06 Feb 10 Benefits for Girls from Sports and an Active Lifestyle

10 Benefits for Girls from Sports and an Active Lifestyle

This week I want to focus on the girls. Sorry to the parents of boys, but this topic is important and some of the benefits also translate very well to your boys.

I was recently researching information and studies provided by the Positive Coaching Alliance. What caught my attention is the fact that the benefits I am going to share with you are created at Susquehannock each summer. The beauty of this is your daughter does not need to be an elite athlete to enjoy these benefits. Simply participating in sports for fun will create the same benefit.

What the research shows is there is a direct correlation between girls who participate in sports and “stronger educational attainment, positive health outcomes and improved adult employment results.”

Sports at school, intramural, club, other recreational programs, or a summer at Susquehannock is critical for girls to succeed. Take a look at the following facts provided by PCA and their research – they are profound!

Wide-Ranging Life-Long Health Benefits
1. Girls and women who are most physically active in adolescence and young adulthood are 20% less likely to get breast cancer later in life.

2. Girls who participate in regular exercise experience lower rates of depression.

3. Girls who participate in sports demonstrate higher self-esteem.

Myriad Educational Benefits
4. Overall, girls who play sports have higher grades and score higher on standardized tests than non-athletes.

5. Girls who participate in sports are significantly more likely to graduate compared to non-athletes. The correlation is particularly strong for Black and Latinx girls.

6. At the collegiate level, young women who receive sports scholarships graduate at higher rates than young women students generally.

Employment and Workforce Dividends
7. Executive businesswomen report engagement with sports contributed to their success by providing leadership skills, discipline, and teamwork abilities.

8. A study of 821 senior managers and executives found that 94% of women executives reportedly played organized sports after primary school.

9. Girls who played high school sports show higher levels of adult labor force participation and are correlated with earning 7% higher wages than non-athlete peers.

10. As a result of Title IX (the Federal Civil Rights law requiring gender equity), more girls playing sports and more women are entering male-dominated professions at higher rates.

As you can see, sports and an active lifestyle are so important for young girls and we foster this lifestyle at Susquehannock. Girls have the opportunity to play 10 different team sports, as well as two individual sports (Tennis and Swimming). They will also be involved in other activities including overnight camping, ziplining. climbing tower, lake activities, arts ‘n’ crafts, cabin skit nights, singing, cheering and other fun events.

The best part is: your daughter does not have to be a super athlete to benefit from a summer at Susquehannock. Girls of all athletic abilities can attend and enjoy sports.

23 Jan Relative Energy Deficiency (REDs) and Prevention Through Nutrition

Relative Energy Deficiency (REDs) and Prevention Through Nutrition

Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport – better known as REDs or RED-S – can be hard to diagnose, but essentially it happens to children/athletes when they’re consistently expending more energy than they’re taking in. For both boys and girls, this can take a serious physical toll on their bodies, resulting in decreased performance and an increased risk of illness and injury.

While under-fueling can be intentional, often REDs occurs even when athletes believe that they’re fueling and training appropriately. That means as parents, you should be paying attention to signs and symptoms of REDs, but also actively helping your athlete prevent it.

In the article below, TrueSport Expert Stephanie Miezin, MS, RD, CSSD, shares how nutrition plays an important role in the prevention of REDs for children/athletes, and how caregivers can help athletes make smart nutritional choices. Coaches, parents, and athletes can also find more information in TrueSport’s REDs Guide.

Nutrition is Within Your Control
As a parent or caregiver, you may not be able to control your athlete’s practice schedule, school calendar, or competition schedule. But you can control what they eat when they’re home, and what they bring with them to school and practice for meals and snacks. Because of this, says Miezin, nutrition is a great place to focus your attention to help prevent REDs.

Prioritize Prevention
If your athlete is not having any problem with performance, illness, or injury, it may be tempting to not think about REDs at all. However, the best way to deal with REDs is to prevent it, especially since diagnosis can be difficult. So be proactive and focus on creating smart, sustainable nutrition habits now.

