Posts from category "Train to Win"

The Current Crisis in Youth Sports

Youth sports have seen a dramatic change over the most recent decade. Ten years ago, kids in high school and middle school were encouraged to participate in various sports and develop multiple skills. A gradually growing trend has reshaped youth sports leagues for present day athletes.

Year-round sports make a new demand of young athletes.  Too often these year round programs are aimed solely the goal of winning. With new emphasis on victory over development, kids are being turned away from teams. Unfortunately, this often happens before an athlete has grown into their ability and we are missing the opportunity to find athletes who bloom later.

The Crisis Facing Youth Sports:

New studies find that youth sports are facing a crisis unlike before.  According to the Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), athletic participation for kids aged 6-12 has dropped down almost 8 percent over the last decade.

Introducing a competitive agenda at an early age impedes crucial skill development that should be nurtured during those ages. Discouraging multi-sport play and informal game play leaves kids discouraged, feeling sports inaccessible to them.

The Divide

Recreational Leagues Versus Specialized Leagues

Recreational leagues encourage fun and inclusion. This often means relying on volunteers to help get the kids involved.  Because we are relying solely on volunteers the kids may have fun but not learn the skills they need to develop are they grow.

However,  in many specialized leagues the idea of game comprehension and creative skill development has been left behind and created an elite approach to youth sports. A hypercompetitive selection process beginning at a young age shapes a psychological and social attitude. The value on winning has overtaken the value rightfully placed on education and enjoyment. And this specialization often means a kid forgoes playing other sports.  This not only causes burnout but can lead to injuries. 

Ideas of Success

The Concept of Winning

Participation in team activity is an important part of youth development.  The goal of youth sports programs should reflect the value placed on the long-term development of young athletes.  By allowing a shift in youth sports, leagues and organizations have demonstrated there is greater value being placed on winning as opposed to the mental and physical health of athletes or the learning that should be part of the game.

At API, we love to win, but we also believe that sports are a metaphor for life and the lessons learned on the field go far beyond the field, often being taken into adult life.  We want our athletes to understand their game and while we want a sense of commitment to the team, we also want out athletes to play additional sports.  We want them to learn that sports is about more than winning.  It’s about teamwork, perseverance and life lessons. he goal of youth leagues and organizations should be to create an inclusive space for all athletes. Making sports accessible to minorities and other hopeful athletes will have a long-term effect.

"Hey Coach!"

Hey Coach

Things to Remember Before Speaking with the Coach

Being a parent is hard.  There is no guidebook and as our kids get older it only gets harder. While some things, like parent-teacher conferences are laid out for you.  There are many we have to guess at.  One question we hear a lot is “How do I know when to talk to my child’s coach?”

Speaking to a coach can seem intimidating but it can also feel like confrontation and no one likes confrontation.

Every parent on the sidelines wants what is best for their athlete. Luckily, most coaches have the same goal in mind.   Still there are times when you might doubt it.

It may be tempting to call foul on the coach, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you blow the whistle.

Before Speaking to the Coach:

  1. Let your child do the talking - If the concern is a frustration your athlete has, then they should address the situation. You can speak with them before they take it to the coach, but allow them to express their athletic frustrations. The coach will most likely  be willing to help.
  2. Keep the focus - This is about your kid, but it’s also about the team and coaches are juggling both everyday. Athletes and parents alike should demonstrate good sportsmanship. When approaching the coach, do not make it personal. Keep the focus on your kid and be honest about your frustrations towards what can be controlled. Remember, however, the coach has a team full of other kids and concerned parents.
  3. Approach with the goal of learning, not accusing - Accusations will not quickly lead to resolution. Open-ended questions and patience between both parties will result in a compromising solution for everyone. While you may know what is best for your child, their coach also has their best interest in mind. Experts in their sports, they are knowledgeable educators to the team. Don’t try to accuse and teach but listen and learn!
  4. There is no “I” in Team: The coach is not there to make you happy. The coach is there to develop player’s skills and abilities and teach them a love for the game. Their goal is not to placate parents. A good coach cares for each player as an individual, but they also have to keep the entire team in mind. Sometimes, what’s best for the team may not be what you think is best for your child.
  5. Remember, the coach is human too!- They may know the game inside and out and know each of their players names by heart but even coaches make mistakes. They get frustrated, grumpy and make up bad plays. Patience and mutual respect are key. Maybe an extra granola bar for the coach at the next practices, too.
  6. Take a day - In the end one of the best tips is to take a day.  Don’t approach the coach after a practice or game in which you experience frustration. Wait a day, take a breath and see if the issue is worth discussing the next day.

