Before the turn-ins begin, or the meat gets cooked, or fires are lit, or the canopy goes up, or the vehicle gets packed, or even the check gets written for the entry fee, you have to start building the support structure for your BBQ adventure. Watching kids, walking the dog, babysitting the house, feeding the horses, doesn’t matter the task, you’ll need some sort of assistance. This may be your hobby, but in the end you still need some additional support from those closest to you. Most times, that means your spouse and your family.

You may embark upon your BBQ adventure with the thought it’s an outlet for you, but between the cash layout to compete, the time impact on your family, and all the BBQ you’ll be feeding them as you “practice”, you’d be best served to get the commitment from them as well. This is easiest accomplished by taking time to involve them in some capacity. Some families have the good fortune of being able to participate in every facet of competition BBQ together, sometimes that’s not feasible. The more they’re involved, the easier it’ll be justify the time you’re away, the money spent, and the stress you impose on your kids, spouse, and yourself.

For me, it wasn’t so much a selling job to them as much as it was bombarding them with the obsession I had for BBQ. They couldn’t help but absorb some of the BS I was feeding them, much more than I expected. For us, it started with the practice sessions. Every time I cooked BBQ, I practiced making a turn-in box. Then we’d make a big production of setting up a mini judging table, opening the box and letting everyone see it and give a score (as much as two year old can give a score). Sometimes I’d have two or more different flavors I’d be testing, and we’d pass pieces around and rank those. Understand I have a 9, 5, and 2 year old. Kids can be brutally honest about flavors, but interestingly enough, I’ve found what they like, judges have also liked the best. Due to their ages, it’s difficult to fully include them in the competition experience, their biggest contribution on Saturdays is blowing kisses as the meats are going to be turned in, yet they have a vested interest in seeing us reap the benefits since they’ve been included from the start.

Our team is a family adventure, my partner being my father-in-law. Originally, I just asked him if he’d like to help out, but after a year of competition, I’ve witnessed his own competitive juices igniting. As he gained confidence, so did his contributions to putting winning product in front of the judges. My mother-in-law is always there to lend a helping hand with the kids, or driving, or taking the initiative to get us our first team t-shirts!

But our BBQ team wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for my wife’s understanding and patience with my obsession. She gets the behind the scenes task of caring for the three kids by herself for much of the weekend, driving 2 or 3 or 4 hours with those same little angels to a competition, keeping them occupied while there. She does this with no complaint. But she’s also become an integral part of my turning out good product. She’s my “spice girl” as her pallet is a great litmus test for the amount of spice that the judges generally will accept. Her keen eye in finishing off turn-in boxes is worth several points at each competition. I’ve watched her competitive juice start to flow as well as we begin to win some awards.

So as you’re getting started, make sure you build the team on a solid foundation. My formula isn’t right for everybody, but competition BBQ doesn’t have to be an individual sport. The trips to the podium are much more enjoyable when you can share them with all your loved ones.