Discuss REDs With Your Athlete
“One of the most important things you can do to help an athlete prevent REDs from being a problem is talking about it,” says Miezin. “Bring awareness to it, and help your athlete understand that if their energy expenditures are greater than their intake – whether they’re actively trying to lose weight because they think they should, or they just don’t have much of an appetite during the day – there is a good chance they may see a decline in performance and even health, especially if continued for longer periods of time.”

Then, connect the dots between REDs and nutrition. Miezin says it’s important to help your athlete understand that finding the balance between energy in and out means ensuring that they are fueling enough.

Don’t Count Calories – Focus on the Big Picture
You may assume that REDs prevention means counting calories obsessively and tracking macronutrients. However, Miezin prefers a more relaxed approach. For example, you can use TrueSport’s “athlete’s plate” illustrations to easily see what a meal should consist of, broken into quadrants on a standard sized plate.

“For most young athletes, skip using the easy day plate option,” she says. “Focus on the moderate to hard day plates for most meals that they’re going to be consuming, where carbohydrates from a variety of sources are prioritized. It’s a really easy way to know how much of each food group your athlete needs based on their activity level.”

Make it Hard to Miss a Meal or Snack
“Help your athlete avoid skipping meals and snacks,” says Miezin. “Of course, it will happen occasionally, but it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence. Every time we skip a meal or a snack, we are missing an opportunity to contribute to overall daily energy needs and missing the nutrition we need.”

If your athlete is often on the go, help them stock their locker and bags with easy-to-eat snacks that are shelf-stable and tasty. Pretzels and peanut butter, trail mix, crackers, and shelf-stable cartons of chocolate milk are all easy options that your athlete can keep in a locker without risking a mold outbreak. Additionally, if you’re often driving between practices, keep a stash of snacks in your car.

Miezin recommends that athletes eat at least three times a day – ideally with some snacks around practice and competition if possible. “Athletes should be having at least three meals a day at minimum, especially if they’re young athletes who are still growing. We know it’s going to be pretty hard to meet their energy needs if they’re only having two meals or one meal in a day.”

Don’t Avoid Food Groups – Especially Carbohydrates
“Young athletes should not avoid any macronutrients or specific food groups, unless there’s an actual medical need to do so,” says Miezin. “When an athlete avoids certain food groups or nutrients, it’s even harder to meet daily energy needs.”

In particular, athletes should not shy away from carbohydrates. “There is emerging evidence around the specific role of carbohydrates as a key nutrient,” she adds. “We are seeing in the research that even if you are getting enough energy in your meals, if you don’t have enough carbohydrates, you may increase the risk of developing REDs. We know that carbohydrates are the best fuel source for performance.”

Help Your Athlete Have a Positive Relationship with Food
“Mindset is important,” says Miezin. “Help your athlete practice a positive relationship with food. We know that REDs isn’t always caused by eating disorders or disordered eating, but there is a bi-directional potential relationship between them.”

Your relationship to food is important as well: if your young athlete grows up seeing you eliminating food groups or skipping meals, they may develop an incorrect understanding of their own fueling needs. So be aware of how you speak about your eating and your food choices as well as how you talk to your athlete about their needs. Miezin also cautions parents to be aware of the food environment they create at home: Are there primarily diet snacks and drinks in the pantry? This can have a profound impact on your athlete’s relationship with food.

Pay Attention for Early REDs Signs and Symptoms
While prevention of REDs is ideal, it’s important to be on the lookout for warning signs and symptoms of REDs. “Pay attention to energy levels,” says Miezin. “If you start to notice that your athlete’s energy, mood, and performance are decreasing for several days or weeks, that can be an early warning sign. You may notice a decrease in strength, power, motivation, energy, response to training and even cognitive function.”

The International Olympic Committee has a simple infographic listing sport-specific signs of REDs here.

“Finally, for young athletes: Are they keeping up with proper growth charts or growth projections?” asks Miezin. Not sure? Ask your pediatrician.

