Why Sleep is Crucial in Youth Sports

Why Sleep is Crucial in Youth Sports

The greatest athletes live for their sport. They are what they play, and they do everything in their power to be the best. Eating right, training hard, and getting enough sleep all play a major role in athletic performance. The amount and quality of sleep young athletes get are often crucial to their success because REM sleep allows both the mind and the body to replenish their energies. In sports, players often need to make split-second decisions, and their ability to do that declines with poor sleep.

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

The right fuel and hydration are the most important parts of recovery and training. Exercising depletes fluids, energy, and breaks down muscle. What athletes do before, during, and after exercise or competition determines how quickly their bodies will replenish nutrients and rebuild muscle. It helps them maintain accuracy, endurance, and speed. Research has also shown that stress hormones go up if we don’t get enough sleep, while the production of glycogen decreases. That’s why lack of sleep causes poor focus, low energy, and fatigue at game time, and it may slow the recovery afterward.

Physical Health

Sleep is essential for maintaining physical health. There’s a link between obesity and sleep deprivation, for example, because a lack of sleep will cause an imbalance in the hormones that control appetite. Sleep deprivation can also have metabolic effects, such as an increase in insulin resistance and blood sugar – factors that lead to type II diabetes. Proper sleep also affects the body’s ability to fight off illness and is required for a healthy immune system.

Mental Health

When it comes to children’s mental and emotional health, sleep is required for avoiding many negative mental effects. For example, exaggerated emotional responses to both negative and positive stimuli are associated with a lack of sleep. People typically become more irritable, and their ability to cope with stress gets decreased, which may result in more confrontational behavior. Sleep-deprived people are also less likely to engage in exercise and pursue other activities that they would usually enjoy. In some cases, lack of sleep may predispose people to anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.

Athletic Performance

For peak athletic performance, adequate sleep is crucial. Otherwise, young athletes won’t be able to replenish their energy, keep their minds sharp, causing them to perform sub-optimally. Besides accuracy and speed, sleep also influences reaction time, which are all necessary components to be successful in sports. Athletes may get less than eight hours of sleep per night due to several factors, such as frequent travel, pregame anxiety or excitement, and early morning training sessions.

Ways to Get More Sleep

When demands are high, due to academic responsibilities, practice, competition schedules, and travel, young athletes are exposed to a higher risk of sleep deprivation. Therefore, getting enough sleep becomes a priority.

  • Children and young athletes should know the positive effects of short naps (20-30 minutes) to supplement their inadequate sleep cycle.
  • Creating a relaxing routine before bed will support good-quality sleep by helping them to decompress and manage stress.
  • Help your child create a sleep schedule and stick to it.

Besides improving mental stamina and physical energy during practices and competitions, regular and quality sleep can improve skills that are specific to various sports. For example, it can improve shooting accuracy among basketball players or increase speed among football players. On the other hand, if your child athlete is experiencing decreased reaction time and a quicker onset of exhaustion, it may be due to poor sleeping habits or lack of a good night’s sleep.

Why Kids Quit Sports?

Why Kids Quit Sports?

In recent years, research has shown that children are leaving sports too early. According to a study done by the Aspen Institute, children quit playing sports by age 11 (on average). The increased number of children quitting sports at such an early age is contributing to the epidemic of physical inactivity. The epidemic has been getting increasingly worse over the past 30 years in the U.S. and is dubbed as a global public health problem by the World Health Organization.

Physical inactivity can lead to a wide range of health problems, such as:

  • Obesity and overweight problems during childhood and into adulthood
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

For kids, playing sports is one of the best ways to have fun and stay physically active. But what’s the problem? What are the reasons behind our children’s decisions to quit sports altogether?

  • Not Getting Playing Time

If a child is on a team but never gets a chance to play meaningful minutes, then the child is going to quit. The same goes for kids who get pulled out of the game after even the slightest mistake. Kids need and want to play, and it means a lot to them, not how famous their coach is or how good their team is. Parents and coaches who overemphasize winning at young ages are creating a negative culture that doesn’t allow kids to develop at their own natural pace. When coaches only let the best players play to catch a win, they drive many children out of sports – many of whom may be late bloomers.

  • It’s Not Fun Anymore

According to a 2014 study, youth athletes were asked why they play sports, and the majority answered that they played sports because it was fun. Youth athletes have fun when they are getting playing time, when being treated respectfully by teammates, parents, and coaches, and when they are trying their best. In the study, practicing with private trainers, playing tournaments, and winning weren’t included as characteristics of having fun.

  • Feeling Disrespected

Encouragement and respect are the traits of a great coach. Nobody likes to be disrespected by friends, family, colleagues, or even strangers. However, kids often get disrespected when making a mistake, such as missing a shot or making a bad pass. In that case, leaving sports is inevitable because a disrespectful coach can damage young athletes’ confidence.

