28 Nov 8 Ways Your Child Can Reduce Anxiety and Promote Sleep with Nutrition

8 Ways Your Child Can Reduce Anxiety and Promote Sleep with Nutrition

If your athlete is struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep through the night, or is dealing with some mild feelings of anxiety, tweaking their nutrition habits can help. Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, offers a few simple suggestions for helping your athlete improve their diet and their sleep quality at the same time.

Caveat: While nutrition can be used as a tool to improve sleep quality and help ease mild symptoms of anxiety, if your athlete is struggling with sleep disturbances or anxiety, it’s important to talk to a medical professional in addition to making smart nutritional choices.

1. Eat Enough and Keep It Balanced

“The first line of defense for your overall physical and mental health is to make sure that you have a well-balanced diet,” says Ziesmer. “Consuming a variety of different foods over the course of the day, particularly a lot of different fruits and vegetables, is going to help ensure that your athlete gets the nutrients they need. It’s also important to make sure your athlete is eating enough: Under fueling can exacerbate sleep and anxiety issues.” She also recommends a check- in with your family doctor to get bloodwork done to make sure that your athlete isn’t deficient in certain vitamins and minerals, including zinc, magnesium, and vitamins D and B.

2. Get the Right Fats
“Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely beneficial for brain health, and have been shown to help reduce anxiety,” says Ziesmer. Fatty fish are the best source of Omega-3s, so if your athlete likes salmon, tuna, and mackerel, add those to the shopping list. If your athlete isn’t a fish fan, Ziesmer says that flaxseed, walnuts, flaxseed oil, or walnut oil also contain high amounts of Omega-3s.

3. Get Some Sun
“A huge percentage of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D,” says Ziesmer.” And low vitamin D levels have been linked to anxiety. Fortunately, vitamin D is relatively easy to obtain: Just spend time outside in the sun.” She recommends roughly 30 minutes per day in bright sunlight. If that’s impossible in your area, especially in the winter, there are plenty of foods that contain or are fortified with vitamin D.

4. Include Magnesium and Zinc Sources
Magnesium and zinc are both important minerals for preventing and reducing anxiety. “Leafy greens, nuts and seeds are a great source of magnesium, while zinc will primarily come from meat sources,” says Ziesmer. “Liver, oysters, cashews, and egg yolks are especially good sources of zinc.”

5. Cut Back on Caffeine Early
If your athlete tends to drink a caffeine-infused sports drink during afternoon practice, that caffeine could be wreaking havoc on their sleep schedule. Some people feel the impact of caffeine longer than others, so if your athlete is always wide awake around bedtime, try cutting out caffeine after noon. “Caffeine makes our brain go into overdrive. And even if you don’t feel the obvious effects of it, it can still keep you awake at night,” Ziesmer adds.

6. Create a Routine
Cutting caffeine helps promote sleep, but the best way to help improve your athlete’s snooze time is to help them create smart routines and rituals around bedtime. This means things like setting a schedule for bed/wakeup times and adding soothing pre-sleep activities, like reading a book rather than scrolling on Instagram, or taking a warm shower after practice. Ziesmer says a set schedule and routine — including bedtime snacks and beverages — is the best way to promote sleep.

7. Enjoy a Warm Beverage
While chamomile tea is touted as the best herbal option for making someone feel sleepy, any relaxing herbal tea that your athlete likes is a great option. The ritual of having a cup of tea before bed can help put your athlete in a state of relaxation — and of course, provide some bonus hydration! Any herbal tea will work well before bed, but make sure it doesn’t contain caffeine. Adding a bit of milk to the tea can also be sleep inducing, Ziesmer adds.

8. Add a High-Protein Dessert
A higher protein snack before bed can help a young athlete sleep better, especially if there’s a late game or practice, or if they tend to underfuel during the day. If your athlete complains of waking up in the middle of the night feeling hungry, a protein-dense snack before bed will help. A mug of hot chocolate made with one percent milk, for example, is a tasty and protein-dense treat in addition to being a soothing warm beverage. Ziesmer also recommends a small bowl of Greek yogurt with berries and granola.

