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End of holiday season signals return to youth sports

For most of us youth sports participants, whether we are the player, coach or parent (or two of the three), the holiday vacation provided a nice extended break from the daily rigors of practices, games and other team-oriented activities. In fact, other than the summer hiatus -- if you take one -- it's the longest break of the year.

But if you feel like me, just like when the final tree ornament is packed away, the last Christmas cookie devoured, the hundreds of pine needles vacuumed off the floor and those outdoor lights put in storage until next year, the end of the busy holiday season brings with it a refreshing feeling of a return to normalcy and routine.

In the youth sports world, this means once again juggling rides and meals and homework -- often with other non-sports activities.

For players, it means putting off playing with the newest toy or video game until after homework is done and practice is over. It's back to getting to bed on time and waking up to the blare of the alarm.

For coaches, it means figuring out how to keep a winning streak going or stop a string of losses. It's dealing with that complaining parent who Santa seemed to magically -- or at least temporarily -- make go away. It's making sure that child who barely played at all during the team's last game gets significant, or at least some, playing time in the next one.

For parents, it means figuring out how to get one player to practice, another fed and then to practice, and often a third somewhere else ... and remembering where and when to pick each up.

It's easier if a spouse coaches at least one team; my hat off to any single parent able to do it alone. It's taking that concession stand duty you signed up for "last year" that you thought would never arrive.

For all of us, it's being reunited with friends, having a reason to get off the couch and a reason to be thankful for healthy kids playing and having fun.

Most people's favorite holiday of the year might be over, but for those of us involved in youth sports in any way, as the twinkling outdoor lights go out all over the neighborhoods, the lights in the gyms and on the fields turn back on.

It's a magical time of year ... enjoy it.

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