Talk to a Doctor or Health Professional
If you suspect your athlete may be suffering from REDs, it’s important to seek professional help. Miezin recommends starting with a sports medicine physician who may be able to diagnose your athlete. Working with a registered dietitian may also help increase your and your athlete’s nutritional knowledge and make it easier to make the right decisions around fueling.

Because our understanding of REDs is evolving, it is important that you advocate for your athlete when you speak to a practitioner who may not be well versed in REDs. If you don’t have a sports medicine physician or dietitian you can speak to, Miezin recommends bringing TrueSport’s REDs Guide to the doctor’s office with you to show the practitioner. The clinical assessment tool for determining if an athlete has REDs can also be printed for your child’s doctor.

This is particularly important if you have a male athlete, Miezin notes. Before REDs was recognized, most physicians were familiar with the Female Athlete Triad for athletes, which included things like the loss of a menstrual cycle and stress fractures, and eventually became the basis for REDs. However, male athletes are susceptible to REDs as well.

In order to prevent REDs, nutrition plays a critical role. Make sure your athlete’s energy intake (the food that they eat) matches their energy expenditure (the energy used while practicing and competing). Focus on using the athlete’s plate model to prepare meals, make sure your athlete eats three meals per day plus snacks, and don’t skip the carbohydrates.

10 Jan 5 Keys to Your Child’s Mental Success in Sports and Life

5 Keys to Your Child’s Mental Success in Sports and Life

Within a sport and during the game, a player’s challenge is to clearly and intently focus their mind on the game without letting the game take over their mind. They must have the ability to calmly and instinctively recognize what needs to be done to execute the task at hand. The key is to be able to realize what needs to be done and doing it without having it enter their mind what would happen if they did not.

But what allows some players to be able to do this while others cannot? Why can some players flush the past and stay in the moment while others let the time between opportunities during the game, and the time between games, consume them with frustration and doubt? What allows some players to have a Growth Mindset to accept failure as a necessary part of progress and development while others are defeated by it?

1. You cannot become on the field or court what you are not in life.
If you pay attention to the details and the process to achieve success in school and in your personal life, you will have the best chance to do so in your sport. If you master life skills such as organization, time management and goal setting, and have an unwavering positive attitude and perseverance outside of your sport, you will have an easier time applying those essential traits in your sport.

2. A player must know that no matter the outcome, they are loved and supported by their family, friends, coaches and teammates.
It is also extremely important that youth realize very early in their lives that while they may not have been able to choose their family, they will benefit immensely by choosing friends with high character and integrity. These emotional components will provide a foundation for inner peace from which excellence in execution can be achieved.

3. Players must know success and happiness in life is not governed by the outcome of a game.
The measure of them as a person and of their team is not whether they won the game or championship; it is determined by how they reacted to winning them.

4. A player must believe their talents, skills, academic study, hobbies and life experience will prepare them for rewarding opportunities outside of their sport.
In this regard, it is critical they choose a college first as if they were not an athlete.

5. A player does not perform to the level of their talent; they perform to the level of their training.
Again, these habits begin outside of their sport. Good grades, for example, are not a true indication of a student’s achievement unless they were obtained from high standards, against elite competition, and through consistent hard work. The same can be said for the benchmarks of success in the player’s sport.

A player’s teammates must be held accountable to meet these same standards of excellence so that during the game a player can trust their preparation too. All parts and aspects of practice must include competitions so players can learn the critical lessons of learning to control what they can control and being comfortable being uncomfortable.

A player will know they are winning the mental side of the game when, regardless of whether they are playing well or not, they are excited to come back tomorrow to do it again. In other words, they are playing the game for the same reason they played it originally – because it is fun!.

21 Dec Maryland Women’s Basketball Coach Brenda Frese: ‘What are we doing to youth sports?’

Maryland Women’s Basketball Coach Brenda Frese: ‘What are we doing to youth sports?’


When she watches her twin boys play sports, Brenda Frese is quiet. She stays out of the way. She never interferes, never shouts instructions.

She’s tempted, though. Sometimes she’s really tempted.

