Is your child engaged in some high contact sports on a regular basis? Are they a ferocious little fighter that always wants to get into the thick of the action without considering the potential for injury?
If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, then you should be extra attentive to the signs and symptoms of a concussion. Concussions have become a major talking point in professional football and hockey because they are becoming far too common as the physical strength of players keeps improving. But it’s not even that they are more common place today than ever before. Research into the long-term side-effects of concussions has revealed a lot of startling facts about head injuries that we may have suspected, but did not know for sure. So the potential for concussions has increased at the same time as we are learning just how harmful they are for long-term mental health.
Concussions in Youth Sports Are Rare
Lucky for you, concussions are more a phenomenon of professional sports than recreational youth sports. However, that is no reason to be negligent.
Here are some common symptoms of a concussion to look out for in your child:
The most obvious side-effect is headaches. If your child has suffered a concussion they will undoubtedly begin to experience waves of headaches on a consistent basis. To be even more exact, most concussion-related headaches feel like there is a surprising amount of pressure in the head (as opposed to a dull or sharp pain otherwise associated with headaches). If your child describes a sensation of pressure, then take them right to the doctor.
Don’t let yourself explain dizziness as a sign of fatigue, hunger, or thirst. While it’s possible your child is dizzy for these reasons, it is also possible they are dizzy from a minor concussion from their soccer game the night before.
Another symptom that is hard to isolate as ‘concussion-related’ is vomiting. If your child vomits for no apparent reason, begin asking about any knocks or bumps they have received recently. If they are unable to remember the specifics of a particularly bad knock, it could be that they are suffering from amnesia related to a concussion.
Is your child usually rambunctious? If they have suddenly become listless and aimless, it could be linked to a concussion. You will notice this listlessness a day or so after the event, so make sure to check in with your child as much as possible about how their game or practice went.
Change in Eating Habits
The final symptom to mention here is a change in appetite. Specifically, a loss of appetite in combination with any one of the other symptoms mentioned above is cause for concern.
How Long Should You Wait?
If you suspect any symptoms are linked to a concussion, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. There is no way to be sure of a concussion without getting the appropriate medical tests done. Needless to say, the cost of skipping treatment for a concussion could have negative ramifications on the future mental health of your child – so it’s always best to be thorough.
The key to athletic prowess is being quicker than your opponent. They might have a strong defensive set-up that is challenging to penetrate, but if your foot speed and agility is better than theirs, it’s only a matter of time before you pierce their defenses. This is true of all sports, whether it’s basketball, baseball, soccer, or hockey. For the purposes of this blog post we will focus on soccer, one of the most popular recreational youth sports in the country.
Foot Speed Starts with Strength Training
Explaining this to children will probably take some time. Sure they want to win, but do they want to put the extra work in to have that extra physical edge? Perhaps not.
That’s why it’s always best to begin with strength training or endurance activities. Things like group jogging sessions or a trip to the local cross-fit gym will inspire the kids to pay more attention to their own physical health.
Once you have the general fitness levels up to your standard, it’s time to get specific.
Here are 4 drills to choose from that will improve the foot speed of your soccer team:
1. The Slalom
This is a fun and challenging drill to try. All you need is a five orange cones and a at least two soccer balls.
Take the five orange cones and separate them by 8-10 yards or so. You want to put them in a diagonal formation going forward to make it challenging for the players to dribble through them all.
Make a start and a finish line, and let the slalom begin. Standard is five reps and two sets.
One side note: to increase the pressure, start timing the runs of each player. Then remind them of that time as they are going through to inspire them to do better.
2. The Crossover
An athlete’s foot speed is tied directly to the strength of their calves and hips. In this drill, called the crossover, you will focus their energy on strengthening the hip muscles. Doing the crossover is a pretty standard move on the pitch – but the players that can do it seamlessly will have a great advantage.
