Russell and Denise Garlick have four children, ages 11 to 20.
Each attends a different school, and all are really into sports.
Like many American families, they are on the go constantly. A phone
call to their home in the Boston suburb of Needham, Mass., often is
answered by a recorded message.
For all their running around (via cars, carpools, and bikes) to
games and practices, though, the Garlicks are careful not to let
organized team sports rule their lives, as sometimes happens in
During a Saturday morning conversation around their dining-room
table, the Garlicks talk about the challenges of trying to keep it
all in perspective.
Mrs. Garlick, a registered nurse, is sensitive to not having her
family placed on any kind of pedestal. "I don't want to make it
sound like we're doing everything right, because sometimes it's
and sometimes it all falls apart." Still, there's much that merits
Take the weekly planning meeting. "Every Sunday after dinner we
have a family meeting," says Mrs. Garlick, reaching for a large ring
binder used to log each child's activities. It contains schedules
for sports, music lessons, and Boy Scouts; notices about school
activities; team rosters and phone numbers. Each child has a
"Everybody takes a turn in running the meeting and the first thing
we do is compliment each other on something that happened during the
past week," Mrs. Garlick explains.
After that, Andy (age 11, soccer, baseball, and basketball), Alex
(13, football, baseball, and basketball), Beth (17, Special Olympics
bowling and Challenger basketball and baseball), and Monica (20,
running, Ultimate Frisbee, and helping coach a soccer team) review
what's coming, including letting Mom know what school materials are
"This helps to get in their heads what they have going during the
week," Mrs. Garlick says, "plus it helps them understand what else
going on in the family."
Furthermore, says Mr. Garlick, a research chemist, it allows the
family to prioritize.
"If we see that sports is going to take up the whole week," he
notes, "we ask, 'What's wrong with this picture?' If we've got Boy
Scouts Monday night, we've got to get home from practice early. It's
good to see the whole week at one meeting as opposed to a piece at a
The Garlicks are active in scouting and work to fit in camp outs
and Cub Scout and Boy Scout meetings. Mr. Garlick, in fact, served
as Cubmaster to a 90-boy pack for several years and remains a den
leader. Being a leader, he explains, is an advantage because he can
arrange a schedule that fits with his family's.
"Sports is just one part of our life," he notes. "We have our
family, sports, education, and scouts and church. We don't not do
one for the other. We have to make some compromises."
If there's a tournament on Sunday morning, the Garlicks may skip
church. "It's hard for them to participate in a weekend-long
tournament if they play Saturday and not Sunday," Mr. Garlick says.
"To really make a commitment to the team you have to make that
compromise. That's not bad once a season."
To be sure, there are some pretty tough decisions to be made
weekly when activities are in conflict. Ultimately the children make
most of these on their own, with input from their parents, who may
try to sway them if one child appears too overloaded with one
A longstanding family rule helps with this balancing act: a single
sport per child per season.
"It's hard," Mrs. Garlick says, "because you're asking a little
person, who's 9 or 10, to choose a sport."
The parents, though, say this makes sense for two reasons: It
doesn't overtax the family support structure and it encourages the
youngster to become a full-fledged member of a team. Some youngsters
are hard-pressed to achieve the latter as they split time between
soccer and baseball in the spring or between basketball and hockey
the winter. …