Parents and coaches often encourage players to stretch before starting practice or games, figuring that some stretching will loosen the muscles, helping to prevent injuries and also increase performance. But what stretches should the kids do? Should the kids run some sprints first to push blood into those muscles before stretching? And do the stretches really help?
All good questions.
This article from bluejacketscare.com offers you some answers, even breaking down the types of stretches (and the duration) specific age groups should do. A lot of us might focus on sport-specific stretches and exercises, but this writer advises that we’re better off putting our attention on the age groups, which are growing and strengthening their muscles at the same time. The writer states that sport-specific stretches should not begin until kids reach the age of 15.
Stretching definitely can help increase flexibility, which can help prevent injuries. It’s important that the player warm up a bit first so the muscles aren’t too tight for stretching. It’s also important for the player to learn how to stretch, relaxing into the motion rather than jabbing or bouncing into the stretch, which can lead to muscle pulls and even tears. Tell your players that it’s not a competition and they should stretch only as far as feels comfortable. Trying to stretch beyond their natural limits can cause injuries.
Also, stretching should not be only a pre-game or pre-practice routine. It also should be done afterward. Most coaches and parents forget to take some time to have the players stretch at the end. These stretches can increase flexibility because the muscles are fully warmed up and supple. Post-game stretches also can help with muscle recovery. The still-developing bodies of young players can take more of a beating during a game than we realize. Taking a little extra at the time really will help, though you might hear a few groans from the players who don’t want to be bothered, figuring that they’re finished for the day.
Athletes who are flexible perform at their best and also are less susceptible to injury. Read the article and find out what the players at specific ages should be doing to stretch their muscles. Teach them how and encourage them to do it.
The New England Patriots went into the Superb Bowl against the New York Giants with one of their key offensive weapons barely able to contribute. Tight end Ron Gronkowski did play in the game but was unable to make his usual contributions due to a high ankle sprain. In the two weeks leading up to the big game, we all heard quite a bit about that ankle in the media.
But I’ll wager most of us didn’t really know much about high ankle sprains or how they differ from the typical ankle sprain. And if one of our players suffered that injury we would have no idea how to make the kid comfortable until more informed treatment arrived.
Here is a good article on high ankle sprains from a very useful website/blog for coaches and parents called sidelinesportsdoc.com. An important comment worth remembering: “A high ankle sprain can take a long time to heal, and can cause problems that last even longer. Treat these properly and treat them with respect, right from the start.”
It’s easy to understand why Gronkowski’s ability to play in the game remained in doubt until the last minute, but unless your child is playing in the Super Bowl, there should be no doubt at all. The article states that even for “moderate” sprains, a player can need up to 12 weeks before performing on the field. For more serious high ankle sprains, the writer suggests as long as 16 weeks.
That means that a high ankle sprain is a season-ending injury. Yes, Gronkowski came back in just a couple of weeks, but there should have been a warning during the game: “Do not try this at home.” These injuries are more serious than they might sound, and young players–and their parents and coaches–need to realize that returning to the field too soon, even if it’s for a championship game, can have long-term consequences. So in this case, don’t do it like the pros.
As parents of kids playing youth sports, most of us are always on the lookout for authoritative information about how to keep the kids healthy. Youth sports can be an unforgettable and invaluable experience, of course, but they’re also very demanding on still-developing young bodies, so we need to keep that fact in mind when preparing meals and snacks.
Here is an excellent article from momsteam.com, a very helpful site that I recommend to parents (not just to moms) of kids playing sports. The writer, a registered dietician, suggests that a healthy diet for your young athlete:
is high in nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates
Contains moderate amounts of protein, salt, sugars, and sodium
Is low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and
Provides sufficient calories
She goes on to recommend specific foods–and ones to avoid or to consume in moderation. It’s not a long article, but it offers a broad approach to nutrition to keep in mind while feeding your kids. Check it out.
As coaches and parents in youth sports we hear a lot about winning and losing. Both are said to teach life lessons and to shape character, giving our kids a perspective that will carry them through life. In fact, we hear it so much that sometimes we really don’t hear it anymore.