Striking Out-

Keeping in Mind How Not to Approach the Coach:

  1. Don’t ambush the coach - Parent committees find comfort in numbers. While there may be many of you, there is only one coach. Set up a meeting date and time and possible representatives to keep the conversation smooth and focused.
  2. Don’t make it personal - It's about the team and your athlete.
  3. Don’t compare your player to another - This may hurt the players feelings but also the coaches. The coach feels they may be making the best tactical decisions based on individual skills. Trust the coach. Don’t get others involved. Keep the conversation focused.
  4. Do not question tactical coaching decisions - Again, these are experts in their sport! They know what they are doing and could use your support as much as your athlete.

Every parent feels concern and wishes the best for their kid. Coaches also want the best for each individual while working on the team to be the best unit. You have the right to speak your mind and express your concerns to any of your children’s coaches or teachers.  You invest in your child’s sports and education, waking up Saturday and Sunday mornings to cheer them on. Remember, the coach is there those Saturdays and Sundays too, perhaps earlier than you!

Teamwork isn’t only for the kids on the field, but for the adults on the sideline as well.

How Important is a Good Night's Sleep for Student Athletes?

Eat. Sleep. School. Sports. Repeat. If only a day in the life of a student athlete were that simple. With school, homework, friends, family, and events, the life of a student is already hectic. A student athlete has multi-day practices, games and team events on top of their student life. This can be both exciting and exhausting for them. Late nights can become a norm after long days. Yet the importance of sleep for the student athlete is no small matter. Parents often wonder how important is a good night’s sleep for student athletes?

Facts on sleep

The National Sleep Foundation has found that school age students need more sleep than the average adult. Where we need only six hours, students need nine hours of solid sleep at night. Most kids, however, are not finding those nine hours of rest. Distractions such as TV, mobile phones and stress from homework are only a few factors reducing kids quality of sleep. A bad night’s sleep could cause serious damage, affecting every aspect of their academic, athletic and social life.

What does a bad night’s sleep look like and what’s the culprit?

A bad night’s sleep could result in crankiness and daytime sleepiness. Repeatedly having nights of poor rest could result in sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep. It causes serious fatigue, which in developing youth could cause lasting damage to the brain. Fatigue affects cognitive functions, manifesting in decreased academic and athletic performance. There are several things that could cause sleep deprivation or decrease the quality of sleep a student is getting.

Screen time and sleep

Mobile smart phones, entertainment systems and TV time have become a part of kids down time when they aren’t doing their homework or playing at practice.

Bedtime may not be the best time for exposure to bright screens and moving images.A recent study published in the AAP Pediatric Medical Journal found that “Of more than five dozen studies looking at youths ages 5 to 17 from around the world, 90% have found that more screen time is associated with delayed bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep, and poorer sleep quality.” Staying up past their bedtimes with easier access to mobile devices is the least of the worries with screens at night. Stimulating content and bright lighting has shocking effects on the brain and body. It reduces melatonin, causing confusion to the natural circadian rhythm. The effects on lighted animation are also disturbing for the REM process, remaining in a shallow state of sleep (as opposed to ‘deep sleep’), effectively decreasing the quality of sleep.

“Screen-based media devices are present in the bedrooms of 75% of children, and 60% of adolescents report viewing or interacting with screens in the hour before bedtime,” the same article reports. With kids keeping their phones by their beds or using them as an alarm, the kids find it more and more normal to have screen time be available at any time.

Limit screen time to help improve sleep

Experts recommend that screen time be limited when evening comes around. Specifically, getting used to cutting off access after dinner. Kids should not be exposed to bright screens and flashing images up to two hours before bed. Especially with the vulnerability of their developing brains, their quality of sleep is based on many factors. Giving the brain less stimulation will allow it to go into deep sleep and get the rest it needs.

Stress and sleep deprivation

School age students are overloaded daily: friends, sports, homework and family keep them busy and anxious. Studies show that the majority of students do not get an adequate amount of sleep at night. What are some stressors for student athletes?

Stress to be social

Late nights may not always be homework. The pressure to maintain a social group also takes its toll on a kids life. Friends are important, and it is a priority to any student to maintain them. Late night chats or pizza nights are not uncommon. Poor nutrition and social stimulation before bed could be stressors on the body, damaging the quality of sleep they get in the night.

