I personally love trivia, it presents opportunities to actively learn about things I otherwise may not have been interested about. I also love working with young athletes because each individual presents different challenges and learning experiences for me as a trainer.
Their psychology and physiology are quite different than adults, and oftentimes as coaches or parents we forget how to be empathetic towards this.
Here are a few questions related to you (if you are an athlete), to your athlete (if you are a parent), or an athlete you know (coach, relative)!
Test your Knowledge on 6 Questions about Student Athletes
If you coach young female athletes or are the parent of one, this is an important condition to know about as it is relatively common in very active athletes. Amenorrhea is the absence of a woman's period, typically as a result of frequent activity.
If you selected the option of "infrequent periods", you weren't entirely wrong, this is a similar condition called oligomenorrhea.
Amenorrhea is more of a symptom than a condition, as it could be caused by intensive exercising, but also stress, physical illness, or extreme weight loss. It's usually not serious, but could be a reason for concern, as it may lead to a higher risk of stress fractures.
It may also be a good idea to check in with how your athlete is doing handling the physical and mental stressors of practice, competition, and school! That's a lot to have on a young person's plate!
Athlete Super Foods
I kid you not, nutrition is a secret weapon in athletic performance and beets and spinach are the most powerful weapons of them all. Spinach isn't just for Popeye, it is a nutritional bad ass full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Throw it in with smoothies (the taste is almost undetectable), omelets, soups, pasta dishes, or get creative with spinach muffins and other unique eats.
Beets are excellent for overall health, but also have acute effects on athletic performance. Multiple studies have proven that beets, when consumed a certain amount of time before competing, significantly reduced oxygen consumption during the event.
This means that athletes could run harder and faster while using LESS oxygen. One could say it is a natural supplement, that beet.
The answer? 30 million! It's amazing how many young athletes we have across the nation that have raised the standards of competition not only nationally, but globally as well.
Luckily, we have hundreds of Universities, Colleges, and Junior Colleges across the country where the cream of the crop can continue on with their careers.
The question for a young athlete then becomes, how do I earn a place on a roster and get my college education paid for?
Want the secret?
Show up every day, listen to your coaches and mentors, and work hard. Day in, and day out. Until that consistent effort accumulates into something dangerous in competition.
According to an orthopedic review published in Pub Med Central, the majority of injuries occur at the knee, then ankle, then hand.
The ankle and knee joints are both vulnerable areas when it comes to contact sports like football, soccer, basketball, and hockey.
There is no preventing accidental injuries like landing on someone's foot after a jump and spraining your ankle, or getting side swiped at the knee in a freak tackle; however, there are two key rules to lower your odds.
The first rule, the stronger your muscles surrounding any joint, the harder it is for that joint to be injured. Therefore, strength training is a crucial component to any offseason or preseason conditioning program.
The second rule, is the lower you play during practice or competition, the less likely you are to have incidental contact mess you up. Imagine running relatively straight up and down and a Division 1 Linebacker dives for your legs on a tackle. Your chances of tearing your MCL, ACL, and/or meniscus just went up.
Now, imagine you anticipated his tackle and crouched before he made contact, now you've just put your knee joint in a less vulnerable position! There are hundreds of examples from various sports that I can think of, but who has time for that right now? The moral of the story: lower is stronger!
Banged and Bruised
I thought this was relatively interesting. The two most common injuries among young athletes are contusions and strains.
Contusions (i.e. bumps and bruises) make sense, but why strains before sprains? Well, come to think about it, kids are growing at a fast rate, and the growth rate of muscles has a hard time keeping up with that of bones, causing tightness.
They also sit at desks all day in school, or crash on the couch in front of a video game or TV show when they get home. Sitting, as you know if you have a desk job or drive a lot, is just one example of real life causing muscle tightness, specifically in the low back and hamstrings.
To combat the muscle tightness that occurs from growth and sitting, and decrease the rate of not only strains but overuse injuries, enforce a stretching program with your team if you are a coach, or spend at least 10 minutes with your kids every night stretching. This is good for you too, mom and dad!
Athletes, at any level, NEED Accountability
All of the above traits are obviously traits that should be valued by athletes; however, the one that stands out the most to me is accountability.
It is purely my opinion, that the adults in young peoples lives in recent years has created a culture of young people who are more entitled and "soft" than ever before.
We allow pointing fingers and excuses to be made far too often, rather than asking the young person what they could or could have done to better a situation or adversity of any kind.
As a coach and trainer, I am not afraid in the least to call someone out when they are making a mistake. If I let behavior or actions that I believe to be self-limiting or self-sabotaging happen, then I'm not doing my job nor do I truly care for that person.
That said, parents, your athlete's coaches need help! Here's what you can do:
1. Be a pillar of positivity for your athlete
When they meet failure, which they inevitably will at some point, the worst thing you can allow them to do is make excuses or point blame (coaches, refs, teammates, etc.).
It's easy to do, but don't enable that mentality, it's how losers think.
Winners focus on what they can control, and while they may be self-critical, they continue to focus on the positive and eventually come up with solutions through constructive thinking.
The truth is hard, but sometimes feelings have to get hurt for progress and growth to occur, I would imagine that's a pretty tough conversation as a parent, but ultimately necessary.
2. Throw Your Ego Out, help them grow
I see a lot of parents take the love out the game for their child because they put so much pressure on them to meet standards or perform at a level they aren't ready for and thus can't yet meet (ego example: 'My child should be playing more/better').
Parents, it's not about where you think your kiddo should be at, honestly that way of thinking is too broad for sports. Sports are too much of a journey and process to have the focus be on the big picture, it's great to have that in the back of your mind (college scholarship, winning championships, starting), but those things will be byproducts of learning from their experiences along the way.
Sports are great teachers of service, teamwork, confidence, competition, commitment, discipline, hard work, sacrifice, being a role model, and so much more! Help your athlete focus on growing in these areas and their performance and long-term opportunities will be a byproduct of their understanding!
3. Help them cultivate healthy habits
Healthy habits that are direct influencers on athletic performance are:
Having good habits in these areas will help them be more focused and give them more energy for school, their sport, and then life after!
Cultivating mentally and physically strong student athletes is a unique challenge. There are many things to take into account, from injury prevention to the psychology of individual athletes.
How are we helping - or hurting - the athletes in our lives? What we can do better to help them become better young men and women? Or, if you are a young person reading this, how can you take ownership in your growth?
ACLM, M. G. (n.d.). Whole Beets vs. Juice for Improving Athletic Performance. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://nutritionfacts.org/video/whole-beets-vs-juice-for-improving-athletic-performance/
Adirim, T. & Cheng, T. (2003). Overview of Injuries in the Young Athlete. Sports Medicine Journal, 33(1), 75-81.
Bailey SJ, Winyard P, Vanhatalo A, Blackwell JR, Dimenna FJ, Wilkerson DP, Tarr J, Benjamin N, Jones AM. Dietary nitrate supplementation reduces the O2 cost of low-intensity exercise and enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise in humans. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Oct;107(4):1144-55. Epub 2009 Aug 6.
Hutchinson, M., MD, & Nasser, R., MD. (n.d.). Common Sports Injuries in Children and Adolescents. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/408524_4
S. (n.d.). Sports At Any Cost. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://projects.huffingtonpost.com/ncaa/sports-at-any-costf