25 Jan 3 Things You Might Hear on a Sideline and How to Respond…


3 Things You Might Hear on a Sideline and How to Respond…

If you’re the parent or caregiver of an athlete, you’ve probably heard it all on the sidelines: cheering, critiquing, armchair quarterbacking, arguing, cursing and even muttered insults. While plenty of parents and caregivers are respectful fans, some adults simply don’t model proper behavior in the stands.

Here, TrueSport Expert Amanda Stanec, PhD, the founder and owner of MOVE + LIVE + LEARN, explains how you can observe behavior in the stands and help move it in a more positive direction when it comes to these three common sideline performances.

What You Might Hear…
1. Criticizing Their Own Athlete or Other Athletes
“Parents should never say a negative comment to anyone participating — their athletes, their athletes’ teammates, or kids on the opposing team,” says Stanec. Unfortunately, plenty of family members consider shouting out “constructive criticism” as a great way to “help” their athletes. But often, the criticism makes athletes feel self-conscious and more likely to make more mistakes. So not only is it hurtful from an emotional standpoint, it’s also probably costing the team valuable points.

Instead: This is a great chance to show what “good” cheering looks like, and often, other fans will start to see how well it works to motivate the kids on the team. “Kids love hearing cheers for them and you set a high standard of effort with what you’re saying,” says Stanec. “Comment on heart and hustle versus skill or talent, and you’ll be rewarded with more effort from the athletes. When we put a focus on development and process, that helps put things in perspective for both the athletes and the fans.”

2. Complaining About the Coach or Referees
“Fans shouldn’t coach from the sideline: Your job when you’re there as a caregiver is to be a caregiver.” It can be tempting, even as a parent trying to stay positive, to get negative about a call by a referee or a play that you think the coach bungled. But criticizing the coach — quietly or by shouting — isn’t an appropriate reaction. “If you’re saying that the coach is wrong, your athlete will internalize that, and it could be harder for them to trust the coach going forward,” says Stanec. “It also dehumanizes coaches and referees when you’re yelling that they made a bad call. It’s not your job to police them.” (However, if you see a coach doing something inappropriate, like bullying his players, then you should intervene by reporting that behavior.)

Instead: “Remember that officials and coaches, like all of us, make mistakes every day,” says Stanec. “If we don’t have officials, if we don’t have coaches, our kids won’t get to play. Expect mistakes and remember that it’s not the end of the world.” You may need to remind yourself of this, or you may need to remind the fans around you.

3. Anything Offensive Regarding Race, Sexuality, Gender or any Other Slurs
It should go without saying, but situations where you should speak up come when anyone insults an athlete, coach, or referee based on appearance, race, sexuality, nationality, gender, disability or other personal characteristic unrelated to the game being played. And unfortunately, this can happen.

Instead: Speak up and clearly let the parent know that their comments are inappropriate. “This is really difficult because we’re in such a polarized world right now. But it’s better to be an upstander than a bystander,” says Stanec. “There is a risk that comes with that, but like anything in life, sometimes you do have to take a stand.” If you’re concerned that the situation may devolve, get a referee or other authority figure involved. Most arenas have rules against any offensive language, and it’s likely that the parent will be removed from the competition.

How to Respond
If you’ve heard any of these comments coming from the sidelines, here are some general best practices for how to handle it.

1. Understand Your Options
Stanec explains that as a parent or caregiver, you have 3 options when you hear another adult saying things you don’t think are appropriate for the situation:
1. Ignore it entirely
2. Confront it in the moment
3. Deal with it later, after tempers have cooled

Often, she says, the third option is the best one. “You never know how another adult is going to react,” she says. “If you confront them in the moment, you risk a situation worsening, and there is always a chance that it could be dangerous for you. However, ignoring bad behavior isn’t ideal either, especially if you’re hearing things that are offensive or hurtful to the young athletes.” If you’re struggling to have a conversation with other adults, consider asking the coach to address the parents as a whole to offer some recommendations for appropriate ways to engage from the sidelines.

2. How to Have a Courageous Conversation
If you observed behavior you thought was harmful and you’re ready to confront the other adult about it, that means you’re going to have what Stanec calls a Courageous Conversation. “For example, at a game where my child was playing, I saw another woman yelling at her fifth grader,” says Stanec. “The mom was being super negative towards her kid, and you could see it affecting the child — her body language made that clear. After the game, I asked the woman if we could have a conversation. I said, ‘You clearly care about your daughter, but if you keep talking to her that way, she’s going to quit this sport within two months. Right now, she is trying so hard, and telling her ‘Nice try’ instead of criticizing her will make a big difference.’ To that woman’s credit, she actually took that advice to heart, and she’s been a lot more positive since then.”

