By Shawn Lealos

As a parent of a child-athlete, you’re well aware that helping your kids balance schoolwork and sports requires…accessorizing. One afternoon you may be donning the chauffeur hat, shuttling the kids to and from various practices; over the weekend you can be found breaking out your pom-poms, cheering your little ones on from the stands; and weeknights are spent pouring over Algebra homework through those half-moon reading glasses you were sure you’d never need.

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The (home)Work—(sports)Life Balance

As a parent, you know that the benefits young athletes gain by taking part in positive extracurricular activities such as organized sports cannot be undermined. School comes first, but extracurricular activities are also of vital importance. Nevertheless, at the end of each day you find yourself more than ready for bed, and if all that running around is wearing you out, you can’t help but wonder how your kids are faring. Is it all too much for them handle?

As you practically collapse from exhaustion each night, it’s easy to forget that children have a lot more energy than we adults do—they thrive when they have multiple outlets for their boundless energy. The trick is to ensure that their energy is being dispersed evenly among their various activities, so that neither schoolwork nor performance on the playing field suffers. So how do you help guide your little ones along?

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Set a Schedule that Works for Everyone

Invest in one of those magnetic refrigerator calendars, sit down with your child, and map out the next month’s road map. Which days are for practice? When are games? What tests does your child have coming up in school? Schedule out play time, homework time, family time, and study time. Is all that time on short supply? Think outside of the box—all those hours spent in the car driving to and from practice can be done doing something productive, like studying. Make sure your child is involved in the creation of this schedule, and don’t forget to include down time—kids need a few moments each day to relax and regroup, lest they become over-scheduled and overextended.

Communicate Regularly, Check in Often

Once your schedule is in place, check in with your child regularly to see if it’s working for him or her. How is he feeling about the new system? Is he finding he has enough time to get his homework done? How’d he do on that Algebra test last week? Is he finding it hard to get going in the mornings? If one or more aspects of the new routine don’t seem to be working, go back to the drawing board. Again, get your child’s input on what part of the plan he thinks might need tweaking.

Know When to Step in

Despite our best efforts, kids don’t tell us everything. If you’re wondering if your child is overextended, ask yourself the following:

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  • Are your child’s grades suffering?
  • Have teachers or coaches expressed any concerns about your child’s academic or athletic performance?
  • Is your child becoming unmotivated to participate in sports, or finding excuses to skip practices?

If your child is exhibiting behavior that suggests he might be overwhelmed, talk to him about it. Ask him how things are going, or what you can do to help him succeed. If together, you ultimately decide that your child has too much on his plate, have a discussion about next steps. Are there ways to help lessen the stress of balancing schoolwork and sports that don’t include quitting the team, such as hiring a tutor to help with classes in which he may be struggling? Or is it best that sports take a back burner to school, at least for the rest of this season? The most important thing to do is to your child’s thoughts and concerns, and create a plan of action together.