Collegiate Sports with Kids
Here in central Maryland we are extremely lucky. On any given week, we have a fairly sizeable list of things that we can do with our family for free or little cost. One of those inexpensive things that I like to do is enjoy college sports with my kids.
I have two girls, the oldest of which is a very sporty and competitive six year old. It does not matter what the sport is, she is totally up for kicking back with her Dad and learning about sports. The youngest one is four years old. Although she is not as much of a sports junkie like her father and older sister, she still enjoys going to these events with us. It equates to some good, fun, inexpensive, quality time together.
I have been bringing my children to both professional and collegiate sporting events here in Maryland since they were about three months old. So I wanted to share some tips that I’ve learned over the years.
Getting to Know Our Colleges
Believe it or not we have ten NCAA Division I teams here in Maryland. They are:
- Coppin State Eagles
- Johns Hopkins Blue Jays (Lacrosse only)
- Loyola Greyhound
- Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks and Lady Hawks
- Maryland Terrapins
- Morgan State Bears and Lady Bears
- Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers
- Navy Midshipmen
- Towson Tigers
- UMBC Retrievers
Although the schools are spread out around the state, most of them are within a 30-60 minute ride from here in Howard County. So from an accessibility standpoint, they are really easy to get to with little ones in the car.
The two schools I have the most familiarity with, only due to their proximity and my fanaticism for the teams, are the Maryland Terrapins and the UMBC Retrievers. For this article, I will be focusing on my experiences with them. However, I encourage those of you to go out and visit some of these other collegiate teams, as I plan on doing that over the next few years.
When the casual sports fan thinks of collegiate sports here in Maryland, they think of one school (University of Maryland) and maybe two sports (basketball and football). However, until I started taking my girls to some sporting events, I has no idea how many cool college sports we have here in Maryland. Here are just a few of them that I can think of, many of which I have attended at one point or another with my daughters:
- Basketball (Mens and Womens)
- Lacrosse (Mens and Womens)
- Soccer (Mens and Womens)
- Swimming and Diving (Mens and Womens)
- Track and Field (Mens and Womens)
- Golf (Mens and Womens)
- Tennis (Mens and Womens)
Prior to having girls and taking them to these events, I doubt I would have taken time to go to any collegiate sporting events outside of football, basketball, and maybe lacrosse. However, I showed my daughters some of these other sports on Youtube or ESPN and said “Girls, what sports would you like to go to?” They responded with “Oh Dad, volleyball looks like a lot of fun!” and “What?!?! Maryland has a gymnastics team like they have in the Olympics?!?!” They perked up and said “Dad, can we go watch them play?” And the rest was history. We were off to the games, matches, and meets. And believe it or not? They were a lot of fun, not just for the kids, but for me as well. We all walked away learning something about those sports that typically are not shown on television.
TIP 1: Branch out from the well known collegiate sports you see on television and try going to some new sports.
Attendance at many of these events is light and you can usually get some seats real close to the action. It will be a lot of fun and a great learning experience for you and your kids.
Let’s face it, it has been a while since Maryland schools were collegiate powerhouses at football and basketball. There are pros and cons to that. The con is that our teams often play and lose to other powerhouse programs. The pro is that tickets are often very accessible.
Football: With the exception of when a team like Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan come to town to play the Terrapins, tickets are readily available at the box office up until the day of the game. Same thing goes for Navy and their football program, unless Notre Dame comes to Annapolis, it is fairly easy to get tickets.
Basketball: Similar to the Terrapins football team, as of right now, tickets are very easy to get for just about any game, minus when some of the Big 10 powerhouses come to town. Every other team in the state has plenty of tickets available right up until game day.
Why am I mentioning this? Well when you have kids, flexibility is key. Take football for example, weather conditions are critical to whether most casual fans have a good time. When bringing kids to the game, that is even more so a factor.
TIP 2: Going to a game with a kid who is wet, too hot, or too cold is not a lot of fun.
Unless you are an alumni of one of the powerhouse schools playing the Maryland teams and you suspect the game will sell out, do not buy your tickets to any games until you have a good idea what the weather conditions will be. Trust me, you will thank me in the long run.
How to Save Money
Visit the Resale Ticket Market for Terrapins Games
When it comes to going to Terrapins basketball and football games, tickets can be expensive. Say you want to bring a family of four to see them play. In most cases, tickets will be around $30 a piece. So before you even pull your wall out to pay for parking at the venue, you are already down over $100.
I have saved a ton of money over the years using resale ticket sites like Stubhub, or my absolute favorite, SeatGeek. For many of the Terrapins games against lesser opponents, you are often able to find tickets at below face value prices. Want an example?