3. How to be the Coach’s MVP
While we’ve been talking about negative comments coming from the sidelines, Stanec wants to remind parents that you also have the ability to leave kids and coaches feeling positive and appreciated. “When something happens in a game or there is communication that you really appreciate, let the coach know,” she says. “It’s amazing how much a coach appreciates hearing positive feedback.”

4. Be the Parent Your Child Would be Proud of
This is perhaps the most important reminder, and it can serve as a gentle nudge to remind other parents why they are there. “Ask yourself, ‘What does it look like to be the parent my kid is proud to point to in the stands?'” recommends Stanec. “That can be such a powerful question and can completely change a parent’s behavior.”

TAKEAWAY
It’s difficult to have constructive, courageous conversations with fellow parents and caregivers who are yelling inappropriate things from the sidelines. And confronting other adults in the moment might not be a safe or productive way to handle a situation. In those situations, try to model good behavior, and if you’re comfortable doing so, have a conversation with fellow parents after everyone has calmed down. And of course, be a parent that your athlete can be proud of as you cheer in the stands.

11 Jan 5 Ways to Ensure Your Young Athlete is Competing Well


5 Ways to Ensure Your Young Athlete is Competing Well

As a parent or coach, you have the ability to either help or hinder your athlete’s pursuit of success in sport, as well as their overall wellness. A good coach ensures that mental and physical wellness are prioritized for their athletes, even if it means de-prioritizing performance and wins. This might mean reworking your definition of success, but in the long run, your athletes will perform better and be healthier, happier humans as a result.

When it comes to supporting physical and mental wellness, your goal should be helping athletes develop healthy habits, rather than quick fixes and win-at-all-costs mentalities. Here, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency‘s Chief Science Officer, Matt Fedoruk, PhD, shares his top five ways to ensure your athletes are competing well and able to thrive in all areas.

1. Prioritize Rest and Recovery
“We’re conditioned to take this ‘more is better’ type of approach across the board, whether it’s around training, supplements or gear. But for a young athlete, we know adequate rest and recovery is more important than extra training hours,” says Fedoruk. Overtraining is common, especially for serious teen athletes who are focused on getting an athletic scholarship — but while training extra hours may pay off at first, it can have consequences that can take athletes out of the sport for the season or for life.

2. Encourage Multi-Sport Athletes
“These days, there is a lot of pressure to specialize in sport from a very young age,” says Fedoruk. As a coach, it’s tempting to want your athletes to be fully committed to your team and your sport. But that’s not the best long-term approach to success in sport or in life. “I know from the scientific literature as well as from personal experiences working with athletes that the best athletes are the most well-rounded athletes,” says Fedoruk. “Multi-sport athletes learn technical skills and gain the experience they need to figure out which sport is right for them. Multi-sport athletes are also more likely to stay in sports longer, which is especially important now as kids are dropping out of sport at very high rates.”

3. Skip the Supplements
Supplements have become a common cure-all for many people and athletes. It might be tempting to buy into the big promises that supplements make, but in doing so, you’re encouraging the idea that a solution can be found in a pill — which we know isn’t the case!

“There are no magic bullets, and no supplement will be a shortcut to success. I think there’s a lot of pressure these days to cut corners, and we’re all pressed for time,” says Fedoruk. “But at the end of the day, parents and coaches need to take a step back and ask, ‘How do I best fuel my athlete to be successful?'” He suggests focusing on a food-first approachtry more red meat for athletes who may need more Iron or an extra serving of chicken or dairy for those looking to build muscle — and leaving any supplement recommendations to a physician or dietitian. If you do find that a supplement is ultimately necessary, try to stick to third-party certified supplements to reduce the risk of contamination and exposure to harmful ingredients.”

4. Invest in Mental Health
As a coach, you play a huge role in the mental health and well-being of your athletes. You can create positive change by bringing mental health experts in to speak to the team about game day nerves, goal-setting, and dealing with stress and anxiety. You can also create an open-door policy to encourage athletes to talk to you about anything they’re struggling with. And you can share resources with them that improve their understanding of what it means to be mentally well. Lastly, make sure that there is space for athletes to simply have fun during practice and even within competition. “Sport can help solve a lot of problems, but only if you as a coach are taking a holistic, positive, and fun approach to it,” Fedoruk adds.

5. Focus on Growth Instead of Outcomes
As coaches and parents, we know that sports can not only teach young athletes how to score a goal or run a mile, sports can teach them life lessons like leadership, perseverance, and goal-setting. An outcome-focused coach with a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality might see early results — but as the season wears on and athletes become tired, over-trained, or simply mentally exhausted from so much pressure to perform, the wins will start to wane and the athletes will suffer. Focusing on sustainable growth for your team, with an emphasis on effort and hard work rather than results, will result in athletes who bring more to their team and their community.

