How do you nurture your little athletes?
1. Make sure they drink plenty of water before, during, and after their practice or event. The amount varies by age and intensity of sport. Most need 1-2 8 oz of water within a few hours before–if they have it all right before they will have to go to the bathroom. Have 1-2 8oz during activity depending on heat, humidity, and intensity of activity. They should hydrate after the activity with 1-2 8oz of water. Some kids like Gatorade or electrolyte water. Gatorade also has dyes and sugars which can be harmful so you might want to monitor their consumption.
2. Post work out athletes should consume protein. Try bars, shakes, or almonds.
3. EAT plenty of fresh fruit (especially prior to activity) and vegetables as well as lean protein. Carbs should only be increased prior to activity. Just because they are consuming plenty of calories does not excuse them to consume double cheese burgers and whole pizzas. Bad habits catch up to them eventually.
4. Make sure they have a yearly physical and communicate any concerns to your doctor.
5. Teach them to listen to their bodies. Some muscle aches mean they need to stretch or push themselves past the discomfort and move while other muscle pains mean stop and ice. Learn what to look for in tendonitis, sprains, strains, bruising, or fractures. An informed parent, grandparent, or guardian can make all the difference in getting proper treatment and recovery.
6. Encourage your athlete to use their other talents such as leadership or compassion. An athlete who helps an opponent up earns respect as opposed to the athlete who shoves his opponent down. Teach them to be considerate of their teammates especially those who do not have much athletic abilities.
7. Model good sportsmanship so they know what it looks like! This means that you don’t swear or demean in any way any one within the vicinity of this sport: coaches, refs, opponents, teammates, your athlete, or other parents.
8. Help your child set realistic goals. If they want to be an olympian start with them learning the sport. Next they can have short-term goals that involve the current season or preparing for the season. Then they can set goals to improve their skills and outcomes. Finally they can set goals to achieve beyond their team such as state championships. If team mates or communities do not support their goals do the best you can to encourage them to improve themselves.
9. Encourage them to participate in other sporting activities especially during the off-season. Also encourage them to learn other things like music or art. Encourage them to do well in their academics. They need to be eligible to play and learning is a life time pursuit that will enhance their athleticism. An understanding of physics can go far to improve their abilities.
10. Instead of telling them the things they need to improve on, ask them what they think–even if you are the coach. Get them to take responsibility not just for their mistakes but also for their strengths.
May you thrive in nurturing your future olympian or healthy offspring.