The Terrapins played the Temple Owls in football on September 15, 2018. The weather was beautiful and my daughters wanted to go to the game. I looked on the Terrapins website and tickets in the upper deck were $30 plus ticket fees. So when all is said and done, I would have had to shell out around $120 for the three of us to go. I went over to SeatGeek and on there I was able to find tickets in that same upper deck section, with fees included, for $3.50 a piece. No this is not a typo. Instead of paying $120 to go to the Terrapins / Owls game, I paid just over $10. Don’t believe, me? As of me typing this article on September 21st, here is a look at the ticket prices for the Terps games on SeatGeek for the rest of the season.
Why pay full price for a game that you do not even know if your kids are going to fully enjoy when you can pay a fraction of the price?
Tip 3: Check the resale market.
Always check the resale ticket market for below face value tickets to save yourself some money.
Tip 4: If you are bringing younger children to the game, check the stadium’s ticket policy.
Depending on the age of your child, they may not need a ticket. For example, children under the age of six get into UMBC sporting events for free.
Register Your Kids for a Kids Club
Hands down, the kids clubs of the sporting teams here in Maryland are great. Whether it is professional or collegiate, if you plan on going to more than one game a season, you can really save yourself a lot of money by joining a kids club. I know the Terrapins have Testudo’s Kids Club, but I have never registered my kids for it, so I can not speak for the quality of the club. For the purpose of this article, I will talk about a club that my kids have been in for the last couple seasons.
UMBC runs something called the Retriever Kids Club. The club is designed for children 12 years and younger. For $25, your child gets into the kids club, gets a UMBC Retrievers Kids Club shirt, a Retrievers drawstring backpack, and gets into over 75 UMBC games (including basketball). Although we have not received this year’s Retriever Kids Club package, rumor has it they also include some coupons for local businesses for the parents and invitations to special kids club events. Getting your kid into the basketball or volleyball games alone is worth the $25, but the other stuff is just a nice bonus.
Tip 5: Join a Kids Fan Club and you can get your children in to most games for free.
When Attending the Game
As I mentioned, my oldest daughter is six years old. So for over six years, I have been bringing her to sporting events. Here’s some things that I have learned over the years.
Tip 6: Cargo shorts are a Dad’s best friend.
As ugly as wives may think they are, they are super functional, especially when going to sporting events. Save yourself the hassle of having to carry a diaper bag and load those cargo shorts up with diapers, baby wipes, snacks, bottles, heck, even a change of clothes for your little ones.
Tip 7: Check the bag policy at the venue you are visiting.
Maryland Stadium (where the Terps play) has the most strict bag policy I have ever seen. All bags must be of a certain size and transparent. But what about a diaper bag you ask? Nope. Not allowed. Trust me, you if you go to a Terps game you will need to park a good half mile away. The last thing you want to do is walk back to your car cause they would not let you in with your diaper bag. So know the bag facts before you go.
Tip 8: Expect kids to get distracted or bored.
It is okay. Not every sport you take them to will be a hit. However, if you take the time to explain the sport to them and engage them in conversation during the game, that goes a long way to getting them interested.
Tip 9: Don’t expect to see the whole game.
Kids like to explore and they are constantly going to the bathroom. This was hard for me to get used to originally. I am the guy who used to go to baseball games and need to see every pitch because I wanted to score the game. When I had kids, I needed to learn real quick that those days are over. You are going to miss plays because your kid needs to go to the bathroom or they are hungry and you are in the concession line. It happens. Don’t let it frustrate you or ruin the game for you.
Tip 10: Set rewards for good behavior.
Whatever sport we go see, my kids always want to visit the concession stand for a snack or treat. I have set up some rules with them regarding their behavior. I say things like “If you are good until the 6th inning you can have an ice cream” or “If you are good until half time you can get some Skittles.” Sure it’s bribery, but you know what? It works. They sit still. They keep their hands to themselves (for the most part). They watch the game.
Tip 11: Explore the venue.
Some venues have some really cool things inside them. The Xfinity Center (where the Terps play) has the floor from 2002 NCAA championship that the Terrapins won in Atlanta, GA hanging on the wall in the venue. They also have their National Championship trophies on display. Show your kids those things. Tell them stories about those teams (if you remember them). Plus, you never know who you might meet. As we have explored, my girls have met Terrapins basketball and football players, as well as the coaches. Take their pictures. These are memories that they will talk about for years.
Anyways, that is all I have for now. I know it was a long article, but I really wanted to do my best to share all the things I have learned at the hundreds of collegiate games I have been to over the years with my girls. If you have any questions or your own tips, I would love to hear them. Enjoy introducing your little ones to the fun collegiate sports we have here in Maryland.