API Scoop

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.

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