Sure, yep, got it, agreed. Important stuff. Kids need to learn how to win and lose gracefully. Sort of a no-brainer. Well, here’s a thought-provoking article from kidsportsmagazine.com that suggests the value of celebrating victories and, yes, suffering the sting of defeat. Rather than mute the passion that goes into playing the game, the writer makes a case for feeling the joy and the pain.
Of course, nothing is gained by wallowing in either feeling. Kids and parents and coaches need to understand that the game is simply that–a game. And winning or losing one game (or even a lot of them) has little bearing on the grand scheme of life. He believes–and puts together some impressive research to support his belief–that sports require commitment and hard work and when success is achieved it should be celebrated.
He also notes a survey of boys and girls 10 to 18 years old who listed the top 10 reasons they play sports. For the girls, winning didn’t even make the list. For the boys, it finished seventh. So the kids are getting the message that winning isn’t the only thing, despite Vince Lombardi’s famous statement. However, says the writer, is that message undermining their passion, their enthusiasm, for the game?
Here’s the nub of the writer’s message: “Achieving a balance—allowing room for passion without an overwhelming emphasis on the outcome—remains the biggest challenge for youth sports. Making that happen may ultimately rely on the ability of coaches to treat their athletes individually, working for improvement rather than overall victory.”
Give it a read. You might not agree with all of it, but it’s an interesting idea worth chewing on for a while.
It’s been said countless times that playing youth sports benefits kids far beyond teaching them how to swish a jump shot or hit a cut-off man. But this insightful article from eHow explores the topic at a more-than-usual depth. It also offers some reasons why these lessons are learned.
Given the commonly cited statistic that by age 13 70 percent of kids will no longer play organized sports, we realize that teaching kids how to play the game is really only a small part of our goal as coaches and parents. Playing sports develops aspect of character that will shape how kids end up living their lives. As the article explains, kids learn self-control and self-discipline, respect (for themselves and for others and for rules), sportsmanship (how to win and lose gracefully), setting and working toward goals, as well as personal responsibility.
Are sports the only source of these lessons? Not at all. At least, they shouldn’t be. As parents we try to instill these lessons in a variety of ways. School also provides help in shaping a child’s character. And certainly other hobbies, such as stage performance and playing an instrument, are good ways to teach them. Sports are an excellent source because the lessons often are implicit. They come through, in part, simply by playing the game and being part of a team. Rather than sitting through a parental lecture, they are having fun, and yet are learning much more than they realize.
Coaches and parents should take a few minutes to read the article. We’re still learning lessons too.
One of the reasons why we encourage our kids to play sports is the opportunity sports provide to build self-confidence. They also learn the value of hard work and self-discipline. They see the results of the effort they put into the sport. They also learn the importance of contributing to team goals, of putting aside personal glory and focusing on group success.
Kids who are struggling with low self-esteem need particular attention from coaches and parents. And the ones struggling most aren’t always the weaker players. My own sons are a perfect example. My older boy is smallish for his age and not a big fan of sports. He enjoys playing games and being part of a team, but he has many other interests. When he strikes out with the bases loaded, he’s disappointed, of course, but moves on quickly and approaches the next at-bat with confidence. My younger boy is big for his age and much more gifted athletically. When he comes up to bat with the bases loaded he bashes the ball into the outfield and ends up on second. Afterward, he’ll say he got lucky or should have hit it farther or whatever. Nothing he does seems to meet his own standards.
The differences between them, along with similar situations on the teams I’ve coached, has taught me that performance doesn’t always equal confidence. We need to see kids for who they are and respond accordingly.
Here is a good article from Youth Fitness Magazine’s website about building self-esteem in young athletes. The writer quotes Dr. Lyle Michel of Boston Children’s Hospital who observes “any kid who believes they are contributing to the team effort will learn self-esteem.” Kids don’t need to be the star. In fact, says the article, often being the star puts extra pressure on a kid. He or she assumes that everyone expects them to always excel and they put the pressure on themselves. Focusing on the child’s role as part of the team is much more beneficial in the long run.
The article provides good advice for parents so we can evaluate the needs of our young players and give them what they need. Sports should be an opportunity for kids to grow and gain confidence. And when we handle their needs insightfully, they will do just that.