Line the players up facing you, the coach. When you shout go, the children should run forward will performing the crossover. Their upper body should not move, only their hips and legs. They will only change direction when you clap your hands. Finally, when you shout “turn and go” they are to sprint back to starting position. Perform this drill in two sets of three reps.
3. The Shuttle
This next one is quite straightforward. Have the children from a single line at the designated cone. Place five soccer balls 10 years away from the cone. The player must run out and dribble all five soccer balls back across the line as fast as possible.
Perform this drill three times in a row for each player.
4. The T-Drill
The T-Drill is all about endurance and quick feet. Sure some players may be quick out of the starting gate, but can they maintain the same level for most of the game? Probably not.
In the T-Drill, take four cones and position three cones in a line, roughly five yards between each cone. Take the fourth cone and place it 10 yards in front, thus making a t-shape. Have the player start at the first cone and sprint to the middle cone before shuffling to the right, shuffling all the way to the left, and then sprinting back to the starting point.
Foot Speed Takes Time, Not Extra Effort
As a coach, you have to know just how much strength and endurance training will be beneficial for your team. But gaining fitness and building foot speed is an incremental process that requires building blocks along the way to success – especially at the rec league level. Incorporate one of these four drills each training session but don’t overdo it just because you want them to have quick feet overnight!
Most kids love to sleep in every day. Even if they have the most energy you’ve ever seen during the day, it can still be tremendously difficult to get them up in time for school or early morning practice. It might make sense for something they don’t like to attend (like school), but why does it happen on the weekends for early baseball practice?
It might be because your child has not yet learned the importance of punctuality. With recreational sports, you have an excellent opportunity to show your child the importance of punctuality at a young age.
The opportunity comes because there are so many instances where tardiness will be punished by the coach. For example, if they are late for a soccer practice because they slept in, it’s very possible the coach will demote them to the bench for a couple of games. This is a negative re-enforcement that will illustrate to your child the importance of being ready on time – and the best part is that you did not have to do any actual ‘teaching’ to get the message across!
It Gets Harder with Age
If your child hits teenage-hood without internalizing the importance of punctuality, you can basically assume they will remain tardy for most of their adult life. This could impact their success at school, their record in the workplace, and ability to even pay taxes on time every year!
Here’s the thing: being clear about the merits of punctuality needs to happen in childhood because it is at a young age that kids are most impressionable. A lot is at stake and recreational sports is a tool to help.
But How Important is Punctuality, Really?
It is commonly understood that punctual kids are far more successful at school.
Here are 3 reasons why recreational sports help your child learn the benefits of punctuality at a young age:
- Creates Routine. One of the most important components to a healthy and structured life is routine. Creating a routine for your child that is sustainable is the key, and sports is a great tool for that. Two weeknight practices and one weekend game is just enough structure outside of school to keep your child in sync. The best routines are those that don’t change much week-over-week, and sports is great for that.
- Supports Schedule Making and Planning. Your child can see from the organization of their team that scheduling and planning is key to success. A well-organized team schedule will be seamless and enjoyable for everyone. As an adult, you can probably attest to the fact that punctuality is all about time-management, and the key to successful time-management is scheduling your own time effectively. All these different attributes are being digested by your child as they attend weekly practices and realize how much time they need to prepare for a game.
- Enforces the Importance of Obligation. Missing a game or practice because you did not leave on time is the greatest lesson in punctuality your child can learn. Being part of a team creates an obligation to be ready at the scheduled time. Once this lesson is internalized and understood, it can be applied to every other life pursuit, whether it’s school, work, a meeting, or leaving the house with enough time to catch a flight.
Coaches of youth sports teams have an interesting and difficult challenge. Not only do they want to see their players succeed and improve, but they have to manage the often sensitive emotions of children. Children don’t respond well to failure, and they don’t always respond well to victory either, which can make them arrogant. Youth coaches must coach both the game and the players as well. They must remember that the game is supposed to be fun and exciting, but it also is about teaching character building. What methods do they use?
