Monday, January 26, 2015
I really try to be organized. I keep two calendars, one on my kitchen wall and one in my phone, and I still manage to miss appointments. I periodically go through stacks of magazines and catalogs weaning out the ones I still intend to read, though I rarely do. About once a week, I clear off what we call “the high kitchen table,” an island where almost every piece of mail, important folders and pamphlets, and forms land, and then end up going through the recycle bin in a panic searching for something important I accidently threw out. I file bills so I can find them to pay them, tackling them regularly, though not always on time. No matter how hard I try, my organization often dissolves into stuffing similar items into plastic containers with the promise that I’ll go through them soon. Most of those, many containing photos and family mementos, remain stacked in the basement. We all struggle with organization and staying on top of the continually growing collections of paper, possessions and responsibilities. Nowhere is that more pointed than when we try to maintain control over the tangle of sports gear. It seems that no matter what preparations we make we still arrive at our destinations without some important piece of equipment. Even more frustrating, we often discover other products which could be helpful before, during and after a match, but we don’t have them readily available. Soccer should be fun, but when we are tensely scrambling to resolve an urgent situation, it’s difficult to find the enjoyment within the stress.
I’ve spoken about my “soccer box” I keep stocked in my car, but over the years I’ve evolved and streamlined that box. I’ve identified three important categories where parents can be prepared with little effort. Getting organized to address those areas requires just a bit of time and can help ensure that not only do you have peace of mind but that you might also be a hero to the entire team. This began when I made a discovery while getting boxes to help my son pack up his stuff for a move. I went to the grocery store to collect some containers. They had just gotten a big shipment of wine and liquor in, so the boxes they had available were those that held twelve bottles with dividers. The dividers were readily removable, so we took most of them out, but the dividers also proved helpful in containing some smaller and delicate items keeping them safe and organized. As I was packing up, I realized these would make an excellent organizer for a soccer box, keeping the number of items to the dozen someone could place in the box and making them easily accessible. Adding to its utility are the cut-out handle holes making the box easy to transport. If you don’t want people to assume you purchase your alcohol in bulk, you can cover the box with contact paper in a soccer design. Here are my plans for a much leaner and organized soccer box.
Consider the box as having three columns of four compartments each. I organized the columns into my three necessary categories: clothing, equipment and safety/convenience. Let’s begin with clothing. All too often we can arrive at a field without certain uniform pieces or a teammate will be without the full uniform. Therefore one cubicle in the clothing column should hold one light and a one dark T-shirt rolled up. If you happen to have extra uniform shirts you can substitute those, but most of us don’t have that luxury. In the second square, roll up a pair of shorts and a clean pair of underwear (during wet, muddy games you’ll be glad you have these). The third cube should hold two pairs of socks. Finally the fourth square will hold two pairs of knit gloves and a stocking cap. These clothing items will cover you for situations involving missing uniforms and/or inclement weather, so your young player won’t be riding home in soggy, muddy clothes catching cold and destroying your upholstery.
The second column of four squares will be assigned to equipment. Slide a pair of old shin guards in the first two compartments. They may distort the shape a bit, but since the items on either side are soft items, it won’t be difficult or disruptive. In the third square, slip in a hand-held air pump. We’ve all been to games where balls have been chucked into the woods, splashed into the river, or scampered under brambles until the only option left is that raggedy, deflated orb that your pump can now resurrect into the new game ball. The last compartment can hold extra shoelaces, an LED flashlight, and some hand-warming packets.
The third column contains safety and convenience items. Start with a quart-sized zipper bag, which you’ll fill with safety pins, a sewing kit, a small pair of scissors (you won’t believe how often these come in handy), a roll of gauze, a variety of bandages, and white medical adhesive tape. The bundle can be rolled to fit down the divider. The next section will hold cleaning products like facial tissues, alcohol and wet wipes, a small chamois cloth, and cotton balls. You can place these in a quart bag as well, which is both easy to roll up and keeps the products dry. Stuff a bottle of sports drink or water in the third compartment. Finally fill another quart bag with a mechanical pencil, pen, pad of paper, cellophane tape (not in a holder), small roll of colored duct tape (which can be used to add numbers on t-shirts or alter the numbers on jerseys), and a sharpie marker.
The items in this soccer box should cover you and the team in most, if not all, adverse and sudden situations. It won’t take up too much space and will stay neat and organized. Likewise you can get your player’s soccer bag under control to help ensure that all necessary items make it to the field. When you wash uniforms bring the soccer bag into the laundry room and set it by the washer/dryer. That way when you or your child go to grab the bag, it will be a not so subtle reminder that parts may be sitting in the laundry load. You could get a mesh bag or even use a plastic grocery bag to house cleats and shin guards. Keep that bag in clear view in your garage or mud room. I told the boys they couldn’t enter the house until they had knocked clean their cleats, and put them and their shin guards back in their plastic bag. That bag always got placed right at the back door. Some families maintain a checklist on a dry erase board that hangs on the last door the kids exit. They have to check off the items before they can leave the house. That teaches them that are responsible for being fully equipped when they arrive on the field, and if they aren’t, then they can’t expect you to rescue them.
No matter how well you handle the dilemmas of organizing and transporting sports gear, things will get lost, stolen or forgotten. Therefore having a back-up that serves as a safety stop not only for our kids, but for the team, isn’t a bad idea. I keep the box in my trunk year-round, but if I need the space, I can easily remove it and set it in the garage. The advantage of these liquor boxes, besides the wonderful dividers, is that it’s sturdy enough to transport. If you want, you can get a duffle bag to set it in and take it as checked luggage since nothing in it is fragile. Just be sure you have something solid on the top as a cover. The entire box won’t weigh that much and may be just what’s needed to bring peace of mind.