Posts from 2018-08-10

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.

High School Sports: Help Your Son/Daughter Be Prepared for Tryouts

It doesn’t matter what sport it is or which school you go to, trying out for a high school sports team is stressful for the athlete and the parent alike.  With competition for a spot on the roster more ferocious than ever, here are a few ways parents can help their athletes perform their best during tryouts.

Medical Physical & Paperwork 

Be sure all of the required medical paperwork, permission forms/waivers have been completed and turned in.  Virtually all schools require some form of a pre-participation physical to be completed and signed by your child’s physician or other medical provider.  Make several copies; save one for your own files; and be sure the information is accurate and has been turned in to the correct office or school administrator.  Do this well in advance to save yourself and your child last minute stress. Over the years, more than one athlete has been prohibited from tryouts because of missing paperwork or similar snafu.

Check Their Gear

Buy properly fitting shoes/cleats with enough time to break them in.  Worn out sneakers, too-small cleats, and fresh-from-the-box shoes can mean blisters, improper support, and lead to injuries.  Get your son or daughter properly fitted for their required footwear several weeks before tryouts.  Shoes should be replaced periodically to prevent overuse injuries.  Remember, high school athletes are wearing their shoes several hours a day up to 6 days a week.  Tennis players and runners may need to replace their shoes as often as every couple of months.

Keep Them Safe

Check all safety and sports equipment.  Make sure all equipment is in good condition, fits properly, and provides the necessary protection.  That means mouthguards, helmets, and goggles.  It can mean the difference between a season-ending injury and a minor bruise.  Double check that this equipment is without cracks or defects that might put your athlete at risk.  New (unchewed) mouthguards are a must, particularly if your child wears braces.

Help your athlete to get enough sleep. 

Tired athletes don’t perform their best during tryouts.  Teenagers need nine hours of sleep a night, but most get only about seven.  Help your son/daughter develop a consistent nightly routine and bedtime that will allow them to get sufficient sleep.  TVs and devices in the bedroom are a no-no.  Between the light, video binging, and constant temptation to send or respond to late night texts, cell phones and other devices should be left to charge overnight on the kitchen counter or other location away from the bedroom.

Get and stay hydrated.  

Remember, thirst is NOT a good indicator of hydration.  Once you feel thirsty, you are already on your way to being dehydrated.  Athletes should focus on becoming well hydrated several days before tryouts.  Develop a regular schedule for drinking and make a conscious and concerted effort to increase your fluid intake.  Many athletes are already dehydrated before they even step on the field, making it extremely difficult to catch up.  Proper hydration is a must no matter what the weather is like.  Hot or cold, athletes lose a lot of fluid through sweat.  Chocolate milk is a great recovery beverage and contains all of the nutrients the body needs to recover from an intense workout.  Athletes should look to consume 8 oz. of low fat chocolate milk within 30-60 minutes of completing their workout.  Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are great for hydration and electrolyte replenishment.

Remember to re-fuel and eat smart.  

Young athletes need to make sure they are properly fueled before, during, and after tryouts.  This takes some planning, particularly if you’re in class for much of the day with limited time to eat and drink.  Pack a snack to eat an hour or so before tryouts—yogurt, fruit, nuts, or protein bar.  Post workout muscles need protein for recovery, and it’s best consumed 30-60 minutes after.  Sports nutrition bars and drinks can help bridge the critical gap before dinner time when the body requires re-fueling.


API: 10 Lessons Learned from Playing Youth Sports

Playing sports at any level from pick-up on the school field to the most elite teams teaches valuable life lessons that will help kids through difficult challenges throughout their lives.  They offer an opportunity for personal growth and the chance to develop important life skills.