  • Not Owning the Experience

Children don’t want their every move to be scrutinized or criticized by adults. It leads to loss of ownership of their experience, so they leave sports and pursue their other interests. If you were wondering why many kids like playing video games for so long, it’s because there’s no one standing there, criticizing their every move. Good coaching doesn’t take away children’s autonomy – kids should be allowed to make their own decisions. Otherwise, the enjoyment gets sucked out of sports.

  • Being Afraid to Make Mistakes

One of the main reasons that kids quit sports is because they get benched, yelled at, or criticized when they make mistakes. Players cannot develop in an environment where they fear mistakes and where they aren’t encouraged to try and fail. Failure is an important part of the entire development process. Parents and coaches who second-guess every action or decision players take or shout comments on the sideline create a culture that makes young players decide to step out of the game.

To become skillful and proficient, it takes years of practice. Coaches and parents shouldn’t expect young athletes to make the perfect decision and action every time or not to make mistakes. Otherwise, poor treatment and taking the fun out of it will make more and more kids get out of sports, contributing to the epidemic of physical inactivity in sports.

Do Youth Sports Help Kids in Academics?

Do Youth Sports Help Kids in Academics?

Many professionals in youth sports will tell you that sports are very beneficial for the kids’ grades and overall success in school.

However, is that really the case? Some people have their doubts, which is why we want to explain why those doubts are unfounded and unnecessary. Youth sports play a big part in helping children in academics, among many other areas where sports are also can have an impact on the lives of young people.

No Sports Without High Grades

As you probably already know, youth sports are part of the school’s program, and as such, they often have requirements which the children need to fulfill if they want to participate. One of these requirements is usually maintaining a certain grade point average.

Such a system ensures that children who want to participate in team sports need to do well in school before they even attempt to join the sports team of their choosing.

The motivation they get from this is hardly measurable, and it always provides additional benefits for the child, like improved focus and higher self-esteem. The latter is more than merely helpful because it’s a trait that children often lack today.

When playing youth sports, children’s self-esteem rises because they are surrounded by teammates who share their goals, and who often become their close friends. Such a positive social surrounding will always result in children having more will and motivation to do better in other areas of their lives – including academics.

The Coveted Scholarships

People who doubt the importance of sports in the realm of children’s academic success often forget about scholarships, which remain among the top benefits of playing youth sports.

Sports scholarships are numerous, and many talented kids have a good chance of winning them when they perform well in their sport.

What’s more, these scholarships are highly coveted for a compelling reason – they often give opportunities to young people who would otherwise be unable to afford them.

Any Problems?

In the end, it’s worth mentioning that the people who doubt these benefits often cite the fact that some children have it easier at school because the coaches and the parents put pressure on the teachers to give them a break so that they could focus more on their training.

This is an unfortunate fact, but it does occur from time to time. When this kind of behavior is allowed, this highly beneficial system loses. We need to work towards eliminating these cases because the children are missing out on the many valuable lessons. They are not just losing valuable school lessons, but they also fail to learn the importance of organization, time management, work ethic, and so much more.

They instead learn that powerful people can get away with anything in life, which is not something that the children should learn at all.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to contact us at any time, and we’ll be happy to help.

NY Post: Youth football in NYC is on a rapid decline

NY Post: Youth football in NYC is on a rapid decline

The NY Post reports that youth football has taken a hit in New York City.

The violent nature of the sport, and the widespread awareness of the danger of concussions, is causing more parents to keep their kids on the sidelines.

Across the five boroughs, the numbers of kids participating in tackle football is in decline because of the fear of concussions, several coaches and league presidents say.

“It’s not necessarily concussions as in parents seeing their kids get concussions, but concussion awareness that has scared some people off,” said Edmond Wilson, the president of Empire Youth Football, a citywide organization for kids between the ages of 6 and 14. “I have had kids who played before, and their parents don’t want them to be tackled. They are afraid of concussions.”

Courtney Pollins, the commissioner of Big Apple Football, which offers tackle football for kids from ages 6 to 14, said his numbers have dropped dramatically, from 3,500 last year to 2,800 this year. Wilson reported the same percentage of decline, of 300 kids, from 1,500 to 1,200. The Queens Falcons and Brooklyn Renegades, two other notable youth-football programs in the city, have also seen a drop-off this year.

The city’s two other major youth football leagues say they have gained players.

Adam Howard, who runs the Brooklyn United youth football program, said his teams are playing half as many games because there are fewer teams to schedule, and Pollins said the roster numbers are significantly lower.