TAKEAWAY
It’s tempting to simply push your athletes to win competitions and games at any cost, but the better long-term strategy is to focus on wellness, which leads to more happy, healthy lifelong athletes. That means ensuring athletes have the information and resources to make smart choices around food, mental health, rest, recovery, and even playing other sports.

14 Dec 5 Critical Things to Know About Sport Specialization

5 Critical Things to Know About Sport Specialization

For parents and coaches, the temptation to push an athlete to specialize in a single sport is tempting, even at a young age. Stories of athletes like Tiger Woods, who was intensely focused on golf since early childhood, give credence to the notion that the only way children will be successful in sport is if they are laser-focused on a singular activity.

But there are many other great athletes who maintained participation in multiple sports throughout high school. In fact, research is showing that early specialization is unnecessary and may actually be hurting athletes and their performances. Now, many college coaches even prefer athletes who have participated in multiple sports.

Here, TrueSport Expert Michele LaBotz and sports medicine physician, shares five tips that parents and coaches should know about sport specialization, particularly in younger athletes.

1. Sampling Sports Improves Athleticism
Participation in a variety of sports actually increases a child’s capacity for movement, which will be beneficial as they progress in any given sport. “The more pathways that the body makes between the brain and the muscles helps improve the athlete’s ability to move in a lot of different ways,” says LaBotz. “At a young age, it’s best to consider the opposite of sports specialization, which is sports sampling, where an athlete is trying a bunch of different sports and activities.”

2. Sport Sampling Creates Lifelong Athletes
“Rock climbing, mountain biking, paddleboarding … there are many great sports and activities that are considered “lifestyle sports” rather than high performance team sports, but they can be so important and helpful for development of athleticism in children and adolescents,” says LaBotz. “For example, the balance and agility kids develop with things like skateboarding and surfing provides a good foundation for more sport-specific skills.”

Research has found that healthy levels of physical activity are determined in large part by family patterns of activity. Furthermore, most young athletes will not end up pursuing their sport professionally, but hopefully will remain active, healthy humans for the rest of their lives. “Early on, consider engaging in a lot of family-oriented activities, not just dropping kids off at the soccer field,” recommends LaBotz.

3. General Skills Improve Specific Performances
Ultimately, pursuing a wide variety of sports is not only healthy for a young athlete, but it also is going to make them better at building skill in any sport on which they may ultimately decide to focus. The mental benefits from playing different types of sports especially trying individual sports in addition to team sports—can help significantly in development. “It is a fallacy that you have to develop these highly specialized skills early in life,” says LaBotz. “Instead, the focus should be on developing different fundamental and foundational skills and to sample enough sports that you’re able to confidently decide where your passions lie.”

LaBotz states that she often hears parents say they don’t want to interfere with healthy activity and their child’s love for a specific sport. In response, she says, “I make a comparison with other healthy behaviors. For example, carrots are healthy, and if a kid likes carrots, that’s great and should be encouraged. But if your kid is ONLY eating carrots, that’s not good. They need more variety in their diet. The same is true for physical activity: Variety is a key component and too much of a good thing is not a good thing.”

4. Athletes Who Specialize Risk Injury
“Many athletes, coaches, and parents think athletes have to specialize to become better, but athletes who do specialize at a young age are more prone to injury and more likely to drop out of sport,” says LaBotz. A focus on a singular sport at an early age may build up imbalances, and injury risk and overtraining are minimized when athletes try sports that emphasize different types of movement, such as some sports that focus on the upper body (e.g., throwing or racquet sports) and others more focused on the lower body (e.g., soccer or other running sports). Additionally, athletes who specialize early often end up with body image standards specific to that one sport, rather than developing an appreciation for everything that their bodies can do athletically, which can lead to issues with body image and disordered eating.

5. Athletes May Change Their Minds
While your 12-year-old may love gymnastics right now, that fact may not be true in five years. Instead, by 17, your athlete may decide that soccer or triathlon is more interesting. LaBotz states, “Long-term success in sport is most likely when parents can help build their child’s capacity and opportunity to learn many different sports and activities. That way the athlete can figure out where their talents and passions lie. If you start specializing in basketball at nine years of age, then you may never learn you could have been a champion at tennis.”

TAKEAWAY
For younger children, participation in a variety of activities and sports experiences is beneficial for the longer-term development of athletic skill. It also provides opportunities for athletes to figure out which sports are the “best fit” for them. Early sport specialization might seem important for sport skill development, but engaging in a variety of individual and team-based sports can lead to a happier, healthier athlete.

