game days – or even a complete weekend of multiple tournament games. It’s tough to scrounge up enough time to finish your schoolwork, and when you do sit down and open a text book you find yourself so exhausted you can’t even concentrate.

Professional basketball coach Pat Riley once commented, “There are only two options regarding commitment. You’re either in or you’re out. There’s no such thing as life in-between.” This is exactly true of your life right now. This is where you must make a commitment to following some simple rules of time management. You have already decided you want to better yourself as an athlete by increasing your activity in a sport, but you cannot take this time from your study time.

There will always be some consequence to every decision you make, that’s why it’s important to think about them carefully. You know you have to get started on researching a social studies report, but the report isn’t due until next week. So, you log into the GroupMe chat set up with your friends. A quick ‘check-in’ results in eating up 45 minutes. Those minutes are lost. You cannot get them back. Using them to start your research would definitely lower the stress level affecting your school performance next week. By making such a simple adjustment, you have initiated a time management strategy. The mature decision not only helps you keep a promise to your parents, but it also lets you keep the even bigger promise to yourself. Besides, if you are productive you may also get those 5 minutes of chatting you promised yourself, but as a reward!

Successful coaches are the ones to make every minute of practice time matter. The same can be said of successful student-athletes. Develop a weekly and daily ‘quick assessment’ of all the school work you are facing. For example, you have a social studies report but still have 10 days before it is due. If this week is light on math and science homework, set up some extra time to start your project. If you let “light” homework weeks be too relaxed you will end up with all-nighter the next week. Take advantage of the natural balance in your homework and be as productive as you can.

There may be times when it may just seem impossible for you to fit everything into your life. If it comes down to a decision between your school work and athletics, there really isn’t a decision to make. Education is priority one. Let your coach know of your situation as soon as possible. Some coaches may tell you skipping practice will result in not starting or not playing the next game. The coach may not want to make such a harsh decision but he also must consider your teammates who are not missing a practice, particularly if there is a set of team rules, which cannot be ignored. However, most coaches are very understanding and if they see you are a hardworking student-athlete they will give you a chance to make it up to the team.

Young football players

Picking a New Sport

You’ve played soccer since preschool and were first at bat on the t-ball field. But, now you’re thinking of starting a new sport. How can you pick a new athletic activity? It’s not always easy – especially if you’ve been playing the same sport for years. Whether you’re looking for a change or want to add another activity to your roster, make selecting a new sport easier with a few simple steps!

Pick a Sport YOU like

It’s easy to get drawn into an activity because all of your friends are doing it. Consider it peer pressure – in a positive way. Joining a sport gives you benefits galore, including a healthier lifestyle and teaching you social skills (such as teamwork and sportsmanship). Sometimes it just takes a push from your friends to join in, get up and start a new sport. That said, if you honestly don’t want to play the sport, don’t do it. Considering a sport because your friends rave about how much fun they’re having can help the selection process, but considering a sport that you have no interest in only because your friends tell you to, isn’t the way to go.

Go To a Game, or a Few

You’ve been to your fair share of major league baseball games, but have you seen your local community team at play? If you’re considering joining the school or a rec center team, take some time to see a game or two. Doing this gives you a better idea when it comes to if you want to join the team or not. Introduce yourself to the coach while you’re there and discuss the possibility of joining in.

Talk to Your Parents

While talking to a coach can help your decision-making process, discussing the new sport with your parents gives you a point of view from the people who know you the best (even if it feels like they don’t). Ask for their input. If you don’t agree with what they say, talk to them about it. Maybe one of your parents played the sport in high school and knows you won’t like it or maybe they just know what you will and won’t like. Your parents can also help you to match your school, homework and after-school activity schedule with possible sports practice.

Make a List

Not sure at all what sport you want to play? Write a list of what you’re looking for or what skills you feel confident in. For example, if you’re a social person and prefer a team sport, tennis may not be for you. But, if you like being independent this type of sport might fit you. You probably won’t meet every point on your list. Try to match your potential pick with as many items on your list as possible. That’s okay if you miss a few points. But, if you’re missing all of them, it probably isn’t the best option.

Give It a Try

Sometimes the only way to make sure that you enjoy an activity is to do it. If you’re not 100 percent sure about a sport, sign up and give it a try anyway. You might find out that it’s your favorite activity or it might be a dud. In either case, you won’t be left wondering if you made the right or wrong decision. Imagining, talking about and thinking what it would be like to play the sport isn’t the same thing as playing it. Give yourself a chance (at least a few weeks of practice) to decide whether the sport is, or isn’t, the right fit.