Nutrition can help improve sleep and reduce feelings of anxiety by giving the body more of what it needs (like antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables) and less of what it doesn’t (like caffeine).

21 Nov How to Help Your Young Athlete Set Realistic Goals

How to Help Your Young Athlete Set Realistic Goals

Athletes today have more inputs and reasons for being overwhelmed than ever before. Even in youth sports, the demands on their time are plentiful: travel teams, school teams, tournaments, required time in the gym for strength training, expectations of extra coaching in the off-season, and often, year-round play. Then there are school responsibilities and other extracurricular demands on time, including part-time jobs for some.

As a parent, you can help your athlete hone in on what really matters to them, and cut out the noise. Here are some easy ways to help your overwhelmed athlete set realistic goals.

Lead with empathy
Remember that while you have the benefit of hindsight as a parent, your young athlete may be experiencing this level of overwhelm for the first time. From your point of view, it’s easy to think their stressors are trivial and overblown, but remind yourself that your athlete’s feelings are real and valid. This is a critically important step, because if you don’t validate your athlete’s feeling of being overwhelmed, they may stop sharing those struggles with you.

Ask good questions
Most overwhelmed athletes struggle to explain how they’re feeling or even understand how many pressures they’re dealing with. Before you can help them tame their schedule and set goals for the next semester, start by helping them understand where they are right now. What are all of the activities they’re doing now, including sports, school, extracurriculars, and part-time work? Where are they falling behind? Where are they feeling caught up? How much time is each activity taking?

Help them identify what matters to them
After identifying what’s on their plate, it’s time to identify what really matters. Young athletes may struggle to identify the things that truly matter to them, rather than what matters to other people in their lives. For example, they may want to excel in a sport because their coach mentioned they have natural talent or because a best friend asked them to try out. And of course, they likely believe —whether accurately or not— that there are certain things that they should do because they matter to you. The best way you can help your athlete is by helping them identify the things that truly are important to them.

Help them prioritize
As you help your athlete prioritize, make sure the activities (including homework and time to sleep/relax) actually fit into their schedule. Try using a daily, weekly, or monthly planner to gain a better perspective on what’s realistic. Often, student-athletes are trying to fit 28 hours of activities and work into a single day. There may be some difficult decisions or conversations that come from this activity. For instance, your athlete may need to talk to the club coach about skipping some practices in favor of training with the school team. This might feel uncomfortable for your athlete, but that discomfort is a critical first step in them learning how to establish their priorities and set boundaries.

Turn their goals into SMART goals
Often, students struggle with setting goals that are challenging but realistic and actually within their control. Help your athlete think SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Once that goal is set, help them come up with a plan to get to that goal, one step at a time. Also encourage them to regularly revisit their goals and edit the original goal as circumstances change.

Feelings of being overwhelmed are common for athletes of all ages. You can help your athlete evaluate their commitments, establish their priorities and set realistic goals that prioritize their wellness and grow their ability to set healthy boundaries.

24 Oct The 5 Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports

The 5 Benefits of Playing Multiple Sports

The benefits of multi-sport diversification for young athletes are something we cannot overlook. Every day at Susquehannock, campers participate in a variety of sports and activities. With each day you can see their confidence, independence and positive mental attitude grow.

And while sports specialization has its benefits, we still need to make sure children are given the opportunity to experience the fun and joy of sports.

USA Baseball – in coordination with the Positive Coaching Alliance – released this list of benefits children receive by participating in multiple sports. Enjoy!

Not every athlete has been blessed with great talent, but every player – regardless of ability – can be a great teammate. Here are 12 qualities of a great teammate. Do these qualities describe you or your young player?

1. Avoiding Burnouts
It is important to remember that kids play sports because they are able to have fun with their friends, they enjoy playing and they like to compete.

2. Reducing the Risk of Overuse-Related Injuries
By playing a variety of sports – especially during the critical development years – athletes are better able to develop all of their muscle groups instead of specific muscles for one sport. This lessens the risk of overuse-related injuries because athletes have the chance to let some muscle groups relax and do different movements.

3. Developing Better Skills as an All-Around Athlete
The more sports and activities that kids are involved in early on in their lives, the more opportunity they have to develop themselves as an athlete, not just as a Baseball, Soccer, Basketball or Football player. Many skills and techniques transfer from one sport to another.

