I am against the incorporation of a snack schedule in youth sports.
Now, before you dismiss my stance as heartless and cold, just hear me out. I’m not against feeding children snacks after a strenuous game of T-ball. Lord knows they need a Gatorade and a granola bar after picking four-leaf clovers in the outfield and sweeping all the dirt between second and third base into their glove. I’m just against the new craze of parents being required to sign up for a game in which they are responsible for providing a snack bag for every single kid on the team. It’s madness, and I can’t be party to it for another season.
It used to be that snacks during sports was only a “thing” on the soccer field. I remember drinking juice boxes and eating orange wedges during halftime of Optimist soccer as a kid. But now, that mentality has infiltrated all youth sports and I’m toting 12 paper bags packed with nut-free foods to ice hockey and baseball games as well.
Don’t get me wrong; the sentiment behind it is nothing but sweetness. I’m sure the moms and dads who started this new tradition wanted to make sure that every kid left the field with healthy edibles to nourish their tired bodies and feed their hungry tummies. I get that and I am grateful for their kindness. But I don’t agree with the method for a variety of reasons.
First, let’s remember that there is a concession stand at the field/court/gym for a specific purpose—to raise money for the sport that is being played at the time. Instead of bringing in “outside” snacks, we should encourage fans and participants to support their local popcorn poppers and slushy makers. What kid wouldn’t prefer a jumbo hot dog and a salt covered soft pretzel over a low-sodium cracker packet and organic apple sauce?
Second, I don’t have the time (or, let’s be honest, the ability) to make Pinterest-worthy snack bags. You know those parents who decorate the snack bags with ribbons and sports-related cutouts and stickers, individualized with each player’s name and jersey number? Yeah, I’m not that mom. In fact, I usually forget it’s my turn to bring the snack until an hour before game time. When this inevitably happens, I spend valuable time (that should be devoted to braiding my daughter’s hair and yelling at my son to find his socks) raiding my pantry for any items that meet socially acceptable levels of sugar content. I never have enough matching snacks to coordinate the bags for an entire team, so Suzie ends up getting a cheese stick, a bag of fruit loops, and a mustard packet and Joey winds up with a slice of bologna and a can of sliced peaches. I then stuff these random snacks into an assortment of plastic grocery bags courtesy of area supermarkets and race out the door with minutes to spare, usually forgetting to pack more important items (like helmets) into the van.
Lastly, I think the snack bag epidemic symbolizes a problem that plagues my generation of parents. Simply put, we like to over-organize, over-schedule, and over-plan EVERYTHING. We grew up in a time where play was allowed to be chaotic and spontaneous. We held unstructured games of kickball every summer night in my neighborhood without parents around to split us into teams and pass out juice boxes. We spent countless weekends at softball tournaments and endless hours at volleyball matches and, when we were hungry, our parents would give us a few bucks and we would run to the concession stand for a Snickers bar and an orange Gatorade. And we turned out okay, didn’t we?
So, here is my plea to my parental cohort: can we stop with the structured snack schedules? Can we pledge, instead, to each take care of our own kids nutritional needs however we see fit? Because, I’m going to be honest, my daughter’s diet consists of a very limited selection of snacks with a specific preference of brands as well as flavors and she isn’t even going to eat that little orange you put into her bag. Save your money. Give your kid a few bucks and send them to the back of the concession stand line. They might come back with some nachos and a Mountain Dew, but hey, think of the lesson in independence you are providing.
And if I’m just tilting at windmills here and it’s too late to turn the clock back to a pre-snack bag time, then I have another solution. I’m going to hire Tori Austin to make my snack bags for me. Have you seen the softball-themed tins she made for her team? That woman makes snack bags into an art form and, if you can’t beat ‘em, then you just have to hire ‘em. But the rest of you moms are going to have to find your own “Tori," because I already called her.