Stress on schoolwork

Increasing academic demands place great pressure on young students. Honors courses, AP classes and exam preparation are all norms at young ages now. Overloading students could harm them overtime. Stress will not only keep them awake at night. It will also manifest itself in inability for deep sleep due to a restless, stimulated mind before bed. The quality of sleep is as important as the quantity. What are the benefits for student athletes to have a good night’s sleep?

Sleep to repair damage

Sleep is a recovery mechanism our body naturally has. It is the most important thing an athlete can do to aid their body in recovery. The right amount of sleep can aid in repairing damage sustained during practice or a game. While sleeping, the body works hard to repair all of the minor wear and tear that comes from running and exercising. A young athlete’s body is pushed hard during sports practices; sleep helps the muscles and joints recharge for practice the next day.

Sleep to reduce stress

Pressure to perform in academics and athletically is a lot of stress for any student athlete. Sleep can help reduce levels of stress by lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Energy and focus also come from being well rested. The brain is able to refocus and relax while the body heals and rejuvenates. Eating well before bed is important to the recovery process. It gives the body access to the nutrients and vitamins it needs to fully rest for the next day. Eating poorly before bed leads to bad sleep and weight gain in growing bodies.

Sleep to reduce injuries

Sleep deprivation cause fatigue, which slows an athlete’s reaction and response time in their activities. This could lead to serious injury, leaving student athletes at great risk. Rest is necessary to give the brain and body the chance to re-energize. It is also a natural way for the body to repair existing injuries that may have been sustained.

Young athletes are always active. Both in school and on the field, there is constant stimulation and pressure to perform. Without the proper rest, your student athlete could be at major risk. Sleep is the body’s own way of looking out for itself, getting ready to take on the next day and feel healthy long term! At Athletic Performance Inc. we understand student health and wellness and we pride ourselves on taking care of all of our student athletes.

The National Sleep Foundation has found that school age students need more sleep than the average adult. Where we need only six hours, students need nine hours of solid sleep at night. Most kids, however, are not finding those nine hours of rest. Distractions such as TV, mobile phones and stress from homework are only a few factors reducing kids quality of sleep. A bad night’s sleep could cause serious damage, affecting every aspect of their academic, athletic and social life.

Off to a Fast Start

Tips To Prepare For A Busy Season

As a parent, you know that days can get long with classwork and practices back to back. Preparation means more than packing their lunches or making sure they don’t forget their soccer cleats. Preparation begins a day, days or even weeks in advance.

For parents and athletes alike, there are no such things as a short day. A lot goes into each day and it takes more than a fully packed bag to get through it. Mental, physical and emotional preparations are all part of getting your head in the game and into your work!

Six Ways To Prepare Your Young Athlete

Set Your Goals

Get a head start. Visualize what the coming week may look like and begin to prepare for it. Visualizing cases and scenarios helps reduce stress about unexpected or forgotten events. Research shows that mental practices are almost as effective as physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either method alone. Envisioning your goal can extend far beyond the racecourse to your everyday endeavors. We suggest that your athlete focus on three goals for the week.  Three things they can accomplish that would make the week a win.  This may take some of the pressure off to get everything done.  But at the very least it will help your athlete focus on goals that are truly important.

Take Care to Energize

Eat responsibly! This is an important concept for you and your athlete. Getting a balanced diet throughout the week prepares you for the demands of the day. Proper nutrition directly affects and benefits cognitive skills, quality and quantity of sleep, energy levels, and work/academic performance. Your athlete may be the one running the field, needing extra care of their diet, but you as a parent, you have to keep up as well.  If your young athlete sees you practicing self care, they are more likely to follow suit.

Don’t forget breakfast.  It is easy for a young athlete skip breakfast when they are running late.  Preparing for this eventuality can help.  Eating a balanced, nutritious breakfast is something you should do every day, but especially the morning of a big event for a boost in mind power and heightened alertness.  What can you put in the refrigerator or on the counter that can be grabbed as they are running out the door?

Take a Time Out

Removing distractions is a benefit to our students, but it can be for parents as well. Student athletes take on schoolwork and teamwork, a combination that makes for a sometimes overwhelming schedule. Getting downtime is as important as getting the work done. Rest and recovery is an essential part of any athletes training.  Again, this is a place you as a parent can mirror the behavior you want for your child.  Taking the time to rest and rejuvenate is important.  Show your young athlete the importance by scheduling downtime for yourself as well. Mental preparation, exercise and rest are just as important as the physical.

