I’m spending the weekend at my alma mater’s Alumni Weekend in South Carolina. Most colleges and universities call it Homecoming, but several years ago we built a beautiful new indoor sports complex and moved “Homecoming” to the winter to showcase the new facility during home basketball games.

Rumor is, next year we move it back to the fall for a real Homecoming weekend. But for now, we’ll stick with Alumni weekend.

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As I was driving down I-95, I was thinking about all of the activities that were lined up in front of me beginning Friday afternoon and ending Sunday morning before heading back to God’s Country. I was thinking of my teammates and classmates that I’ll be swapping stories with, and looking forward to the women’s and men’s soccer games.

I was also thinking about what antics might be going on back at my other alma mater’s Homecoming weekend, and what stories I will hear when I get back to school on Monday.

But what I spent most of the time reflecting on during my 500-plus mile trek each way this weekend were the memories of the many sports tournaments up and down the East Coast with my boys as they were growing up. We spent so many weekends driving our Chevy Suburban full of kids and smelly equipment (or was it equipment and smelly kids?) up and down I-95 that the memories just kept pouring in.

There was the Memorial Day tournament we played on the Quantico Base called The Virginian. It was pretty cool for our kids to be playing their games on a military base. The tournament hosted more than 600 teams every year, including many of the best teams and clubs in the country. Although our opponents that weekend were comparable to our own abilities, our hardest competition for the weekend was trying to get around the “Rolling Thunder” motorcycle rally to get to the games.

Everyone’s favorite for many years — and each of my boys were able to play in the tournament — was the Beach FC Virginia Beach Soccer Tournament over Columbus Day weekend. It was another tournament that brought many of the best teams in the area (no brainer, right?) to the Virginia Beach area for a weekend of soccer and fun.

In two of the years that we made the 5-hour trek to Virginia Beach for that tournament weekend, a hurricane came through either just before the weekend or as a direct hit on the area while we were there, and destroyed the fields, making them unfit for play.

It didn’t affect the kids as they found some other teams to meet them on the beach for a few games of beach soccer, and parents and coaches I’m sure made the best of the situation.

In the summer, our youngest played on a local club lacrosse team that played an annual tournament at the beautiful turf complex on the outskirts of Richmond. Another 3-hour drive each way to find good competition, but playing at the complex was well worth the drive.

We also played many soccer tournaments in the Richmond area, a welcoming town eager for our business.

Heading back north on I-95 through the many fields where we played league games and local tournaments in the DC metro area, we drove that same Suburban to New Jersey for outdoor tournaments and our favorite Regional Futsal tournaments in Wildwood and Atlantic City.

Many years we were drawn to the Jersey beach towns to represent Maryland as Futsal State Champs and left there with runner-up hardware, leaving behind our countless riches in the casinos that attracted the parents’ attention in-between games.

Many people struggle with finding the proper balance of youth sports in their lives. I’ll be the first one to admit that our family’s commitment to sports was way out of balance and even with having no kids playing any competitive sports any longer, the percentage of time we spend in and around the sports scene would be considered obscene to some.

But along with the countless hours of practice, family dinners on the go, miles driven and gas burned, and thousands of dollars in expenses paid for tournament registration fees, hotels, and lodging, come the many memories and friendships made that we will keep with us the rest of our lives.

It warms my heart to see my boys and their youth sports teammates carry their friendships in to young adulthood.

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It was youth sports that made us drive up and down I-95 in search good competition for the teams and fun entertainment for all, but in the end it was all very worth it as the connections our family made with fellow parents, coaches, and teammates is what will matter most in the long run.

Ghanaian writer and poet Ama Ata Aidoo once wrote, “Humans, not places, make memories.”

For those that are struggling with proper balance, that’s a personal choice you need to make as a family. For me, the memories just kept flowing as I logged each mile on I-95 this weekend.

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