Back in May, Tomahawk Nation asked our members to share their tips for successful game day experiences with young ones in tow. You responded in droves, and we are grateful for your participation. Your comments are the sources for this guide, which we decided to compile into a more permanent story feature. Please check out the comments on the original article to see the full comments with all of their details and anecdotes.
As a father of three, which I am not, it gives me great pleasure to present to you Tomahawk Nation's FSU Football Parent's Guide.* Here you will find tips for pre-game activities, stadium logistics, and miscellaneous considerations that will hopefully serve you well as you take your young 'Noles to games this fall and in those to come. If you have any additional profound advice, please drop it in the comments and we will add it to the body of the guide. Let's get to it.
*This guide will not contain any advice on how to serve as a parent to the FSU football program. We are still researching this issue.
Instilling the love of FSU football in the next generation of fans is an important duty. It may also serve you well on a maiden voyage to a game with children in tow, as our members noted. Several suggested that watching games on TV with children first can help to give them a better idea of what's going on when they see the real thing, thereby captivating their attention to a greater extent. It may also give you, the parents, a sense of when your children are ready for live action games. Additionally, multiple members had the sage advice of teaching your young ones the FSU traditions they'll see in the stadium as a means of indoctrination. If they learn the fight song (particularly that "what what" does not appear in the lyrics), the war chant, and all of the details of the game day experience inside the stadium, they'll be that much more into what they see in person. Making the experience about much more than the football alone is a step towards success in this endeavor. This is your goal:
Play the Marching Chiefs all of the time for them. Start as young as possible. Teach them all of the cheers and in's and out's that come with our band and it's tradition. It definitely helps when the kid can have something they recognize and enjoy as well as be interactive along with the thousands of others around them. The Chiefs, Renegade, and the excitement gets them hooked. My family has done this successfully for a couple of generations now, and it's how I got hooked as a young kid.
2. Game Selection
A common theme in the parenting advice submissions we received was that choosing a game to attend with the kids may well involve different criteria than choosing one to attend without them. Specifically, you may decide that one of the schedule's softer match-ups is better suited for your objectives. The reasons for this are many. First, it may be that leaving early becomes necessary with younger children. In the event that it does, for whatever reason, you likely will not want to have to duck out in the third quarter of a tie game against Miami, nor will you wish to hold your unhappy children and/or spouse there against their will, assuming that you value your own well-being. Tennessee-Chattanooga, USF, or Syracuse* may be more your speed this season, for this reason.
Additionally, the aforementioned tasty cupcakes will also hopefully provide a more kid-friendly experience in other ways. Lots of scoring means lots of chances to celebrate. It means lots of fight songs, flags, chants, and other opportunities for your young ones to participate in the game with other fans in the stadium. While exciting for you, the 13-10 thriller may not provide the same type of excitement for your children. Other considerations inform this choice as well. Space around you will be increased in a more lightly attended game, allowing more restless kids the opportunity to move around. The freedom to move seats is also available should you find yourself in unpleasant surrounding company. Said company is also more likely to be in a better mood in a blowout than in a nail-biter. The ease of in-and-out both before and after the game is another bonus of a more lightly attended game, as sitting in traffic before and after is likely even less fun with young kids along for the ride. Conversely, it may be that intense rivalry games are not the best targets for early trips with young 'Noles. The crowd temperament will be of a different character, and while many members noted that unpleasant language will be present no matter which game you attend, we're all aware that some of the behavior you'd want to avoid as a parent is present in greater volume in these environments. The main takeaway is that your game day experience with your youth may be enjoyable for different reasons than your traditional FSU football trip.