  1. Success Requires Hard Work: Players quickly learn that the best players on the team are usually the players that work the hardest at improving their skills. At the youngest ages, natural talent certainly plays some role, but as kids age, the players with the best work ethic rise to the top.  They are the ones practicing free throw after free throw, taking shots on goal, or hitting at the batting cages.  This teaches kids that if they want to become really good at anything in life, whether it’s playing an instrument, learning a foreign language, or getting a promotion, then it’s going to take hard, consistent work. There are no shortcuts.
  1. It’s Okay to Make Mistakes: Even the best player will make a mistake during a game or at practice.  Most good coaches will say if you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not pushing yourself to try new and different skills.  Every mistake is a learning opportunity and a chance to evaluate what can be done differently the next time to change the outcome.  Making mistakes is good and helps develop stronger, smarter players, as long as it’s not the same mistake over and over.
  1. Exercise Does the Body Good: Involvement in sports can help kids develop healthy exercise and eating habits that will last a lifetime. Sports help kids understand how their bodies work, how to stay in shape and exercise properly, and how it feels to have fit bodies that are capable of anything.  Kids have a far greater chance of staying fit later in life if they play youth sports at a young age. 
  1. Life Isn’t Always Fair: Life can be tough.  It’s a difficult lesson for young players to learn, but a necessary one. Injuries happen; referees make bad calls or miss fouls; and things don’t always go your way for one reason or another.  Players have to learn to accept this and move forward because dwelling on it isn’t going to change the end result. 
  1. The World is Diverse: Teams generally include kids from all types of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. This provides young athletes with an opportunity to learn to work with others who are different from themselves. A diverse group of athletes fosters creativity, reduces stereotypes, and can provide kids with a different life perspective.
  1. How to Follow, How to Lead: Sports help young athletes learn to follow instructions and accept guidance from the coach who is an authority figure, and in many ways, similar to having a boss.  Players learn how to respectfully question authority, and how to have patience if they disagree.  In turn, athletes develop their own leadership skills by offering advice and guidance to other players. It also teaches kids how to deal with others when they have disagreements.  It’s as important to learn how to lead others, as it is to learn how to be led by others.  And by following, they get plenty of ideas of the type of leader they would like to be in the future.
  1. Self-Confidence: Participating in sports helps build self-esteem. By competing, you are able to discover your potential to perform better, to hold yourself to a higher standard, and to expect more of yourself.  Self-confidence makes athletes more likely to take on challenges in all aspects of their lives and to set goals and work to achieve them.
  1. Teamwork and Trust: Team members must learn to rely on each other and how to work well with others to achieve a common goal. Teamwork also involves understanding and respecting each member’s role and being a good team player.
  1. Sportsmanship: Learning how to win with class and lose with dignity are important life lessons.  Being gracious at both will help in years to come when you must face success and failure in your job and in your everyday life.
  1. How to Manage Pressure & Stress: For better or worse, there is a lot of pressure in youth sports, some of it attributable to over-the-top parents who demand consistent excellence from their children.   But some of the pressure is just the normal pressure of intense competition. Young athletes learn to deal with nerves and the stress they feel in these situations while in a safe environment.  While they may find some situations too overwhelming, it’s a learning experience that allows them get comfortable with high pressure situations they’ll encounter later in life.
API: Girls Soccer Now Outranks Football in Concussions

A new study of concussions in high school athletes shows that concussions now account for a higher proportion of injuries in girls soccer than in boys football.  The study Sport- and Gender-specific Trends in the Epidemiology of Concussions Suffered by High School Athletes” determined that approximately 27 percent of all injuries suffered by girl soccer players are traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Male football players indicated only a 24 percent correlation between brain injuries and overall injuries.

That statistic will surprise many who have long considered football players to be most at risk for head injuries with its tackles and head on collisions.  It is estimated that 300,000 adolescents suffer concussions each year while participating in organized sports.