How Can Sports Help You in School

School and sports. Do they seem like two completely different things? In one you’re running down a field, throwing a ball and getting active. In the other you’re sitting at a desk with your head in a book. If they seem like total opposites, they can be. That said, sports can actually help you in school. Here’s how.

Stopping Stress

Playing a sport can lower your stress level and reduce anxiety, according to the Institute of Medicine. Why is this important in school? Let’s say you have finals or a big test coming up. You probably feel a little stressed – at the very least. Right? Hitting the track for practice, getting into the weight room during training time or running around the soccer field regularly can help you to relax! The less stress you have, the more of your mind you can devote to your school work. Along with that, reducing general (or school) anxiety lets you calm down and focus.

Better Performance

Research may show a connection between being physically active and having better brain function. What do the scientists think? Some studies have found that intense physical activity helps children to actually think better. This may lead to increased test scores and overall better grades. Of course, physical activity alone isn’t the key to school success. Even though some research says that sports and stand-out school performance go hand-in-hand, other factors such as studying, focus, hard work and motivation are absolutely necessary to do well. This means that relying solely on your sport to give you an academic boost won’t do. But, it is possible that athletic activities can help do better in your classes.

A Healthier Body

A study of more than 1,900 fifth, seventh and ninth graders in California schools found that children and teens with a lower BMI (body mass index) had better standardized test scores in math, reading and language than those with higher BMIs. Since sports lead to healthier bodies, it’s possible that your athletic activities are leading to better school performance. What’s the concensus from the research? Lowering your BMI, through sports and other physical activity, not only helps your body, but also helps your brain.

Team Building

You already know ‘there’s no I in team’. You’re a good sport on the field, and that teaches you to do the same off the field too. Even though school isn’t exactly a team effort, you need social skills to navigate through your academic day. Why? There are times when your teacher may ask you to work on a group project, pair up with a friend or study with classmates. Your team experiences during sports practice and games can help you to get along with your study group, participate more fully and work together.

Learning Leadership

Whether you’re the team captain or not, sports can teach leadership. There are times when, at practice or during games, that you’ll need to help your teammates, call a play or take charge. You bring these leadership skills to school as well. This may translate into you taking a role in student council, heading a study group or feeling more comfortable presenting a project in class.

Sports can also help you in seemingly small ways at school. From the time management skills that you develop balancing practice and homework to the mindset that you have to succeed, sports give you abilities, ideas and knowledge that lead to school success!



Player Profile: Sue Bird


Sue Bird is arguably one of the best basketball players in the US right now. She is often considered one of the best point guards ever.  After 14 years of playing professional basketball, Bird continues to perform well for her team. Bird is set to represent Team USA in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. This will be her opportunity to earn a fourth consecutive gold medal in basketball.


She is 36 years old and 5 ft. 9in, and was born in Syosset, New York. She has been shooting hoops ever since she was a five-year-old spectator watching her big sister play in basketball games. Bird now wears a number 10 shirt to honor her sister’s birthday which is in October, the tenth month of the year. She credits her sister, Jennifer, for being the reason she plays basketball today.


Sure has been playing professional basketball for 14 years. She played basketball throughout high school and won a number of awards for the sport. While in college, Bird competed in a game against Notre Dame that has been dubbed ‘the best women’s basketball game ever played’.


She won gold medals at the 2004, 2008 and 2012 Olympics and is hoping to go on to do the same later this year in Rio. She plays for the Seattle Storm and represents her country at national events.


Speaking of why she started playing basketball, Bird told FIBA: “You just played because it was fun. You played because your friends rang your doorbell and said ‘hey, let’s go’ and you just went, you know. And from there, I started to join teams.” Bird is the most decorated athlete in FIBA history to play in world championships.


Diana Taurasi, author of her biography writes in Bird’s official website, “Even with all her remarkable accolades, Bird is still the kind, sweet, and thoughtful person we all know and love. She’s everybody’s favorite teammate, maintains a high appreciation for her fans and habitually gives back to the community from an authentic desire to make the world better. There’s something unmistakably genuine, honest, interesting and all-around fun about Bird.”


When asked by KidzWorld whether she had any tips for kids hoping to make a career out of playing basketball, Bird had the following words of wisdom to share: “If that’s your dream you have to really work hard for it, but always make sure you’re having fun. If it’s not fun, then you really have to re-think what you want to do. You always want to be able to smile at the end of the day and have fun out there. I guarantee that if you have fun while you’re playing, you’ll keep getting better.”