22 Nov Why and How Young Athletes Shoud Set Non-Sport Goals

Why and How Young Athletes Should Set Non-Sport Goals

Many young athletes enjoy setting and working toward sport goals, whether it’s achieving a personal best in competition or just making a certain number of free throws at each practice.

While goals around sport performance are important, non-sport goals are equally critical to a young athlete’s well-being.

Here, TrueSport Expert Amanda Stanec, PhD, the founder and owner of MOVE + LIVE + LEARN, shares why and how parents and coaches should help athletes set non-sport-related goals, as well as other tips to help young athletes thrive.

UNDERSTAND WHY THIS MATTERS
Setting goals outside of sport is important because we want young athletes to not over-identify as athletes, or put too much emphasis into a sport,” says Stanec. “This is hard to hear for some athletes and parents, but honestly, we’re all a couple of ACL tears away from not doing that particular sport anymore.”

“Additionally, many sports end for students at the end of grade 12. And even for the vast majority of those who do get to play sports in college, few go on to play professionally.”

“Being able to set and achieve goals outside of sport helps athletes find balance at every stage in life.”

Before deciding on some goals, have your athlete define their version of success. And success, Stanec says, should ideally mean feeling good about our place in the world, rather than having a certain amount of money or material items, or scoring a certain number of points on the team. It’s a feeling, not a list of accomplishments.

ADD SOME SELF-REFLECTION
Stanec starts with assessing the foundation:
An athlete should strive for a certain level of well-being, above and beyond simply being healthy (which she considers to be ‘the absence of disease and illness’).

“Well-being goes beyond that,” she says. “It includes how one feels about their place in the world, and about their quality of life. Hopefully, sport is a piece of that, but wellness and well-being are more holistic than just sport performance. There’s physical, social, spiritual, environmental, emotional, and intellectual wellness, and all of that combines to make up our overall well-being.”

“Help your athlete create self-awareness, where they’re able to identify their strengths and their opportunities for growth,” she says. “For instance, an athlete might realize that they do great fueling properly for practice, but get anxious about leaving their phone unattended throughout practice. So that athlete may want to set a goal around phone use rather than nutrition, which they already have under control. Similarly, athletes should set goals that are very meaningful and personal to them, not ones that are heavily influenced by their parents or coaches.”

Some pieces of the wellness puzzle —social and physical for instance— may come from sport. But ensuring your emotional wellness or even your physical wellness beyond your sport performance are just as important.

Stanec suggests that athletes take stock of where they are right now, and consider areas that could use some improvement.

A full lifestyle overhaul isn’t necessary here: just consider what areas might be lacking, and those will be the areas where goals should be set.

GOAL-SETTING IS A SKILL
“Goal-setting is a skill that ought to be applied to everything for adolescents, from sleep hygiene to having a meaningful volunteering practice,” Stanec says.

“You can use sports to help teach athletes how to goal-set, but then the goal setting should quickly move beyond the practice field.”

For athletes who are reluctant to embrace any goal that isn’t sport-related, start with physical wellness goals like improving sleep quality. Because sleep is performance-enhancing for athletes, it’s a simple place to start working on non-sport goals and an easy sell for highly-motivated athletes!

From there, focus on setting some goals around things like communication with other teammates, helping others on the team, and feeling more confident around practice or game day. These softer skills are important on and off the field.

“We know that goals that are too outcome-driven in sport can lead to burnout,” says Stanec. But having goals outside of sport, especially ones that are less performance focused, can actually help alleviate burnout by offering other motivations and wins.

“Athletes can see themselves as interesting human beings who can do good in the world, and ultimately, that’s what we want them to get from sport.”

PRIORITIZE COMMUNITY-ORIENTED GOALS AND TEAM GOAL SETTING
Stanec is also a fan of team-based non-sport goals.

“A local school near me recently shifted focus from how the teams were performing to how the communities within the teams were growing,” she says. “As we returned to school after COVID-19 closures, it was more important than ever for coaches to spend time trying to rebuild those communities, which meant the sport-specific goals were less important than helping athletes to connect with each other.”

Cultivating a community within a team is so important for young athletes, and goal setting together is a great way to make that happen,” she adds.

UNDERSTAND BENEFITS OF BIG AND SMALL WINS
While some athletes will thrive when focusing on big goals that are harder to achieve, some athletes need an easy win to feel motivated.

Stanec recommends letting athletes ‘beta test’ two types of goals: big and small. The big goals require a lot of time and heavy lifting on the part of the athlete but have the bigger payoff.

