After 12 years of club volleyball, I developed a checklist of game-day do's and don'ts.
I hope this checklist might help as you prepare for a season packed with game days and memories to be made!
The #1 guideline is that the COACH is the leader of the team.
Before making any plans with other families, make sure your coach is on board.
The Arizona Region of USA Volleyball will release your game day schedule, typically, the Thursday before your tournament. Our awesome staff work hard behind the scenes to get our schedule to you as early and as accurately as possible.
If you do not know which division your athlete's team plays in, just ask your coach.
Feel free to bookmark the division tab and refer to it throughout the season.
Parking is a challenge when hundreds of players are arriving at the same time.
Plan extra time for finding a parking space.
DO NOT ASSUME YOU CAN PARK IN A NO-PARKING ZONE... EVEN IF IT'S A WEEKEND OR HOLIDAY.
Cities are cracking down on illegal parking and you don't want to end a fun day with a $72 parking ticket.
The night before the tourney, you can make sure you have everything you need for a smooth start to the day.
Younger players might have matching team bows or shoelaces.
Toiletries might include simple skin care items for the athlete who struggles with acne.
PRO TIP: This might sound funny, but I always have an extra trash bag, paper towels and toilet paper in my backpack on game days. You'll understand why if you have someone near you who gets sick or when the tp runs out in the gym restroom. This quirk has saved me on many occasions!
My athlete also suggests a good night's sleep, healthy breakfast, confidence, good attitude and a lucky charm!
NO MATTER WHERE YOU'RE STANDING, ODDS ARE A RECORDING DEVICE IS PICKING UP WHAT YOU'RE SAYING.
You might consider this a "Pro Tip", too!
MOBILE PHONE & CAMERA
You will mostly likely know where every outlet is in every gym by the end of the season if you're not prepared! Ha ha!
Spectators got creative during the pandemic. We set up social media pages were families could live stream the games.
Having family who live far away, they are always so grateful to know they can log on and watch my daughter's games! And I've heard from other families who have loved ones on the road, in the military, and unable to attend how much they appreciate the live streams.
Our team has chosen to set up a private Facebook group page where parents take turns live streaming the games. Only relatives of athletes are able to join the group. This gives loved ones the opportunity to see the games while the competition can't access our strategy.
Setting up a live stream is a discussion you should have with your coach prior to setting up. Be sure to offer to live stream and be ready to go live on time.
Over the season, you'll get to know the kids' names.
It might be helpful to have a team roster you can refer to.
My favorite parents are the parents who root and cheer for EVERY team member. Nothing earns my respect more than a parent who can name something positive about each kid and congratulate them or compliment them after a game day.
You've probably heard about being supportive of your own kid and not criticizing too harshly in the car on the way home. Showing your support of the other kids is important, too. They're all in the most formative years of their lives... during a difficult time... and knowing they have you in their corner goes a long way.
Some people really like the job. Others do it because they can and know the teams appreciate the help.
Team parents are really the back bone of organizing smooth game days for their teams. These are the people behind the scenes making sure the coaches and athletes are stress-free before, during, and after their tourneys.
Having been a team mom for club and high school ball, I've always been grateful for the other parents who chip in and check to make sure we have everything we need!
A little pre-game day planning goes a LONG way.
To make life a little easier, our team has chosen to have a lead team parent for local game days and a lead team parent for national qualifier trips. This should reduce the stress on both leaders and make the experience more fun for everyone!
I'm a "planner." Like... I really think as far ahead as possible.
ASK YOUR TEAM IF THEY WOULD LIKE TO HAVE A POTLUCK STYLE FOOD TABLE OR IF EVERYONE WOULD LIKE TO BRING THEIR OWN FOOD.
It's especially important to provide the option for team members to just bring their own food. Some athletes may have financial hardships making the potluck option easier for them on game days. Please do your best to be understanding of everyone's opinions and concerns surrounding food tables.
At the very least, having a dedicated space where everyone can gather, socially distanced, to mingle and rest between games is essential.