4. Developing More Mental and Life Skills
Playing multiple sports can help kids build important life skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, communication and responsibility. While playing one sport also teaches valuable life lessons, playing a variety of sports allows for lessons to be taught and learned in different environments.

5. Building Confidence
Sports are a great vehicle for building self-confidence in youth. With each different sport, there are different levels of success that athletes can achieve, both big and small. As athletes succeed in sports, their self- confidence increases because they start to understand they can overcome any obstacles that may stand in their way, both in sports and in life.

At Susquehannock we use sports as a platform to develop athletic, confident, high character, independent, resilient, fun-loving happy boys and girls. The campers play 10 different team sports, as well as two individual sports (Tennis and Swimming). They also are involved in other activities including overnight camping, Climbing Tower/zip-line, outdoor pursuits, lake activities, Arts & Crafts, cabin skit nights and other fun events.

17 Oct The 12 Qualities of a Great Teammate

The 12 Qualities of a Great Teammate

At Susquehannock campers learn about being a great teammate in every aspect of their summer experience. These campers aren’t simply on a single team – they are part of a team with their cabin mates, their Dining Hall table and their respective Orange or Blue squad. Being a great teammate is a skill that will benefit a child for their entire life.

Executive Director of Head Start Basketball Mike Klintzing describes 12 qualities of a great teammate. I hope you enjoy!

Not every athlete has been blessed with great talent, but every player – regardless of ability – can be a great teammate. Here are 12 qualities of a great teammate. Do these qualities describe you or your young player?

1. A great teammate gives relentless effort
Remember, your coach should not have to coach effort! You cannot control many things that will happen during your Basketball season, but you can control how hard you play. The only way to get better is to give your maximum effort. This not only makes you better, it pushes your teammates to get better as well.

2. A great teammate is unselfish
Put the team first. Your job is to do what it takes to help the team be successful. This isn’t always easy, but great teammates find a way to put the success of the team above their own success.

3. A great teammate is honest
All great teams and relationships are built on honesty. Your coach and teammates need to know that they can trust you during the ups and downs of a season.

4. A great teammate is humble
Basketball is a team sport. You may be the star of your team, or you may be a role player, either way, remember that the team comes first. Put your individual accomplishments aside and give praise to your teammates. Teams succeed when no one cares who gets the credit.

5. A great teammate holds themselves and their teammates accountable
You should have high standards for yourself and your teammates. If a teammate is not fulfilling their duty to the team, you can’t be afraid to confront them and get them back on track. You might need to help them buy into a particular strategy or help them accept their role on the team. Don’t accept a negative attitude from teammates, be the player that reaches out to them to help your team.

6. A great teammate strives to improve
You can always be a better player tomorrow than you are today. Work to improve your game and you will lift your teammates. Stay and work after practice and see how many teammates start to join you.

7. A great teammate is optimistic
You can always be a better player tomorrow than you are today. Work to improve your game and you will lift your teammates. Stay and work after practice and see how many teammates start to join you.

8. A great teammate has respect for others
Respect your teammates. Respect your coaches. Respect your family. Respect your teachers. Respect your facilities. Respect your school. Look people in the eye. Nod and acknowledge your coach when they are addressing you. Clean up after yourself. Be polite. Encourage and cheer on your teammates. Help create a culture of mutual respect.

9. A great teammate is a leader
You don’t have to be the best player on your team to be a leader. You don’t even need to be a vocal leader. Every player can lead by their actions. Is what you do on a daily basis making your team better? Challenge your teammates during drills. You’ll improve and so will they. Bring energy to every practice. Don’t talk badly about teammates or coaches outside the team environment. These are all ways you can lead your teammates towards success.

10. A great teammate is resilient
Help your team use temporary setbacks or losses as an opportunity to grow and improve. Don’t make excuses, look for solutions. As a mentally-tough Basketball player, pride yourself on being resilient. Your ability to bounce back will be infectious and help make your entire team more resilient. In any situation, one player’s positive outlook can make a difference. Try to be that player.

