by Alek Sabin
Competitive sports can be a wonderful activity that teach kids a ton of important lessons. Doing creative sports helps kids stay active and learn to work as part of a team, as well as how to win and lose graciously. However, many types of competitive sports can come with a degree of risk to the health of your child, if you approach it carelessly. There are a variety of physical and psychological pressures that competitive sports puts on kids and their bodies. Here are some tips to remember, when it comes to keeping your kids healthy throughout a sport season…
Make sure they use the right equipment
First of all, it’s important to remember that every sport comes with equipment. Some sports require a ton of specialized gear, such as hockey or fencing, while other sports are far less equipment-intensive, such as soccer. It is important to make sure that your child is using all of their gear and using it in the right way. Most of that equipment is there to keep your child safe during each game, so it is highly important not to forego anything that might prevent an injury. Even just forgetting to wear a mouthguard can cause host of problems for your child’s health.
Teach them the importance of warming up and cooling down
The physical side of playing a sport involves a lot more than just what happens during the run of game time. In order to engage in intense physical activity for a sustained period of time, athletes need to have a period where they stretch and warm up, as well as a period where they properly cool down. Teach your kids to have a pre and post workout routine for whenever they have an intensive practice or game. It’s important not neglect this aspect. Forgetting to stretch before a game greatly increases the chances of tearing muscles and ligaments.
Help take some of the pressure off of winning
Not all of the dangers of playing competitive sports are physical. Indeed, there is a psychological aspect that shouldn’t be ignored, when it comes to such intense competition. Any athlete feels an intense amount of pressure to win, and probably feels that they owe it to their coach, family, friends, and teammates.
While this drive to win is a key part of competitive sports, it can also be internally destructive to put this much pressure on a child to succeed at sports at a young age, whether they are just recreational or are for a school. There are tangible effects that can be seen on how the stress to succeed affects many athletes, and is part of the reason why athletes have higher risks of developing addiction or engaging in substance abuse.
Encourage a healthy diet
Sports can take a tremendous amount of energy for a child to keep up in. For this reason, having a healthy diet is a crucial part of keeping your child healthy during the duration that they are playing a sport. Make sure that your child is keeping hydrated and eating enough carbs and protein to maintain a high energy level, and make sure to cut back on the sugar while they are in the midst of a physically intense season.
Don’t force them to play something they hate
Kids who are serious about the sport that they play are more likely to follow the procedures and take the precautions to keep themselves safe, especially if they are taught to understand that these steps will allow them to play better and for longer. On the other hand, forcing a child to participate in something that they hate increases the risks of your child getting hurt, because they are more likely to be careless if they don’t enjoy the sport that they are playing.
This isn’t to say that you should take your child out of something at the first sign that they complain or struggle with something. You should always push them to try to succeed, but don’t keep your child in something that they obviously have no interest in being in, because you might be risking their health and wellbeing.