Small goals, on the other hand, can often be achieved in days or weeks with less effort. The payoff may not be as big —acing a test versus making the honor roll— but for some athletes, these tiny wins can push through inertia and make it easier to eventually get to the bigger goal.

TAKEAWAY
Athletes often embrace setting sport goals but setting goals outside of sport helps ensure the overall well-being of the whole person. Parents and coaches can help athletes think beyond sport and find an identity outside of athletics.

07 Nov The Keys to Perseverance and How it is Developed at Susquehannock

The Keys to Perseverance and How it is Developed at Susquehannock

One of the key traits we pride ourselves on developing at Susquehannock is perseverance. The past few years has required a great deal of perseverance by us all. That said, I want to share with you just how this development takes place at Susquehannock and what makes it happen.

Opportunities to roll over and quit present themselves every day in our lives and those of us who learn to persevere will do well when faced with life challenges.

So, why do some people quit and others persevere? What makes some people push through formidable challenges, and how can you become one of them?

Here are the keys to perseverance and how it is cultivated at Susquehannock…


PURPOSE
You must have a purpose. For examples, athletes dig far deeper when there is a real purpose motivating them forward.

The purpose must be intrinsically real! It cannot be fake. It must be felt from within. External rewards won’t do the job.

Participation trophies and ribbons won’t help you overcome the tough times. Those types of rewards are easy to give up on when confronted with real challenges. But if you have a real, heartfelt deep drive or purpose behind what you are doing the temptation to quit is easily pushed aside.

Here’s a great example: each summer as campers arrive on campus, we encourage them to swim their 20 laps (500 meters) and then the entire length of Tripp Lake. I have seen campers attempt to swim their 20 laps multiple times before the they finally do it.

This past summer I witnessed a young girl attempt to swim the lake three times before she did it. Why did this camper persevere? What motivated her to not give up? It was purpose. She had an intrinsic purpose to continue.

Let me explain: when the campers arrived at camp, we could have told them that in order to compete in the Regatta and potentially win a medal they would have to to swim their 20 laps first.

But we don’t! Winning a medal at the Regatta is not going to motivate a beginner to swim 500 meters or the full length of the lake.

However, when a camper sees his or her friends jumping off the diving board, hanging out on the float or kayaking – they develop a real purpose and are motivated to join their friends. It is this motivation that will push a child past the temptation to quit.

Purpose is what drives us. Olympic athletes don’t train their entire life for the medal. They train because they want to be the best or they want the opportunity to compete against the best. It is this purpose that compels athletes to get up at 5:00 am to train. It’s the purpose that compels an artist or a musician to hone their craft day after day after day. Money, trophies and fame are just a byproduct of their purpose.

MIND-SET
If you want to be successful in any endeavor, you must start with the mind-set that nothing can or will stop you from realizing your intended outcome. And just like your purpose, the mind-set must be real. It can’t be made up or faked.

Simply telling yourself you can do something or receiving false accolades from friends, parents or coaches is not going to help you persevere through a challenge!

If you look closely at how we develop perseverance and confidence at Susquehannock you will see, we introduce new concepts and skills gradually over the course of the session.

Our incredible staff does a great job designing a series – a progression of clinics, activities, competition, and exposure to new things (combined with constructive feedback) – which helps kids build that true self-belief and confidence in themselves!

EXPERIENCE
Experience is what determines how hardy your walls of perseverance will become. Each time you want to quit and do not, your wall gets thicker and thicker. Every time you do something you thought or imagined to be too difficult or that almost defeated you, you have just added one more skill to your repertoire that you can do again.

This happens every day at Susquehannock. It happens when a camper arrives and must spend their first night away from home – it happens when a child must learn to share with others – it happens when a camper is put in a group with no one he or she knows – it happens when a camper plays a sport they have never tried before – it happens when a camper is homesick and learns that their new friends will help them get through it – it happens when they swim their 500 meters and the length of the lake!

It is the culmination of all these experiences, one on top of the other, that build the walls of perseverance and confidence and this will stay with them.

Every time they do something new – academically, athletically, professionally – something they thought too difficult, they will gain a greater outlook on life!

SUPPORT
Hollywood loves to tell the story of the underdog who comes from nothing and climbs the ladder of success all by themselves. While this all sounds great, most people who rise to success through sheer perseverance have some support behind them. Very few (if any!) can overcome these challenges alone.

To develop perseverance, one must be humble enough to ask for and then accept help. Your family, friends, associates and teammates are the ones who will keep you going through tough times.