One comment in particular sums up this section nicely:
Start with FBS blowouts until about the age of 4-6 depending on how much they're really into it. Then move up to bad ACC games...there's always the wild card that those are lower scoring/closer than expected, and people are mad or the good guys even lose, but they're still pretty good bets. By the time they are 8 or so, you should be able to take them to almost any kind of game, because they are into it themselves and WANT to go, even with all the inconveniences. My kids were ready a little earlier, because my girls were really well behaved, and my son was very into it early, but all kids are different. While that means it might be a drag compared to the fun you might be used to having it's SO worth it. Put in 6-7 trips like that, and you are so set. There is absolutely nothing like rolling into a game with a 8-10 year old kid that is as excited (or moreso) than you are, ready to put the long day in. Then when you have your kid(s) with you for big games, all day tailgates, exciting finishes, etc...when they're begging to go to the game, and not even caring about the drive or the heat because they love it...it's the best thing in the world and SO worth the investment in those garbage games.
*sorry TNIAAM bros you know we love you
3. Pre-Game Activities
You've indoctrinated your children with all things garnet and gold. You've selected your ideal game environment. Now it's game day - where do you start? On parking, valid points were made in favor of parking close to the stadium with younger children. Minimizing walk time is a reasonable goal. Another important and related consideration is tailgating. Here, our member submissions contained some conflicting perspectives. Some expressed that tailgating was not enjoyable for their kids, or that it may have been too enjoyable in that they expended all of their energy running around at the tailgate and were then too tired to enjoy the game. Others opined that tailgating was one of the best parts of the experience and emphasized that significant space is a must to allow children to fully enjoy it.
Many members extolled the virtues of the pre-game tour of important campus sights. Moore Center for the trophies. Sod Cemetery. Indoor Practice Facility. Statues or any other sites you deem noteworthy. A resounding theme was that Dick Howser Stadium for the pre-game concert is a must, and according to one particularly detailed comment, the best seats are between home and first base. Getting to the stadium early for pictures with Renegade and Osceola, as well as taking in the pre-game pageantry and sights, is also advisable. An important theme is expressed in another comment:
Make rituals. As they get older they will love your own personal traditions.
4. Stadium Logistics
Strategic seating is paramount. Aisle seats are ideal, particularly those close to concourse exits to easily access bathrooms and concessions. You'll likely have to make several bathroom trips. Many members advised taking these at low traffic times - TV timeouts, early in game, etc. - not during halftime, quarter changes, and later in the games when bathroom conditions deteriorate. Checking stalls for discarded alcohol containers, particularly glass ones, is probably a good call. As far as location, some members advised sitting away from the student section. Others advised staying away from the band, as it might be too loud for kids. Avoiding the sun side for day games with small children seems like solid advice. Others opined that sitting on the side of the stadium with the now-defunct family section is the best choice in terms of surrounding crowd hospitality for kids. Sitting lower to the field may also have its advantages, as these seats can be closer to bathrooms and lend themselves to walking down to the rail to give players a high-five after the game. Additional advice included sitting in a "piggyback formation," in which seats for the kids are directly in front of the parents, which we found interesting.
Second to bathroom accessibility in terms of frequency of advice given by our members is the importance of snacks. As we know, concession prices are a moderate form of highway robbery. Your children may very well become hungry during the game, and you'll likely want to avoid the wallet damage that could ensue. Bringing in what snacks you can, as well as eating beforehand, are good ideas to minimize this misfortune. Other ideas included bringing in a radio with headphones so that kids can follow the game more easily, as well as valuing function over style in dressing your little ones for the game. For the youngest 'Noles, a diaper change before leaving the tailgate or car is an important step, as many bathrooms in the stadium don't have changing tables. Individually wrapped Wet Ones are a lifehack for wiping down stadium toilets. Ear protection is an important consideration for young kids in loud environments, and larger ear muffs rather than small ear plugs earned the highest ratings among our advice submissions. Finally, designating a meeting spot in case of separation was a tremendous suggestion by one of our readers, as cell service in Doak and other stadiums is notoriously shoddy. All in all, keep the big picture in mind:
Enjoy it. I think it's one of the best things you can do with your kids. Show them your passion for your school. I showed my kids where I met their mom. I have a picture of me and a fraternity buddy pushing strollers into the fraternity house from last season. The memories are going to be endless.