“People get all consumed by the ego and just winning at a young age,” Maryland’s women’s basketball coach for more than 21 seasons tells USA TODAY Sports. “I remember my kids started basketball, and they’re being put in a zone defense to win a game. And I’m like, ‘What are we doing?’ We should be teaching these kids man before you teach them zone because they need to learn the game.

“We’re not trying to win a game for 12-and-under basketball.”

She laughs. Frese restrains herself from talking much during these games. She says plenty internally.

“I watch things being driven by adults,” she says. “I would sit at soccer games and cringe when we’re, as adults, ripping officials. My son now referees for soccer and has had parents go after him and others in the parking lot.”

Frese might be describing someone you know, or perhaps even describing yourself. If that’s the case, here’s a tip: This national champion and two-time national coach of the year doesn’t do it herself.

“What are we doing to youth sports?” asks Frese, who is approaching 650 wins as a Division I head coach. “It’s not that serious. We’re taking the joy away. I watched one soccer game where a dad completely obliterated his kid who was the soccer goalie ’cause he kept getting scored on.

“Just watching some of the temper tantrums by adults makes you sad for the kids and their only time to go through a journey with sports. And to see that joy stolen from ’em makes me really upset when I sit and watch it because it shouldn’t be that way.”

Brenda Frese’s boys, Tyler and Markus were born into the Maryland women’s basketball program.

Frese has coached college basketball for three decades, but she’s a mom first, to sons and, in many ways, to her team. She is following a path paved by her parents, Bill and Donna Frese, who raised six kids stretched 14 years apart in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bill and Donna worked two jobs yet Brenda doesn’t remember them missing a game.

Another point even more poignant when considered today: When they were there, they mostly sat and watched. And cheered.

“Those are the parents for me in our program that I gravitate (to) the most,” Frese says, “and it’s ironic. When you see those kind of parents, those are the kids that are the most successful because the pressure isn’t put on them through their parents. The parents aren’t living vicariously through their kids. It’s a supportive role.”

Brenda and her husband, Mark Thomas, are nudging sons Tyler and Markus, 15, forward as they play high school basketball with similar support, and a healthy dose of foresight. The physical and emotional development of their sons has occurred alongside Brenda’s elevation of a women’s program that has remained elite while standing on a foundation of family values.

“She really understands that it’s a huge compliment when families trust us with their kids,” Thomas says. “She always likes to give the players six days off at Christmas so they can get home and see their families. And even if we’ve had kids who are from overseas, she’ll let them go home, even if they have to miss a game, to be with their family. And I think that’s pretty rare. And I think being a parent yourself gives you a unique understanding of young people and the growing process.”

USA TODAY Sports caught up with Frese and Thomas, who reflected on their roles as sports parents, sharing insight you can use, too.

1. Use Sports to Help Find Your Passion
Our kids often do what we do, especially when it comes to sports. Bill Frese played lots of different sports growing up. It was natural for him to put his kids into as many of them as they could handle, from swimming to track to softball to baseball, basketball and golf.

The process of trying out a lot of sports, Brenda Frese says, opened the eyes of she and her siblings “to go find our passion.”

“What I appreciated out of sports,” she says today, “was anytime, say, you had a bad game, it was never brought up in the car. If, the next morning, you wanted to talk about it and you went to him, then you’d have a conversation. But it was never on him to navigate. He truly made it our passion.”

Most of the Frese siblings played two or three sports into high school but settled, by themselves, on the one they loved. So did their father. When he got home from work, Bill Frese would pull his truck up to the family’s large backyard and field baseballs for Brenda’s brother, Jeff, as Jeff hit off a pitching machine Bill got for him.

Other times, Bill would take Brenda and her sisters to a nearby gym. He rebounded for them, ball after ball, until they couldn’t help but get better.

Brenda now watches her sons rebound as her Maryland players shoot before games, framing their experience with her own youth sports as a backdrop.

“My boys have gravitated toward basketball I think just because they’ve been in the gym so much, but they know if they want some kind of training, they need to ask,” she says. “I’m not gonna be the one to go force some sort of coaching or training on them. If I go to a game, I’ll always take notes and they know that the notes are for feedback if they want it. I never bring it to ’em. It’s more just, like, they have to want to receive it or ask for it.”