At Susquehannock, we introduce new sports and activities to campers daily. Campers learn the power of a support group, the power of a team and the value of teamwork. I have seen children arrive at camp who were fantastic Basketball players but had little skill in Soccer. When the time came to play Soccer, they lacked confidence to go on the pitch and in some cases were on the verge of refusing to play.

However, they persevered and played anyway because they had the support of their team. Their team helped because those teammates knew there were sports they would have to play where their skill level was inadequate and without each other the team could not succeed!

As you go through life there will inevitably be setbacks, challenges and fear. Don’t be afraid to ask for or accept help. We all need support!

In life, as in sports, you are not going to win all the time. The best hitters in Baseball succeed less than 30% of the time but they continue to persevere.

Things don’t always turn out the way we envisioned. That is part of life. Just don’t quit!

05 Oct 3 Tasty Meals to Support Muscle Growth in Your Child

3 Tasty Meals to Support Muscle Growth in Your Child

With the fall season comes busy schedules, games, practices and a variety of seemingly never-ending activities.

It’s always easier to grab some food on the go and fall behind on the nutritional needs our young athletes need. Here is some simple, great advice from Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, on how best to keep your child healthy and strong.


When you think of muscle growth and the nutrients required, protein is probably the first nutrient that comes to mind. But there’s more to growing strong muscles than simply eating a lot of protein. With young athletes, there are a few important things to keep in mind if you’re trying to help them boost muscle mass or even simply maintain it.

Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares her favorite recipes that make it easy for your young athlete to get the nutrients they need to support muscle growth. But before we get into the simple recipes, there are a few important reminders parents should keep in mind when it comes to preparing meals for growing athletes:

1. Protein is key to muscle growth. The protein intake range for teens is going to be about 1.35 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. So, a 120 pound athlete would need between 73 and 87 grams of protein per day, while a 150 pound athlete would need between 92 and 109 grams per day. A typical serving size — roughly a palm of a protein-dense food like tofu or chicken — provides around 20 grams.

2. Complete proteins are critical. You likely know that protein is going to be critical for growing muscles, but did you know that some proteins, especially vegan or vegetarian ones, are incomplete? Your athlete needs the full range of amino acids that build a complete protein, and while most animal products (meat and eggs) are complete proteins, many vegan sources like beans and legumes need to be combined with another ingredient like brown rice to make up the full range of necessary amino acids — particularly leucine — for muscle growth.

3. Athletes need carbohydrates to encourage muscle growth. “Carbohydrates help to build muscle and I don’t think a lot of people really realize that,” says Ziesmer. “In fact, 50 percent of an athlete’s diet should come from carbohydrates. But quality matters! Whole grains and fruits and vegetables and beans are ideal.” (With carbohydrates, a fist-sized amount is roughly a serving.)

4. Vitamin D is a critical vitamin in building muscle mass, and Ziesmer notes that many people are surprisingly deficient in it, especially if you live in a northern climate or aren’t outside in the sun often (sports like swimming or wrestling tend to mean less time outside). She recommends getting vitamin D levels checked by a doctor before using supplements, but adding foods that are fortified with vitamin D (certain milks and yogurts, fatty fish) is a good idea regardless.

5. Look for meals that allow athletes to dial in their own serving sizes. The meals we’ve listed below are ideal not just because of their ingredients, but because an athlete (or parent) can increase or decrease portion sizes depending on their activity levels. With that in mind, don’t assume your athlete should eat the same amount as you, Ziesmer cautions. She often sees athletes under-fueling because a parent is on a diet and serving the whole family portions that are too small or skipping critical macronutrients like fat or carbohydrates.

RECIPES
Here are three simple recipes that can be prepared quickly. Feel free to double up on ingredients to create leftovers for lunch or to freeze for busier weeks when it’s hard to make time to cook. These recipes should serve 4-6 people, depending on hunger levels. We’ve also tried to keep ingredients simple and relatively inexpensive: Canned and frozen vegetables are a busy chef’s best friend!

With all these options, allow your athlete to build their own rather than serving them. This lets your athlete add extra protein if they’re feeling hungry and affords them some independence. This is especially helpful for older athletes who will be dealing with the buffet line in college dining halls soon!

And of course, these recipes are just simple starting points for the culinary-inclined. You can get creative by changing flavor profiles with new spices and sauces, trying new options for rice or grains, and mixing up the proteins. For example, a burrito bowl made with ground beef with salsa and guacamole over rice isn’t that different from making the same bowl with salmon instead of beef, but the flavor profile changes completely.