11. A great teammate helps foster a family atmosphere
Support your teammates like family. Your season is going to have highs and lows, and so are your teammates. Teams that build close relationships are usually the teams having the most fun and having the most success.

12. A great teammate takes responsibility
All of your actions, within and away from the team, are a representation of your team, your school or organization, and your family. Take responsibility for your behavior and actions at all times. Conduct yourself in such a way that your parents, coaches, and teachers would be proud of you. You never know who is looking at you for cues on how to behave.

I hope you found this article to be helpful. Being a great teammate in life will mean success in sports, personal life and career.

10 Oct How the Mindset of an Olympian Can Be Developed and Used by Any Athlete at Any Level

How the Mindset of an Olympian Can Be Developed and Used by Any Athlete at Any Level

I recently read an article by Dr. Colleen Hacker on how to develop the mindset of an Olympian. Dr. Hacker specializes in Sport and Exercise Psychology and was on the coaching staff for six Olympic teams in three different sports (Soccer, Field Hockey and Ice Hockey).

Dr. Hacker contends that Olympians aren’t just born, they are “developed through passion, perseverance, practice and purposeful action.”

She believes the same principles and techniques we cultivate to achieve excellence in the Olympic Games can be mastered and adopted by athletes and teams at any level and in any sport.

That said, let me share with you Dr. Hacker’s 5 mindset principles of Olympians, the fundamentals of this mindset take place every day at Susquehannock…

1. You don’t have to finish first to be a winner
We challenge our athletes to carry themselves as champions regardless of the score or outcome both in practice and in competition. Athletes can exhibit integrity and positive character in all aspects of sport and in life. They don’t depend on winning to maintain confidence, a passion for playing and practicing, joy in being with their teammates and a commitment to becoming a better version of themselves as athletes, as teammates and as people.

2. Control the Controllables
Each sport is comprised of four pillars: technical components (skills unique to that sport), tactical components (team strategy, offense, and defensive sets, etc.), physiological components (strength, endurance, speed, flexibility, anaerobic power, etc.) and psychological components (mental toughness, imagery, focus, confidence, action plans, etc.).

Just like Olympians, athletes at every level should be actively practicing and targeting improvements in each of the four pillars daily. However, not all aspects of sport are completely under an athlete’s control. Athletes cannot control their opponents, the officials, the weather, or the score (and countless other competitive variables), but they can control many factors. Focusing on and targeting the variables under their control can help athletes improve, enjoy the process, maximize their potential and play like champions. So, when we ask athletes to “Control the Controllables,”we emphasize things like attitude, work rate, effort, their response to errors, bench behavior, good sporting behavior, being a good teammate, positive body language and productive actions to name a few.

3. Understand the Power of “New Math” which we represent with the equation 1+1=3
We remind our team that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We are stronger together. We challenge our athletes to make a teammate look good, play for something bigger than themselves, adopt a team-first attitude and celebrate and recognize a range of important team behaviors much broader than simply talent on the field, court or ice.

4. Play in the NOW!
There are only three points in time; the past, the future and NOW. Only one of those time frames is under your control, and that is playing in the now. It’s so easy to get caught up in the future: if we score, or don’t / if I make the team or don’t / if we win the gold medal, or don’t and on and on and on. Equally likely is the temptation to dwell on the past: thinking about a mistake you made, the “bad” call from the official or the time the coach corrected you in public. However, only when you focus on the now – the present – this moment, this play, this puck, this defensive stop, only then are you really in control as an athlete.

5. Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset
We challenge our athletes to expect to learn something new each day. When you expect to learn, you do! Have a spirit of openness and cultivate a growth mindset. Be coachable. Take responsibility to share knowledge and experience and insight as often as you ask for help, guidance, and correction. Appreciate small improvements in any of the four pillars and understand that big things come from the smallest changes.

When you watch Olympians, take the opportunity to look for examples of these five Mindset Principles. You will see countless moments of excellence in which athletes and teams displayed these techniques regardless of the sport or outcome. Often, you will see that being an inner winner is a common feature for every Olympic athlete and team.

I hope you enjoyed this bit of information. Once again, members of Team USA will be joining us at Susquehannock next summer in hopes of passing on these principles to the campers.