As a boy growing up in Maryland with working class parents like Brenda’s, Thomas, her husband, remembers the lack of organization of his sports as part of the fun of them.

“We basically imitated what we saw on TV,” Thomas says. “There was no industry of trained coaches, or trained skill trainers like there are today. It was usually just somebody’s dad coaching you and you might have gotten a T-shirt that said ‘Academy Ford’ on it.”

When he threw their kids into sports — basketball, soccer, tennis, gymnastics, lacrosse, one tried football — Thomas realized much of the carefree nature of his childhood games was gone.

“At (an) early age, it seems like they’re trying to take over your calendar,” he says. “What I quickly learned was, playing multiple sports gave us a little bit of leverage because I could say, ‘Well, we can’t be there 4-5 days a week because he’s playing another sport.’

“Eventually, you may have some hard-line coaches.”

When Markus was in seventh grade, one of them said to players and parents, according to Thomas, “We expect you to only play soccer now and if you’re not just playing soccer, then we don’t want you.”

Markus’ response: “I’m done with soccer.”

“He liked playing soccer, but he wasn’t gonna give up playin’ basketball,” Thomas says. “It’s too bad because he enjoyed that team, he had friends on it, but those were his words: ‘I’m not giving up basketball’.”

2. Work as a Family
Brenda and two of her sisters, Marsha and Stacy, played Division I basketball. Jeff played D-I baseball at the University of Northern Iowa.

Injuries ended Brenda’s playing career at Arizona after three years (1989-1992) and she got into coaching. Her third stop was Iowa State, where she was an assistant and also a coach for her sister, Stacy, for four years. Coaching, from that point forward, became a family affair.

“I think I always remember I’m coaching someone else’s daughter because it is a village,” she says. “That parents have entrusted me with their daughters in what I think are the most impressionable years, when they’re no longer at home and you’re caring for them. It’s something that I value and want to be very supportive and help them as they navigate those next steps in their journey of adulthood when they’re under our watch in college.”

Brenda and Mark met when he produced a weekly, all-access TV show she hoped would bring exposure to her program. It was called “Under the Shell,” a title to which Frese gave meaning when their boys were born on Feb. 17, 2008.

“Brenda’s the only coach that would allow, basically, the reality TV show to follow her pregnancy and be in the delivery room,” Mark says.

It was a point when Frese, her family and her program became entwined. The bond was strengthened further when Tyler fought leukemia as a younger boy and Bill Frese died of prostate cancer in 2022.

Frese’s adopted family rallied around her in both instances, as she has done for players and assistant coaches when they have needed her. She admits she came to Maryland in 2002 after only three seasons of Division I head coaching experience “trying to survive a contract and not get fired,” but her perspective has drastically changed.

“I didn’t know if I was gonna be good enough,” she says. “Things change once you are validated. You gain the confidence, you gain experiences as a coach. Then, as I had a family, I had a son that went through cancer, and I think it slows you down when you’ve had some real-life experiences — that, at the end of the day, it’s just a game, it’s not the end-all, be-all, even though, obviously we’re in a very competitive profession where, if you don’t have success, you’re gonna be let go…

“At some point in my career, once you got there, you felt like, “OK, I can help mentor people.” The winning takes care of itself. My job is to mentor and help (the Maryland players) so I think that’s when it becomes even more enjoyable is when you understand that.”

It’s a lot like raising young athletes.

3. Be Present and “Give the Gift of Yourself”
Episodes of “Under the Shell” are still produced. As you watch them, you can see the genuine joy Frese has interacting — speaking, dancing, singing — with her players. She loves to connect with them away from the court (a great idea for youth coaches, too).

In one episode from the recent past, when they part for some time off at the winter holidays to see their families, Frese gathers in her players and says: “Go give ’em the gift of yourself.”

She was talking about herself, too. If Brenda Frese can do it, so can you.

