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Juggling Youth Sports

How a sports-minded family with four children handles competing activities.

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Russell and Denise Garlick have four children, ages 11 to 20. Each attends a different school, and all are really into sports. Like many American families, they are on the go constantly. A phone call to their home in the Boston suburb of Needham, Mass., often is answered by a recorded message.

For all their running around (via cars, carpools, and bikes) to games and practices, though, the Garlicks are careful not to let organized team sports rule their lives, as sometimes happens in other households.

During a Saturday morning conversation around their dining-room table, the Garlicks talk about the challenges of trying to keep it all in perspective.

Mrs. Garlick, a registered nurse, is sensitive to not having her family placed on any kind of pedestal. "I don't want to make it sound like we're doing everything right, because sometimes it's great and sometimes it all falls apart." Still, there's much that merits attention here.

Take the weekly planning meeting. "Every Sunday after dinner we have a family meeting," says Mrs. Garlick, reaching for a large ring binder used to log each child's activities. It contains schedules for sports, music lessons, and Boy Scouts; notices about school activities; team rosters and phone numbers. Each child has a section.

"Everybody takes a turn in running the meeting and the first thing we do is compliment each other on something that happened during the past week," Mrs. Garlick explains.

After that, Andy (age 11, soccer, baseball, and basketball), Alex (13, football, baseball, and basketball), Beth (17, Special Olympics bowling and Challenger basketball and baseball), and Monica (20, running, Ultimate Frisbee, and helping coach a soccer team) review what's coming, including letting Mom know what school materials are needed.

"This helps to get in their heads what they have going during the week," Mrs. Garlick says, "plus it helps them understand what else is going on in the family."

Furthermore, says Mr. Garlick, a research chemist, it allows the family to prioritize.

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