Three Bean Chili
Ingredients:
1 can black beans
1 can white beans
1 can chickpeas
1 large can stewed, diced tomatoes
1 can of pureed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped yellow onion (can purchase chopped onion frozen as well)
1/2 bag fresh or frozen spinach
1-2 cups of any favorite chopped vegetables your athlete prefers: Carrots, peppers, mushrooms and broccoli are all great options and can be used fresh or frozen
5 tablespoons chili powder or chili seasoning
2 cups brown rice or quinoa
Optional: Ground beef, shredded chicken, or vegan alternative
Toppings: Fresh chopped tomatoes, cilantro, sliced avocado or guacamole, cheddar cheese, plain
Greek yogurt (a great protein-rich alternative to sour cream), tortilla chips

Directions:
1. If using beef or chicken, sauté in pan until done
2. Combine all ingredients except rice and toppings into pot or slow cooker
3. Simmer on low for at least an hour on the stove, but ideally for several hours in a slow cooker for optimal flavor. Stir occasionally.
4. Make rice separately
5. Allow athletes to build their own chili, with rice underneath and their desired toppings

Pasta with Meat Sauce
Ingredients:
1 jar of strained, crushed tomatoes (roughly 600 mL)
3 teaspoons oregano or Italian seasoning mix
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound ground beef
1/2 bag fresh or frozen spinach
Whole wheat pasta (chef’s choice for noodle style)

Directions:
1. Brown beef with chopped onions in pot, using a small amount of olive oil if using lean beef
2. In a pot or slow cooker, combine all ingredients. Heat until bubbling, then reduce to simmer and cover. Stir occasionally. Ideally, simmer for 1.5-2 hours on stove top or 4-6 in a slow cooker.
3. Make pasta separately, being sure to add an extra serving size to the pot if your athlete is eating dinner after practice — it’s always better to have a bit leftover rather than scraping the bottom of the pot for one last strand of spaghetti!

Burrito Bowl
Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef, boneless skinless chicken thighs, or vegetarian meat substitute
1 large onion
2 bell peppers
1 bag spinach (or half bag frozen spinach)
3 tablespoons chili powder or burrito seasoning
2 cups brown rice or quinoa
Olive oil

Toppings: Fresh chopped tomatoes, cilantro, sliced avocado or guacamole, cheddar cheese, plain Greek yogurt (a great protein-rich alternative to sour cream), tortilla chips

Directions:
1. Cook rice or quinoa separately according to directions
2. Brown beef or cook chicken in pan with olive oil, chopped onions, and chili seasoning
3. If using beef, drain excess fat after browning
4. If using chicken, chop into small pieces after it fully cooks
5. Add chopped peppers and spinach to pan, sauté together until spinach is wilted and peppers soften
6. Allow athletes to build their own bowls with rice, meat and vegetables, and the toppings that they prefer

Takeaway
For optimal muscle growth, make sure your athlete has access to as much food as they want at mealtime. A young athlete should be eating according to their hunger, not simply eating as much as you are. Prioritize a wide variety of protein and carbohydrate options at every meal. Keep meals simple, and allow athletes to “build their own” plates, but ensure that the plate has at least a fist-worth of carbohydrate and a palm of protein.

05 Oct Why and How Your Child Should Take a Break from Sport Specialization


Why and How Your Child Should Take a Break from Sport Specialization

Your child’s mental and physical health could be suffering. The pressures of sport specialization could be setting them up for injuries and lack of confidence.

Today I want to share with you a great article put together by our friends at Truesport and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. This article will provide you a guideline to helping your child take a break from the pressure of sports specialization. By doing so, my hope is your child will grow into a confident, resilient, independent, happy young boy or girl. Enjoy!


The Power of Pause: Why and How to Take Breaks in Sports

Does your young athlete need a break from their sport? As a parent, it can be hard to spot the signs that your athlete needs to take a season (or even just a few weeks) off from competition and training. After investing so much time and money into sport, it can also be hard to listen to your athlete when they tell you they need a break. But it can be hugely important for your athlete’s overall physical and mental health. And taking a break helps young athletes be better prepared for the real world.

As board-certified family physician and TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, explains, “If we teach our kids the habit of getting on a hamster wheel and never getting off, no matter what the cost is, that’s the life that we’re teaching them to lead in their academics, their jobs, and in their relationships.”

So, how can we better help our athletes take a smart, carefully considered step back?

Why do athletes need breaks in sport?
First, the good news: If your athlete is taking regular breaks and checking in on their mental and physical health regularly, they may never need a longer break from a sport. But why would an athlete benefit from time away from sport?

Physical health is the first reason an athlete would require a break. This doesn’t just mean obvious issues like sprains or breaks, but also things like small-but-lingering overuse injuries, illness, and overtraining. And much of this, unfortunately, is caused by intense sport specialization from a young age. “I’m seeing 15-year-olds who have the same injuries as marathoners who are in their 40s,” Gilboa says.