It’s common for coaches to jump right into practice without warming up the kids first. We all know that rushed feeling as practice begins, our minds teeming with all we want to accomplish during the limited time we have with our team. We assume that the young bodies will be ready to go.
While it’s true that young muscles and joints don’t need as much time to warm up as our older ones, they do need a short period designated for getting physically ready for practice, particularly in sports like basketball and soccer, in which they’re running a lot of the time.
Here’s a helpful video that offers a simple plan for warming up the athletes so they’re muscles and joints are ready to go. Hosted by Mark Gleason at Athletic Revolution, the video suggests beginning with three to five minutes of play, just letting the kids run around in some way–relay races or dodge ball or whatever. Gleason says this approach not only warms up the muscles but it also helps them focus when practice begins, letting them run off the energy they’ve been bottling up in school all day.
He then suggests some basic range-of-motion exercises to limber up the joints and the muscles. Check out the video and begin taking a few minutes at the beginning of practice to warm up your players. When they’re muscles and joints are ready, they are less at risk of injury, which we all want to avoid.
As parents and coaches of young athletes, we hear a lot of advice about proper nutrition for the kids. Some of the information is contradictory and, well, there’s just a lot of it to process and assimilate. It can be overwhelming.
Here’s an excellent article that provides the basics for how your child should prepare nutritionally before performing in a game. Dr. Norma E. Anderson, a family physician, advises: “Best eaten at least three or four hours before competition, the pre-event meal should be high in complex carbohydrates (starch) and fluid, moderate in protein, and low in fat, fiber, and caffeine.”
She notes that for some sports, such as football, athletes try to gain weight, while for other sports, such as gymnastics and wrestling, they try to lose it. She warns that these efforts can have far-reaching consequences.
“Under-nutrition or less than optimal nutrition can lead to fatigue, poor recovery, illness, loss of muscle mass, and risk of weakened bones prone to fractures (osteoporosis),” Dr. Anderson says in the article. Take a little time to read it. As coaches and parents we have the responsibility for the kids’ health.
Most youth-sports coaches know their Xs and Os. They played the games as kids and maybe even into high school and college. They can teach the skills. When injuries arise, however, quite a few coaches are in over their heads. There aren’t many feelings worse than that sense of utter helplessness while crouching next to an injured athlete lying on the ground writhing in pain.
In sports, injuries happen. There’s no getting around that fact. So coaches and parents need to be prepared with a basic understanding of how injuries occur and what to do next, along with knowing how to help the young athlete avoid injury by spotting potential problems before they worsen.
This article from OrthoInfo, a website run by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, offers an accessible and informative overview of young athletes–how their bodies are developing and how their bodies respond to the demands of sports.
Here’s a key insight that coaches and parents have to keep in mind: “The growing athlete is not merely a smaller version of the adult. There are marked differences in coordination, strength, and stamina. In young athletes, bone-tendon-muscle units, growth areas within bones, and ligaments experience uneven growth patterns, leaving them susceptible to injury.”
The article provides a very useful primer well worth reading. With this new understanding, you should be able to avoid that helpless feeling and be better able to help your young athlete on the road to recovery.
More than ever before, parents and coaches are aware of the danger of sports injuries to kids and are more proactive in trying to prevent them. And though this awareness has made coaching youth sports more challenging, we all know that preventing injuries is one of our most important responsibilities.
The problem arises in knowing how best to do it. We see a lot of contradictory information, and the line between being conscientious and being overly protective is not always easy to perceive. If you’re struggling with this issue, here are a couple of authoritative, well-informed articles that will help.
The first one is from the National Institute of Health and provides an excellent, comprehensive overview of sports-related injuries, how to prevent them and how to treat them when they do occur. It also offers more than a half-dozen links for further information.
The second one comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics and focuses on prevention. The author makes a point that you don’t hear so much about: injuries are frequently caused by overuse. Kids today play more sports and longer seasons than in the past, and their bodies suffer from the strain.
The author explains, “Overuse injury is damage to a bone, muscle or tendon that has been subject to recurring stress without time to heal. The risk of overuse in children and adolescents is greater than in adults because youths’ bones cannot handle as much stress as mature adult bones.”
As a coach or the parent of a player, it’s crucial to be informed about what the kids are going through so we can keep them healthy and on the field.