Keep Your Teen Athlete Fueled With These 4 Vital Tips
Mar 29, 2017 09:00AM
By Melanie Heisinger
High school can be intense, but being a student athlete can intensify expectations.
As the start of spring sports approaches, the stakes are even higher for your student to maintain the success they had first semester. There are practices, matches and conference finals that have to fit in with exams and semester-long projects. Being a standout in the classroom and on the field requires expert-level planning and execution.
That’s where parents play a huge role in helping their teen athletes keep it all in balance. Here are four easy tips to help you ensure that your teen is ready for a great season, on and off the field.
Food: Allison Maurer - a sports dietitian and Gatorade consultant who has worked with high school and collegiate athletes - says, “The important thing to remember is that food is fuel. It gives athletes the energy they need to perform and also helps them recover. When planning your athlete’s meals, look for whole food sources that provide high-quality fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Talk to your athlete about their fuel strategy before, during and after practices and games, and offer support by providing healthy, energy rich snacks.”
Hydration: When exercising hard, the body cools itself through sweat. If body mass is reduced by about 2 percent, which would be 3 pounds of water weight loss in a 150-pound athlete, it can negatively affect performance, according to the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s (NATA) Position Statement on Fluid Replacement for Athletes.
“Athletes lose more than water in sweat, so it’s important that they take their hydration seriously since it can impact performance,” says Maurer. “There are a number of products to meet an athlete’s hydration and fueling preferences. For those looking for an organic fueling option, I recommend G Organic, Gatorade’s latest product. It’s made with only seven ingredients and provides the same hydration benefits that athletes expect from Gatorade.”
Rest: Although teens may seem to bounce back easily from a night with too little rest, the truth is that good sleep helps both learning and athletic performance. Sleep helps athletes recover, especially after they’ve pushed their limits in an intense workout. Being rested can also improve reaction time, as well as speed and accuracy. In addition, teens with earlier bedtimes had better grades than those who stayed up later and slept less, according to a study of 3,000 subjects cited by the National Sleep Foundation.
Talk about these benefits with your athlete, and encourage them to go to bed and rise at the same time each day. Also, the glowing light of electronic devices can also interfere with sleep. So, help your teen come up with a strategy to power down an hour or so before bedtime in order to prepare their mind for a night of restorative sleep.
Planning: Schedules have a way of colliding, and this especially happens when a huge test and a game are scheduled for the same day. Each week, sit down with your student athlete and walk through that week’s schedule. Look at practices, games, homework assignments and tests, and create a calendar. That way, if a midterm and a game take place on the same day, they can plan accordingly. This will help avoid a late-night, stress-filled cram session that will steal from their performance in the classroom and on the field.
Life as a student athlete means keeping everything in balance. By focusing on the body - from nutrition to time management - athletes can focus on giving their best performance this upcoming season.
Important steps to take
With athletes of all ages taking to fields and courts, there are important steps to take in keeping young athletes safe during practice and games.
Data from U.S. Youth Soccer shows that the number of kids playing increased nearly 90 percent – with nearly 3 million children ages 7-17 playing each year – from 1990 to 2014. As soccer has risen in popularity, so has the rate of injuries – especially concussions – according to a Nationwide Children’s Hospital study published recently in Pediatrics.
The number of youth treated in emergency rooms in the United States due to soccer-related injuries increased by 78 percent over the 25 years covered by the study. While concussions and other “closed-head” injuries accounted for just 7 percent of those injuries, the annual rate of those injuries per 10,000 children playing soccer increased drastically.
While the study’s authors from the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy said some of the increase reflects the growing awareness about concussions, there are steps that can be taken to reduce exposure and increase overall player safety.
Know Concussion Signs
Be aware of concussion symptoms and encourage players to report potential injuries. The first signs of a player potentially suffering from a serious head injury can include:
• Blurry vision
• Noise or light sensitivity
Utilize Available Educational Resources
The National Soccer Coaches Association of America recently released the first interactive online course developed to educate soccer coaches on how to teach safer heading techniques. The free, 30-minute course titled “Get aHEAD Safely in Soccer,” which is available at NSCAA.com/heading, illustrates specific techniques, exercises and practice activities that are available for coaches to download or print. For more tips to properly coach young athletes on the fundamentals of heading and other soccer skills, visit nscaa.com.
Practice Proper Technique
The U.S Soccer Federation recently ruled that there should be no heading in games or practice for any players age 10 and under and a limited amount of heading for those ages 11-13. It is important that coaches know the correct techniques and have the right educational tools to properly train their players. The fundamental steps include:
• Tucking the chin and maintaining a stiff neck
• Using arms for balance (and to shield opponents)
• Concentrating with eyes open and mouth closed
• Focusing on striking the ball with the middle of the forehead
Understand Return-to-Play Protocol
Coaches and parents should encourage players to always report blows to the head and be vigilant in looking for athletes who may have sustained injuries. If a player does sustain a concussion, they should seek medical attention and work together with an athletic trainer on proper return-to-play protocol before returning to competition.
By instituting proper athletic safety measures at the youth level, coaches, parents and athletes can continue to enjoy the positive benefits of sports.
(Courtesy Family Features)