“She is remarkable,” Thomas says. “She does every single thing she can, even if it means missing a few hours of sleep, to spend time with our boys. Even a road game when she travels and gets back after midnight, she tries her best to be up early so she can have breakfast with the boys before they go to school.”

Her team’s practice schedule usually allows the family to eat dinner together, as her large family once did. Eating together is a crucial time for the family to bond.

Frese takes the time to text with her sons. Tyler, whom she calls her “hype man,” likes to give his opinion on who deserves a team award at the end of a game. She shares daily Snapchats with her boys (they had a streak going at the time of this publication) and television shows they find time to watch together.

“I’ve always felt that it’s kind of my job to never make her feel like she has to choose between her job and her kids,” Thomas says. “So, I never, never, kind of present things like that to her. It’s whatever she needs to do, whatever she can do, it’s cool. And the boys, obviously, love their mother and when she comes home, they kind of forget about me, you know, which is understandable.”

This time, it’s Brenda’s husband who laughs.

4. Put Yourself Out of a Job
Brenda calls Mark “my MVP.” He has stepped away from his own career for Frese and the boys. He gets Markus and Tyler to their junior varsity high school and AAU basketball games, and wherever else they need to go.

“I’m sure my husband’ll be happy once they get their driver’s licenses,” Frese says.

He has thrown himself into their lives, coaching their teams and reading up on the mental aspects of sports, particularly youth sports. He admittedly has a high standard for coaches. One idea he and I discussed is how kids don’t process instructions that are being shouted from parents in the stands as well as coaches.

“They can’t process either one of them, so you’re really just messing your kid up,” he says. “It’s just so counterproductive. It’s embarrassing; it doesn’t set a good example.”

Markus and Tyler were certified as youth soccer referees at 13. (Remember, the next time you are tempted to shout at a ref, know that the teenage referee is someone’s child, too.) As they worked a travel game between kids Thomas estimates were 11, parents constantly chirped at the referees, particularly a middle-aged center ref.

When the game was over, Thomas and his son saw at least one parent follow this ref to his car. They caught up with him and made sure he got there safely.

“My son got a full look at that reality and what people are like,” Thomas says. “Nothing happened other than the guy wouldn’t shut up as the referee was walking to the car.”

Brenda’s schedule prevents her from getting to most of these games but Mark still takes Markus and Tyler to see her coach. As they have watched her over the years, Mark notices, they seem to know when stuff at their practices or games doesn’t make sense.

“They have a totally different perspective and take on their own coaches,” he says. “Having grown up around mom at her practices, seeing how the program runs… I just think she’s been involved at such a level that she sees the silliness in people going overboard at these youth sport events that, in the big picture, are relatively meaningless.”

Her boys have been living sports — watching them, talking about them, observing them — most of their lives. Is it too early to foresee them, like their mom, having a career in them?

“God, I hope not,” Frese jokes.

Like when she’s at their games, she’s going to let them control the outcome.

“I always give the line to our kids, ‘Players play, coaches coach, officials officiate; I think parents should support’,” she says. “Your job as a parent is to put yourself out of a job, teach your kid to be independent and be ready for the real world. But, for sports, just be supportive. You’ve had your path. Your kids just need to know that you love ’em and support ’em regardless if they play well, or don’t play well. I think that’s where they can have a great experience and have a great passion for what sport they find that they like to do.”

I hope you enjoyed this article. Coach Frese shares the same principles and standards we teach at Susquehannock. Let’s never forget youth sports is about developing young children not satisfying the ego of parents and adults.

06 Dec 6 Ways Your Young Athlete Can Set Goals for Physical Wellness

6 Ways Your Young Athlete Can Set Goals for Physical Wellness

If you have an active young child, please take a moment to read this article.

While it’s tempting to set goals for your children around specific athletic performances, goals that are oriented around wellness can make them both a stronger athlete and a healthier human. Simple changes to their daily routine, like making more time for sleep or eating the right snack after practice, can have immediate and long-term benefits, including helping them recover faster, avoid injury and improve their strength and endurance.

Here, Dr. Michele LaBotz, a TrueSport Expert and sports medicine physician, shares 6 simple goals to set around sleep, recovery, nutrition, and strength training that will improve their overall wellness and support your athletic goals.

