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Joining a youth sports organization

I'll admit it, I want teachers and day care providers to like me best. Does that make me a pathetic brown-noser? Maybe. I figure the good will undoubtedly will extend to my kids. For babysitters, day care workers, coaches and teachers, I don't want to be "that" mom. I want them to look forward to seeing us.

At any open house night my question is always, "What's your pet peeve?" I think there are far too many times we do something we think is minor that throws their whole day off or is terribly annoying.

Here's some of the answers I've gotten to that question over the years:

Be on time: One of the reasons many day cares have a $1 a minute late pickup charge is because too many parents blow in, bluster about traffic and rush out without thinking how they may have ruined the evening plans for their child care providers. For school-aged kids, being tardy is not a quirk. Being on time — or better yet, being early — shows respect.

Be well-stocked: Keep your day care well-stocked with diapers and supplies. Make sure your school supplies are in order. If you can, contribute to your teacher's Adopt A Class fund so she doesn't use her own money to buy paper and printer cartridges (something that has been slashed in school budgets lately)

Get some sleep: Try to stay on the same nap schedule as the day care on weekends. Make sure the kids get to bed on time on school nights. Studies show sleep is the best way to foster brain development.

Keep sick kids home: They know that trick of loading a kid up with Tylenol and then dropping them off so you can work a few hours at work until you get a call at noon that your child has spiked a fever and needs to be picked up. Do I even need to say how disrespectful this is to her and the other kids you have now potentially gotten sick?

Attend conferences: This is the best way to stay on top of how your child is doing and how you can help.

Say thank-you: Be generous if you can at Christmas or during Teacher Appreciation Week, but a sincere thank-you note is really all that's needed. Let them know how much you appreciate their help in raising great kids.

Heather Tempesta is a Brandon wife and mother of three kids, a 16-year-old boy, a 14-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. She balances a full-time job with support of youth football, cheerleading and high school football, all while serving as a part-time CFO, maid, chef, chauffeur and ATM. Here's another snapshot from her life that she recently shared.

Longing for the day my kids were old enough to sign up with a youth sports organization, I envisioned myself happily sitting on a fence line, kicking back in a lawn chair with other parents as we drank IBC root beer and cheered for all the kids.

Halfway through my first season of football and cheerleadning, that expected joy turned to disappointment.

I believe a person with the right intentions can make great progress in maintaining a peaceful environment in any league, but I know firsthand that the experience can be fraught with personality conflicts.

How do you avoid them?

First of all, parents can't enter the youth sports world believing in any capacity that this is about them. It should strictly be for and about the kids. You have to leave your quarterback memories or your frustration about being a third-stringer at the gate.

The coach sees things that you don't and there are reasons that decisions are made. Let your child's skills and ability speak for themselves on the field. Don't ask, "Why isn't my kid playing more or why isn't my daughter a flyer?" Ask, "What can they do to improve?"

If you feel the coaches aren't responsive, talk to the athletic director or cheer coordinator.

To be clear, however, it's not always the parents who need a reality check. Sometimes the board members running the organization can make or break the entire league.

Given the tremendous amount of volunteer hours needed to make these groups function, it's easy for resentment to build when they're giving so much of their time and everyone is complaining.

The biggest problem arises, however, when board members volunteer in a quest for power, not to bring a positive experience to the kids. People let the title manifest into their ego and it can become tedious, at best, to maintain a progressive environment.

Just like high school, there are cliques and there are enemies. Sometimes friendships built over the years blur the lines between right and wrong and result in some parents being "more equal" than others.

Youth sports breed competition among adults. The original focus of working as a team to provide a positive experience for the kids can get quickly diluted by adults living vicariously through their children or still clinging to their own teenage years.

My advice? Explore all the youth sports options and make sure that your child wants to participate. Visit several organizations in your area.

Don't be afraid to talk to people and ask questions. Ask the parents how they like the organization and how the board handles conflict.

If you are currently involved in an organization that you feel isn't working in the best interest of the kids, and it's not about a personal vendetta with one individual, stand up for the kids. Get enough people willing to stand with you and run for a board position.

If you're truly in it for the kids and with the intention of displaying good ethics and solid morals, you should do whatever it takes to change the culture.

Having said that, remember there are other organizations out there. You can't win every battle. No matter how much potential there is for greatness, it takes an entire village to be successful. Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the village where you belong.

Forget the Halloween basket, our day planner is loaded with goodies, from a great science festival, to a rodeo, an arts festival and a chance to see an American Idol contestant. We've got that and much more in this week's list of free and cheap things to do with your kids.

There's a great day in store for young science fans on Saturday, MarineQuest and the St. Petersburg Science Festival. The annual Marine Quest, an open house at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, brings science to life with hands-on exhibits and activities for adults and kids. Visitors can touch sharks and rays, horseshoe crabs, sea stars, spiny lobsters and other marine critters commonly found in Florida's waters. You can also create "fish prints" (gyotaku) and catch fish in a barrel. At the same time, the nearby USF St. Petersburg campus is hosting the St. Petersburg Science Festival with nearly 100 hands-on exhibits celebrating the wonders of science, technology, engineering and math. There will also be food trucks on hand. They both run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Marine Quest is at the institute's campus at 100 Eighth Ave. SE and the USF campus is a block away on Seventh Avenue. Free.

The Fall Dance Happening is a crowd favorite at the University of Tampa, where more than 100 students will show off their dance moves in a show that literally dances around to different locations. It starts each night at Falk Theatre and ends at Plant Hall. Highlights of this year's program include a Halloween-inspired tap piece, an original musical composition by a senior music major and the re-creation of an ancient traditional African dance. It's free at 8 p.m. today and Saturday at the Falk Theatre, 428 W Kennedy Blvd.

The popular Hyde Park Village Art Fair is in its 23rd year at the South Tampa shopping village. It features the talents of more than 150 artists showing a wide range of works from life-size sculptures to photography and jewelry. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at 1621 W Snow Circle. Free admission.

This week's topic for the Park Ranger Nature Educational Program is "Bats, Owls And Butterflies — Make Masks Or Paint Your Own Faces!" $5 per child, adults with children free, adult only $5 (cash only). Lettuce Lake Park, 6920 E Fletcher Ave., Tampa. (813) 987-6204. 10 a.m. and noon Saturday and Sunday.

The Fall Festival and Boat Show offers plenty of pastimes on the seaside, including a boat show, American Idol Dream Ticket winner Taylor Eve, ice cream, barbecue and more. Free. Shell Point Marina, 3340 W Shell Point Road, Ruskin. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday.

The Odessa Rodeo moved to Tampa, bringing bull riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling, bareback riding, a drill team, kids' rodeo and tons of entertaining specialty acts. The festival brought in a big top and expanded from its original outhouse races to a carnival with rides, arts and crafts vendors, a food court and nonstop entertainment. Rodeo performances will only be held at 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. $18-$25 rodeo, festival free. Tampa Bay Downs, 11225 Race Track Road, Tampa. (813) 335-5261. 3-11:30 p.m. Today, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Sharon Kennedy Wynne writes for the TampaBay.com parenting blog Whoa, Momma! found at TampaBay.com/blogs/moms. Follow them on Twitter at @WhoaMomma.

Joining a youth sports organization 10/25/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 25, 2012 5:30am]

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