Defining Full Potential
It’s difficult to define “full potential” in a way that doesn’t do more harm than good. “Full potential” seems to indicate a maximum bar that cannot be exceeded. The idea of unlocking a youth athlete’s “full potential” may sound positive on the surface but it can also sound intimidating and discourage children in a way that good coaches do everything in their power to avoid.
“Full potential” should be defined by the player and their willingness to commit to the game. As someone who has engaged in competitive sports myself and coached as well, I’ve never been satisfied with my current level of excellence. My goal was not to be better than other players who were at a higher level than myself, but to improve every day and every year. There was never any sense to having reached “full potential” or believing that perfection could be achieved or was worth attempting to achieve. The key was always steady improvement.
As with most things in life, improvement happens naturally, through hard work, through commitment, and through desire.
Identifying Areas for Improvement
A coach’s job is made that much more difficult by the fact that kids have a difficult time listening to and accepting criticism. They don’t have a problem with results, however, and they do want to get better. The coach’s job is to instill not only the desire to improve but an unwillingness to settle for anything less than trying their best.
While patience may not be a virtue of professional league coaches whose jobs are related to their immediate and consistent success, it has to be a trait of youth coaches. Youth coaches can also teach their players to be patient with themselves, something that most young people have a difficult time doing.
The Toughest Opponent
The cliché goes that “the toughest opponent you will ever face is yourself”. The lesson to in this saying is that children must consider successes in terms of their personal progression and growth. That means steady improvement, and raising the bar after an achievement. Youth sports are about personal growth and character. If we teach kids anything, it should be how to grow and persevere in the face of a challenge.
For more information on youth sports leagues, please visit our webpage at League Network.
Every sports league is filled with players who are competent, others who stand a cut above the rest, and those who don’t have the skills needed to succeed in the sport. Every team is made up of these players, and many coaches understandably favor their best players. They see these players as having the potential to do great things. For one reason or another, most coaches, unfortunately, do not take the time to work with those who need a great deal of improvement.
It’s important to understand that at the youth level, being “great” means having a natural talent for something. That does not mean; however, that they’re beyond the capacity for improvement. The learning curve for younger athletes is sharp and gets steeper at each successive level. You’ll find that only a small percentage of the players that were considered “great” in their youth leagues make it to the professional level.
There Are Different Kinds of Project Players
There are some kids, no matter how hard they try, that will never be competent at playing baseball, football, basketball, or hockey. That’s ok. Not everyone is going to succeed or enjoy sports at a high level. Nonetheless, their parents convince them to participate in team sports, and they get through the process as best they can. Generally speaking, coaches try to get kids to take an interest in the sport, but their lack of ability soon reveals itself as a major roadblock. Parents often get upset with the coaches because they don’t feel like they’re doing enough, but no amount of coaching is going to turn a sub-par player into a professional level athlete.
There are other players that are naturally athletic but don’t have the fundamentals down yet to achieve their full potential. In instances like these, a good coach might pair up a player like this with the best player on the team for drills and catching. The idea here is to allow the player to learn the habits and skills that the naturally talented player has, so they too can develop some of those skills.
Practice Makes Perfect
Natural athletes that don’t have sound fundamentals can be taught those skills and improve greatly as a result. There are times when players make it into professional ranks based on raw talent alone. The hope is that coaches at the professional and minor league level can hone their natural abilities and instincts to make them great.
As with most things in life, sports excellence requires dedication, practice, and a willingness to listen and learn. While coaches appreciate coaching great players, they take a special kind of pride in developing those diamonds in the rough into full-fledged stars. It’s no different at the youth level.
Coaching at the youth level is about growth and improvement. The pressure of winning and the expectations of success can wait in favor of kids learning and growing from the experience. While not everyone is cut out for sports even as a recreational activity, a good coach can inspire pride, improvement, and willingness to grow no matter what the skill level of the player.
For more articles and information on youth sports leagues, please visit our website: League Network.