10 Essential Tips to Support your Budding Athlete
By Me-Shell Mijangos
Being on a sports team teaches kids life lessons that they won’t ever learn in the classroom. It also gives them a chance to figure out fun ways to exercise, which can help set them up on the path to a lifetime of prioritizing movement in their day.
Your little athlete is already getting into the swing of things with his sport. Here are 10 things you can do to support your budding athlete and encourage them as he or she progresses through sports.
1. Focus on playing, not winning
Of course it’s more fun to win than lose, but sports are so much more than a scorecard, especially for kids. Talk to your child about what it means to win and lose. That includes not bragging to the other team when you win and focusing on learning how to improve after a loss rather than dwelling or feeling defeated.
2. Support the coach
Your child’s coach is most likely a parent volunteer who may or may not have experience playing or coaching this particular sport. Respect the coach’s authority, even if you have different ideas on how to run a play. Remember, we’re all in this together. Nobody wins when parents get combative with their child’s coach.
3. Make it fun!
You know how you put off going to the gym when you’re dreading slogging away on the treadmill for an hour? Kids feel the same way about a sport they don’t enjoy. Find something that your child loves to do to make sure he or she has fun participating in sports.
4. Focus on hydration
No matter what sport your child is playing, make sure they are getting enough water and electrolytes to hydrate. This is especially important when your child is active for an hour or longer or is playing outside in the heat. Focus on drinks that will replenish electrolytes without adding sugars to keep your child performing at his or her best.
5. Keep nutrition in mind
It’s tempting to take your child out for pizza after a game but remember that budding athletes need healthy foods to keep their bodies strong. A diet full of fruits, vegetables, and lean meats will provide energy and promote healthy growth.
Kids are exposed to so much sugar these days. Follow these tips to cut down on sugar, especially now that your child is more active. A sugar crash on game day does nothing to help your athlete or his team. Instead of drinking sugary after-game drinks, grab water or electrolyte tabs. Sign up as snack mom and bring healthy treats after the game instead of sugar-loaded snacks.
Learning to breathe properly is so important to send oxygen into your bloodstream and give you more energy. Breathing can also help your child calm down when he gets upset and recover when he’s exhausted. Teach your child to slow down their breath by breathing in deeply for five seconds and then releasing for five seconds. Run through this for 5 – 10 breaths.
8. Avoid burnout
It can be incredibly tempting to put your kid in one sport after another, but, at a certain point, your little athlete is going to burn out. Avoid burn out by mixing up activities with some that aren’t sports-related, like music, art, or drama. (This is good advice for adults, too!)
9. Prioritize resting
Plan some downtime in your week to let your child recover and recharge. Also, make sure your child gets enough sleep at night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that school-age kids get 9 – 11 hours per night.
10. Teach them that progress doesn’t happen overnight
In a world where kids are used to getting instant access to anything they want (thanks a lot, YouTube), it can be frustrating for them to learn a new skill or advance to the next level of their sport. Teaching your child that progress takes time and effort is an important life lesson that will help them throughout their lives.
No matter what sport your little athlete is playing, these tips will set them up for success now and in the future. By providing support and encouragement to help your child have fun, make new friends, and develop a love for sports, you’ll be setting your budding athlete up for a lifetime of happy memories and healthy habits.