“One of the things that we’re seeing in clinical settings is that kids are ending up with repetitive motion injuries much earlier,” says Gilboa. “This is because we’re asking them to specialize and to intensify their sport participation far too young. Physically speaking, it’s not a good idea to be doing this. Kids aren’t turning into athletes. They’re turning into soccer players or gymnasts or swimmers, so when they have an injury, it’s ‘career-ending.’ They stop doing anything athletic because they think sport is ‘over’ for them.”

A break during the year can help avoid these overuse and overtraining issues that come from intensive specialization. And a break doesn’t have to mean your athlete sits on the couch and doesn’t do anything athletic: Trying a different sport solely for fun can help balance them out and improve overall athleticism.

From a mental health standpoint, taking a break is even more important for young athletes. “When we teach our students that they need to go full bore all the time and we don’t give them any mental health recovery time, we’re setting them up for failure,” says Gilboa. “We don’t teach them how to do a sport sustainably. They think that the only way to be good is to do something to the exclusion of everything else. And that translates to other areas of their lives, not just sport. For example, they may think that the only way they can be a good boyfriend or girlfriend in their first relationship is to ditch all their other friends and pour everything into that one person, or they may think that the only way to excel academically is to ditch all their friendships.”

And if your athlete isn’t taking regular breaks in the course of the year, their identity could be completely wrapped up in that sport. “We narrow an athlete’s sense of identity so profoundly that if they aren’t an athlete in that one sport, they have no idea who they are.”

How can athletes take breaks from sport?
1. Try Other Sports
As we said, taking a break doesn’t always mean going from practice every day to languishing on the couch. “Physically speaking, young athletes need to diversify,” says Gilboa. “They need to learn balance and try different sports to learn new ways of moving. Find a sport that uses different muscle groups and different skills. The new experiences and people that they’re surrounded by can also be incredibly important.”

2. Take a Proper Offseason
As a parent, you may need to advocate for your athlete with their coach. “I’m seeing a lot of coaches who want to ‘own’ a player all year long. Instead of taking an offseason or trying a new sport in the offseason, you’re doing conditioning in the gym or training with a travel team,” says Gilboa. Often, a coach will be willing to compromise—athletes just don’t realize that what a coach says doesn’t have to be the final word.

3. Develop an Out-of-Sport Identity Before There’s a Problem
Help your athlete understand that they are more than just an athlete—and a break won’t cause them to disappear. “What we hear from professional athletes at the highest level is that their mental health struggles felt overwhelming because the only way they could think of to navigate their depression was to take a break from their sports, but if they took a break from their sport, they disappeared,” says Gilboa. “And that’s how our kids are feeling. I know 12-year-olds who say that if they miss a competition, their career is over.”

4. Offer Options Before Your Athlete Needs Them
Make sure your athlete knows that they can take a break. While some athletes stay in sport because of pressure from parents or coaches, often, it’s a self imposed pressure and the athlete can’t comprehend that they have options. “Athletes need options and some level of autonomy. As parents, it’s really easy to steamroll over their preferences because you’ve put a lot of money and time into the sport,” says Gilboa. “In other cases, parents feel like they are supporting what their child wants, while the athlete is just going through the motions because they don’t know any other way.”

5. Create a Break
If you know that your athlete needs a break but they simply won’t stop, plan a vacation or time away in order to force a stop. Sometimes, that week or two away can help your athlete reset. The step back from practice and training may be what your child needs to reevaluate what makes them feel happy and healthy, in a way that they weren’t able to do when they were—as Gilboa says—stuck on the hamster wheel.

6. Ask “What If’?”
When an athlete wants to take a step back, but is struggling to make that leap, help them work through the worst case scenario that may be haunting them. “When your child says something like, ‘If I don’t play this year, I won’t make the team next year,’ don’t argue with them or tell them it doesn’t matter,” says Gilboa. “Instead, ask, ‘Then what?'” Is there a travel team they could join instead? What about trying a different sport? Could they discuss next steps with their coach before assuming they won’t make the team? Gilboa says that this line of questioning helps athletes work through their fears in a way that they simply can’t do when they’re caught in worst case scenario thinking.

“Ultimately, taking a break from sport is about helping our children learn creative problem solving,” Gilboa says. And that’s going to help your child in more than just sport.

Takeaway
Pay attention to signs that your athlete may need a break from sport, and make sure that your athlete knows that a break is okay —and even healthy! If your athlete does take a break, help them find a strong sense of identity outside of sport, explore new ways of moving, and ensure that they feel as though they have the autonomy to make their own decisions.