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SportsKids Tailgating
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When people think of tailgating they remember back to their school days and the rollicking good times that usually accompanied a beautiful afternoon football game. However, tailgating has become so much more and it can be an incredible tool for bonding with family, friends and even the entire community. If it’s done right, a great tailgating experience may create lifelong memories, will certainly enhance the game and maybe, for some of the people, overshadow the game.

When my wife and I were first dating I had tickets to the UCLA vs. USC game at the Rose Bowl but she had zero interest coming with me. Since she had gone to a small college in New York with no football team, I was excited about introducing her to college football rivalries and what has always been a fantastic LA experience. I told her about the history of the game, that this year’s game was for the Pac 10 championship and the ramifications for the national title, but none of this excited her. Then, when I told her how disappointed everybody was going to be at the tailgate party that she wasn’t going to come she suddenly changed her tune and said: “why didn’t you tell me there was going to be a party?” I guess it’s important to know your audience and a great tailgating party is a good way to incorporate the entire community into any special event.

Real fans can get to a game early in the morning for night games and make a day long outing out of the afternoon game.

Hanging out with friends and family makes the game an event. Cooking, setting up TV’s, blasting the stereo; throwing around the football and just being silly are key activities to making a fantastic day. During the day when you have a great party going, you get to meet new people and canvas the parking lot to see what others are doing to help build the community. The stuff that can be seen now is very special as tailgating has been taken to a whole new level.

I just traveled to the tailgating and licensing show in Las Vegas to check out all the great new products for the SportsKids Tailgating Section. Sure, there are great tents, licensed bags, coolers and folding chairs, but the selection of products to help you show your team spirit and have a great time are simply amazing. Among the items you may not think of are logo emblazed aprons and cooking items that can even “brand” meat with the team’s name. Additionally, there are licensed mustards, BBQ sauce and other condiments, bean bag toss games and other activities, BBQ Grills and covers, all types of plates, tables, glassware and utensils, decorations galore for cars and trucks, and tons of great clothing for every member of the family including the pet dog!

I’ve seen some amazing setups by lifelong fans and what better way to start to indoctrinate kids to love our teams than to give them fantastic lifelong memories of tailgating to home games. Some people even have totally decked out and decorated trucks that are only use during the football season. My kids love going to games when we tailgate with several families so that we all get to play football and other games. There might not be any group activity that can do more for family fun and to help bring together diverse communities that have only one thing in common: love of their team.

I would like to see this same concept of tailgating parties brought to youth sports. The goal here isn’t todrink a lotof alcohol or to set up two separate parties. Instead, we should have one big party throughout the day centered around the field so that parents and families from all the teams can sit together and enhance the community we all live in. Certainly we know people and kids on each team so why are we all sitting on different sides of the field? We clearly want to cheer for our own kids and their team, but don’t we want to see the other kids in their class also succeed? Considering that most leagues around the country are recreational and are setup for the benefit of the kids, bringing parents and families together through tailgating parties can help alleviate much of the bad feelings that have tainted youth sports.

While it may be a lot to organize to have all the games be accompanied by great tailgating parties, we can still make an effort. One of the basketball leagues I’m involved in does an all day cookout where BBQ food is provided to all the players and parents. That’s a great idea, but it’s treated more as simply free food by the people coming during the day than as a special community building event. For those of us involved in organizing youth leagues, we can try to make one special “Tailgating Weekend” with logo merchandise from every team in the league and a cookout where everybody participates and is involved together to build our communities. After the day, all of the merchandise can be sold as a league fundraiser.

Youth sports are a significant activity for any of us who have young kids; it dominates our weekend activities throughout the year. Many of us have developed great friendships through out involvement but we can do better. Rather than having youth sports become a divisive force within communities, we can use the concept of tailgating to bring people together. With all the great stuff that comes from a good tailgating party, including building lifelong memories, fan loyalty and enhanced friendships, let’s be open minded about how else we can tailgate to improve our local communities.

By Ken Kaiserman

Editor In-Chief


Street Talk

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