The study also shows that concussions are on the rise across all sports, although this is likely in part due to increased awareness as a result of the introduction of Traumatic Brain Injury laws.  Since 2009, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation targeted at reducing the number of concussions in youth sports.  The study compares concussion rates as a percentage of all injuries between 2005-2010 (pre-TBI legislation) and 2010-2015 (post-TBI legislation). Researchers saw a dramatic increase (with some rates doubling) in the incidence of concussions post-TBI law enactment, likely due to health care practitioners, coaches, athletes, and parents becoming increasingly aware of, looking for, and reporting concussions.


Source:  Sport- and Gender-specific Trends in the Epidemiology of Concussions Suffered by High School Athletes

This is the first study to conclude that girls soccer players, if injured, are more likely to suffer a concussion than an injured player on the football team. The concussion rate for girls soccer is also increasing rapidly.  It is 3 times higher than boys soccer and nearly equal to boys football.  These concussion statistics combined with the higher rate of knee and ACL injuries in girls soccer will likely turn a few heads and perhaps change what most people think of as potentially dangerous sports.

The takeaway from this study seems to be that additional studies are needed that delve into the sport or gender specific differences in concussion occurrence.


Caffeine and Kids’ Sports Performance – Yay or Nay

Since caffeine consumption is common with adults (over 80% of adults are consuming at least some caffeine every week and over 55% are consuming caffeine daily) and it has been studied regarding adult sport performance, it would be natural to wonder if there would be any benefit to caffeine and kids’ sports performance. While many adults get their caffeine fix in the form of a morning cup (or two) of coffee, the younger generation is turning to energy drinks.  Consuming caffeine is easier and more readily available for all generations and may have possible benefits for adults. However, does that mean caffeine intake can positively impact sports performance for the young?

Caffeine’s Impact on Sports Performance in Adults

While studies have shown caffeine intake in adults to have a wide range of possible benefits, particularly when it comes to sports performance, among them:  enhanced endurance exercise performance, improved reaction time, increase oxygen uptake; and delayed feelings of fatigue, is it fair to assume caffeine consumption in teens and pre-teens is beneficial as well?

Caffeine and Teenagers

Doctors feel it would would be unwise to assume any benefits to adult athletes would apply to teens.  Although the effects of caffeine on teenagers have not been studied as in depth as the effects on adults, still 25%-50% of energy drink sales in the USA are to the 12- to 18-year-old age group.  Between school demands, sports, activities, and a lack of sleep, it’s not surprising that teens turn to caffeine for an energy boost.

Sources of Caffeine for Children and Teens

Children and teens are not only drinking more caffeine than prior years, they are turning to a variety of sources.  While they are consuming less caffeinated soda, they are turning to more coffee and energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain banned substances or other stimulants that are less well-studied (guarana, guayaki, guayusa).  They also have varying levels of caffeine. Because teens metabolize caffeine differently than adults, it is much easier for them to become caffeine toxic or to overdose.  Side effects from caffeine are more common in teens than adults, including:  the jitters, sleep disturbances, inability to focus, nausea, and vomiting.  Also, since many teenagers currently take prescription drugs to treat ADHD, caffeine consumption is even more risky.

The Risks of Caffeine and Energy Drinks on Teens

Despite advertising and peer acceptance of caffeine and energy drink consumption, the risks to kids and teens are real and it is best avoided.  Science hasn’t adequately studied how much caffeine is safe for kids and teens.  Research has shown that energy drinks can cause dangerous changes in heart function and blood pressure above and beyond caffeine alone.  In 2007, the number of caffeine related emergency room visits in the US was 10,068.  By 2011, this number jumped to more than 20,000 ER visits in which an energy drink was cited as the primary cause or contributing factor of the health problem.  With energy drink sales skyrocketing to $21 billion in 2017, this is clearly a problem that isn’t going away.

For Kids and Teens The Risk of Caffeine Outweighs the Benefits

While deaths from caffeine overdose are rare, the long-term health effects of frequent and liberal caffeine consumption by teens and young adults are unknown.  Doctors caution kids and teens NOT to consume energy drinks, whether it’s to improve sports performance or just to stay awake.  The health risks of caffeine and other substances is too great.

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