Dress to Impress

Whether its game day, school day or a meeting at the office, dress to impress. Dressing for success has actually shown to lead to higher self-confidence, self-assurance and attitude positivity. A soccer jersey or a tie are both feel good uniforms.  Helping your child find a style that works for them, that causes them to walk straighter and with more confidence can actually help them perform better on the field and in the classroom.  More importantly, it can give them the confidence to make it through

Don’t Get Blindsided

Prepare for anything! Always be prepared. When you visualize your week, imagine possible scenarios. Don’t get caught without an extra pair of goggles for the swim meet or your spreadsheet for the meeting. Preparing takes only a few minutes but saves a lot of time down the road. 

Pre Game Rituals

Get ready for the big days! If you know you or your athlete have a big day coming up, personalize your downtime to prepare. Listening to music, movie night or a walk in the park are ways professional athletes have admitted to spending their downtime getting ready for a game. Getting your mind off the big stuff may sometimes be the best way to

Get your head in the game!

Preparation extends beyond stretching and eating well the night before a big game. Preparation is mental and physical, preparing the mind to take on classwork and the social aspects of teamwork after school. Physical activity is a strain on the body and the mind and demands preparation on part of student and parent.

These preparation habits can benefit our athletes and those of us on the sidelines, too!

High School Sports: Helping Your Son/Daughter Cope When They Don’t Make the Cut

High school athletes across the country are getting ready to try out for fall sports teams.  Whether it’s football, field hockey, soccer, or golf, the disappointment of not making a team can be traumatic.  For young athletes who have played a sport year-round from a very young age, being part of a team has become part of their identity.  Suddenly giving that up can take a little getting used to—for both the athlete and his/her parents.In decades past, earning a roster spot was much less competitive.  But in this generation of single sport specialization and elite training opportunities, high school teams have become increasingly competitive and making the roster a long shot at best, particularly for rising freshmen.  What do you do when your son/daughter gets cut?

Give them time to absorb what has happened. 

You may be ready to talk about it, but they might not be. Early on, avoid trying to tell them how they should feel or trying to talk them out of their situation. Empathize with them and appreciate their sense of disappointment, anger, sadness, hurt, and whatever else they might be feeling. Allow them to feel however they feel without passing judgment.  Let them know you’re there for them. It’s perfectly fine to tell them you’re also experiencing disappointment about the situation, and it hurts you to see them upset.  But make sure they understand you are not disappointed in them. Not being on a sports team does not make them a failure. Reinforce that they are still valuable, talented, and much loved regardless of whether they made the team or not.  Playing a sport is just something they do, not who they are.

Be “real” with your child

Don’t gloss over or deny the hurt and loss involved in being cut from the team. Really listen to your child and to try to get a sense of their experience and what they’re feeling. Don’t attempt to rush in and rescue them or minimize the disappointment and anger they’re experiencing. And please don’t blame them or other people (coaches, evaluators, trainers, other kids who DID make the team). This can create a whirlwind of conflicting emotions and just make the situation worse.

Help them find the silver lining. 

After validating their feelings and allowing your child time to absorb the initial shock, you can slowly progress toward discussing a few of the positive aspects of the situation.  Your child may have a difficult time finding them, but remind them that it took courage to try out for the team in the first place.  They now have an opportunity to pursue other interests—drama, music, yearbook, etc.  To help them recognize that life goes on, it is useful to direct them toward new activities and maybe even alternate sports, particularly if they still crave the team environment.  This can be a good thing.  Sometimes they find a talent they didn’t know they had—like the girl who gets cut from the soccer team only to become a cross country superstar.  And they will find they can still have an active and fulfilling life even if they aren’t on the team. They may even be pleasantly surprised by how much time and energy not having daily practices and weekly games saves them.  This is time and energy that can be used in other healthy ways—ensuring academic success, joining a club, and pursuing volunteer opportunities that will help them shine on college applications.

Use it as a teachable moment. 

Getting cut is painful, but it can lead to meaningful learning and growth. Life is filled with inevitable setbacks:  not getting accepted to your first-choice college; and not being offered the job we desire or the promotion we think we deserve. Developing the ability to handle and accept things when they don’t go our way is a necessary life skill. Learning to pick yourself up after being knocked down, creating a new plan of action, and moving forward is one of the most important life lessons we can learn.

Find them professional help if necessary.

If getting cut results in depressed behavior and social withdrawal that lasts for more than two weeks, or you see other significant personality changes, such as difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, irritability, loss of appetite or other unusual behavior, it’s important to consider making an appointment with a counselor who can help assess the situation and get your teen back on track before the problem escalates.

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