1. Get Enough Sleep
Did you know that teenagers are supposed to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night for optimum health, not the 7 to 9 hours recommended for adults? And did you know that children 6-12 years old should get 9-12 hours of sleep each night? That’s right: They need more sleep. “More and more evidence is coming out on the importance of meeting these sleep recommendations for injury prevention, athletic performance, and overall mental wellness,” says LaBotz.

If your child is currently getting less than these recommended amounts, LaBotz warns they may be chronically sleep deprived. The trick with chronic sleep deprivation is that they do not actually feel tired. Although cutting back on sleep for a night or two may make them feel drowsy, going with less sleep over longer periods does not create that same feeling. They may feel well-rested, but their body is not. When you are chronically sleep deprived, your body sends false messages about how awake you feel.

The challenge for many young athletes is that between school, sport, family, and friends, it often seems there are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. However, for athletes looking to optimize performance and minimize injury, LaBotz emphasizes that making sleep a priority is key. If your child is not consistently getting the recommended amount of sleep, pick a week (or two) where you are going to follow a sleep schedule based upon the clock, and not on how tired they feel. They may need to gradually build up sleep time over a few days, but after experiencing the changes sufficient sleep can deliver, most athletes feel that it is time well spent!

2. Get Enough Recovery Time
If they are on a travel team and a school team, they may accidentally fall into the “no recovery days ever” trap, says LaBotz. This isn’t good for their body, which means it’s also not good for their long-term development as an athlete. You should have at least one recovery day per week, even if it means skipping a practice to make that happen. This is important for maximizing their physical and mental performance and reducing the risk of injury.

Often, coaches aren’t aware of how much extra work they are doing with the other teams they are on, and if they did, they wouldn’t recommend training as much as they are. Talk to your coach or athletic trainer about what the current total training load looks like and find out if your child should be skipping certain sessions in favor of time off or less intense active recovery.

3. Prioritize Strength Training
“For the vast majority of sports, strength training should be part of training,” says LaBotz. “It should be built into your training week rather than an addition to everything else you are already doing.” If your child is not currently involved in strength training, set a starting goal of doing strength work twice a week for 20 to 30 minutes.

If your coach hasn’t built it into your training plan already, talk to them about how you can best fit it in. You may also want to talk to an athletic trainer to help you build a routine that hits all the major muscle groups. Focus on technique and not just on how heavy the weights are! Remember, strength training should be part of your training for sport, and not just an “added on” activity.

4. Find A Recovery Protocol That Works
Some athletes love to foam roll their legs after a workout. Others prefer hopping in an ice-cold bath to soothe sore muscles. Some prefer doing an easy yoga flow. Find what works and feels good for your child, and make time for it in your routine, says LaBotz. Set a goal of doing a few minutes of active recovery, particularly after a hard workout.

5. Improve Your Post-Workout Refueling
“For athletes who are training every day, it’s important to have a snack that’s rich in carbohydrates and includes a little bit of protein after practice,” says LaBotz. If you typically have dinner within 30 minutes of finishing practice, that’s usually plenty. But if it’s longer than that before you’re home and at the dinner table, you should have a snack on hand that your child can eat when practice is over.

“Make sure they have something in their locker or something in their gym bag they can eat or drink right after they are done,” says LaBotz. This could be as simple as half of a sandwich, a carton of chocolate milk, a handful of trail mix, or some cheese and crackers. (Get more locker-friendly ideas here.)

6. Have A Life Outside of Sports
If they are so busy playing sports that they never have time to see a movie with friends, or to participate in any other extra-curriculars, it’s time to set a goal that actually takes your child away from sports. “You should have variety in your life,” says LaBotz. This variety protects your mental and physical wellness, as well as reduces the risk of burnout in sport.

In addition to setting goals for athletic performance this season, consider setting some that focus on overall wellness. Goals around sleep, recovery, strength, and nutrition will ultimately make it easier to achieve your athletic goals — and make you a stronger, healthier human in the process.

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).