As for my daughter's team this season, along with our co-team parent, we put together a master signup list for all of the game days where we know we'll need a food table.
We plan ahead for food tables at the local region tourneys and tournaments where we know we'll have a space for a table and tent. At bigger tourneys or at national qualifiers, we usually plan for the team to eat together at the local food court or nearby restaurant.
What is the purpose of a food table?
The table allows the team to have a designated space where they can meet and hang out together when they're not on the court. This is where the coaches and athletes, (and if you choose, families), can eat, chat, and rest between the games.
*NOTE: Food tables should not create any additional work or stress for coaches or athletes. Food tables are meant to be a way for parents/families to help support the teams on game days!
In the past couple of seasons, facilities have told us garbage is the number one issue making them hesitant about renting out their gyms. Today, food and drinks other than water are not allowed in the court areas. In fact, teams face a 13-point penalty for having prohibited food and drinks in the gyms. So having a designated table where team members can safely store their food and drinks is a great idea!
Many clubs, teams, parents have their own preferences for food table necessities.
ALWAYS TALK WITH YOUR COACH FIRST ABOUT HIS OR HER PREFERENCES FOR A FOOD TABLE! THE COACH IS THE LEADER OF YOUR TEAM AND THE TEAM EXPERIENCE.
Here's a simple checklist I've created over the years which I hope might help you.
Garbage bags. Remember, teams are responsible for hauling out their own trash. The facilities we partner with request teams bring their own bags and leave their area just as clean as when they found it.
Disposable utensils. If your table is hosting a potluck, you'll need someone to bring forks, spoons, knives, napkins. And don't forget serving spoons or tongs, too! No one likes dirty fingers in the shared foods.
Due to the pandemic, many clubs/teams have switched to "Bring your Own" policies. This is perfectly fine!! But if you do share food at a table, please make sure everyone is able to grab and go without spreading germs.
Water. Depending on the size of the team and the number of families who gather in the tent, we usually ask one or two athletes to bring a case of water.
Don't forget a cooler with ice, too! Those warm days heat up quickly in April and May!
HEALTHY FOOD OPTIONS
The one thing I know for sure, the healthiest and fittest teams usually last the longest on the court. You can help support your team with healthy food options.
Protein. Be sure to ask about peanut allergies!! Consider protein balls, protein bars, etc. Protein like chicken, ham, and cheese also can be added to salads and sandwiches.
Veggies and fruits. No... not the sugary fruit roll ups! Ha ha! Real fruit. Hummus and nutritionally healthy dips are a fun side to bring along, too! Veggies can be considered as add-ons for sandwiches.
Low calorie popcorn or snacks. Sometimes a quick snack is all you've got time for. Watch for the salt content. It's easiest to have these available in single servings for a quick grab and go treat.
No one likes having to bring the most time-consuming or most difficult-to-haul item. I prefer not to "assign" the food table needs. Let the families choose. Provide a sign up sheet like the one to the right. Then ask your families to please sign up for different items each week so everyone has the opportunity to bring something a little easier on the weekends they need a break.
I also allow the families who bring a tent or the tables to not be asked to bring other food items. Those are large items and it's very kind of them to share their personal property with everyone.
Coaches usually are not asked to bring anything for the table. But many do offer. Remember, the coaches and athletes are the people we're supporting. It's the parents who help provide that support on game days.
I have learned a lot over the years. My hope is that my tips can help the new generation of parents who want to be involved and be of assistance to their teams.
Offer assistance and help where it's needed.
Whether its coordinating the team table, bringing a case of water, or contributing to the team fundraiser... just do what you can.
Many times, "being helpful" doesn't cost a dime. Being helpful might mean giving a high five or helping coordinate the next team bonding, making team dinner reservations or scouting out seating for your team's fans.
It's been an absolute honor having my kid grow up through the Arizona Region of USA Volleyball. Everyone at the AZ Region works toward providing a safe, fun and rewarding experience for your child.
Never hesitate to reach out. We're all here to answer your questions.
Now... go get ready and have a great game day!!