After all the cupcakes and cookies on the sidelines of pee wee soccer (read Soccer Mom Soapbox), I was relieved when my son started playing flag football and sports snacks were a non-issue. In four seasons, I didn’t see a single Capri Sun or Dorito. One coach brought goodies to the last game–but beyond that, it was refillable water bottles and dinner at home.
Then this spring, snacks suddenly started showing up on my younger son’s team: Rice Krispies Treats, Gatorade, bags of chips. I was surprised and disappointed. But I didn’t say anything. I let my kids have the snacks (read why: The Mom I Can’t Be) and signed up to take a turn on snack duty. When my week came, I brought paper cups of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. And held my breath.
Though one of the team moms brought Gatorade for everyone and two kids turned me down, the berries still went over well. The other players happily ate them–including the coach (gotta love that kind of role-modeling!). Most even took seconds.
With spring sports in full swing, I know a lot of you are dealing with junky sports snacks on the sidelines too. And I want you to know that you CAN do something about it. I’ve spent the last few years working on this issue in my community and have learned a lot. Here’s my advice:
What To Do Now
When it’s your turn to supply team snacks, bring bananas, apples, or slices of watermelon. Though fruit seems like a natural choice after sports (it’s refreshing and full of fluid and carbohydrates) parents are often pleasantly surprised when someone brings it. Sports drinks, chips, and cookies have become the defacto snacks for kids’ sports, but remember the orange slices from your childhood games? Revive the tradition! If you bring fruit and it goes over well, other parents may be inspired to do the same. For ideas, get my list of 20 Healthy Team Snacks.
I’ve learned the hard way that this is a touchy subject and can result in hurt feelings between parents (read When Soccer Snacks Get Personal). Telling someone you don’t like their choice of snack can feel like a judgement on their parenting. So avoid openly complaining about it–and don’t send out a suggestion for healthy snacks once others have already brought chips and cookies.
What To Do After The Season Ends
Talk to the league director.
Take your concerns (politely!) to the league director. Ask if he or she would consider suggesting a fruit-and-water policy to coaches and parents. Send the director a link to a free training module for soccer coaches called Coaching Healthy Habits, that helps coaches encourage healthy habits for practices and games (and discourage sports drinks and post-game cupcakes). The training is a partnership between US Youth Soccer, the largest youth sports organization in the country, and Healthy Kids Out of School, an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition. Healthy Kids Out of School has other resources you can pass along, including this fact sheet on why sports drinks aren’t necessary for most youth sports. (click HERE to save or print)
Talk to the coach.
The best time to make change is RIGHT BEFORE the season starts. I connect with my children’s coaches before the first practice and ask whether they are open to either having only fruit and water for team snacks or simply forgoing team snacks altogether. If you have the coach on board (especially if the request for healthy snacks or no snacks can come directly from the coach) parents are much more receptive. Use the sample coach email in my Sports Snacktivism Handbook, which also includes a sample team email.
Talk to other parents.
Chances are, if you’re uncomfortable with the junk food on the sidelines, other parents are too. Find out if there are like-minded parents on the team who could help you organize the snacks for the coming season. Use my FAQ to address questions parents may have.