Many of the youth coaches used the phrase “fear mongering” to describe the situation. Parents have watched the nasty collisions in the NFL and have seen the movie “Concussion,” about a forensic pathologist’s fight against the NFL over suppressing his research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) brain degeneration suffered by players.

“Because football is in the place it is in this society, it has taken a lot of hits, no pun intended,” said Bill Solomon, a coach with the Brooklyn Titans of the Empire State Youth Football. “It is so demonstrably physical and you have the NFL, where you have these issues, it gets more scrutiny. It doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily right. For every one [kid] who gets a concussion, I got 10 or 15 or 20 kids who finished high school and are on to college when they otherwise would not have been.”

Nigel James Jr. started playing football at the age of 5. Three years later, he was one of the best players on his team, the Huntington Bulldogs on Long Island.

At practice one Thursday night, the then-8-year-old took a hit to the head. He suffered from a headache that night but felt fine otherwise. That weekend, he suited up for a game and took another head-to-head hit. This time, he was woozy, couldn’t walk straight, and was diagnosed with a concussion. He suffered from severe headaches for three weeks, was throwing up for several days and was dealing with nausea.

“That was the end of the sport,” his father, Nigel James Sr., said.

The younger James, now 10, was shaken up, unable to be active for a month. A year later, he asked his dad if he could play football again, but the answer was no.

“I realized it’s way too dangerous. I felt like I put him out there to get hurt. I was kind of the cause,” the father recalled. “It took a lot out of him. I felt helpless. Seeing him crying, throwing up, looking to me as his dad, I couldn’t do anything to help him.”

AnnMarie Selle heard the risks of tackle football and how much safer other sports were, but she liked the idea of helmets and pads. An older son of hers suffered a major head injury riding a Jet Ski.

She has two sons, 10-year-old Christopher and 7-year-old James, playing with the Queens Falcons of the New York City Youth Football League, and neither has had an issue. Christopher has been in the league for three years, and the Queens Falcons teach their players to lead with their shoulders and their heads to the outside, like many other organizations.

“I see so many people that I know that are playing soccer and basketball and they get injured on the court or on the field,” she said.

Abdu-Allah Torrence is a varsity basketball coach at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Harlem, and his son also asked him to play youth football for several years. Finally, he relented last year.

Torrence was nervous when he first watched 9-year-old Ahmad play, but he was relieved after seeing the proper technique the players are taught. This year, his son’s team, the New Rochelle Huguenots Elite of American Youth Football, did a concussion workshop with representatives from USA Football, the youth-development arm of the NFL, which included parents, kids and coaches.

The clinic worked on proper technique, how to tackle without sustaining injury, and how to absorb a hit. The Huguenots practice twice a week, using contact only once.

The NFL began a “Heads Up Football” initiative in 2012 to better educate people involved at the youth level to make football safer for children.

Still, Torrence doesn’t expect his son to play high-school football.

“I’m not comfortable with that, long-term,” he said. “It’s a whole different animal [at that level].”

That opinion is one of the reasons high-school programs in the city and the surrounding areas have also seen a dip in participation.

Catholic High School Football League President Chris Hardardt confirmed that the number of kids playing in his league is down, although he didn’t have exact figures.

He is seeing more roster sizes in the low 40s or high 30s, compared with previous rosters in the 50s. Only 12 of the 23 programs now carry true freshman teams, down from 15 in the last year, according to the league’s vice president, Tom Pugh.

The PSAL, one of the largest high-school sports organizations in the country, has seen only a slight dip in its number of active varsity players, from 1,903 to 1,865 this fall. Even so, its coaches understand the effect the concussion debate has had on the sport and want parents and players to become more educated about it.

“There is a hard hit in practice and I’ll even hear the kids say, ‘Oh there’s a concussion right there,’ ” Lincoln HS coach Shawn O’Connor said. “They are just throwing those words around.”

What coaches would also like publicized are the athletes who learn valuable life lessons, earn college scholarships or even make it to the NFL. New York City has recently produced NFL players like Ishaq Williams (New York Giants), Devon Cajuste (Green Bay Packers), Dominique Easley (LA Rams) and Dean Marlowe (Carolina Panthers).

It is that dream that keeps players like Christ the King senior running back Siddiq Muhammad competing, despite the dangers.  “There’s a risk and that that play might be your last play,” said Muhammed, who has 11 Division I scholarship offers. “As I grow up, I realized it was a sacrifice that had to be made. My parents are financially struggling so football is my way out.”

According to two doctors specializing in brain injuries, parents shouldn’t necessarily prohibit their children from playing football, but if they allow it, they must understand the risks and make sure their kids are properly trained.

“I am not someone who is [saying] no football at all, as long as they are taught the proper method of how to tackle and how to play,” said Dr. Melissa Leber, the director of Emergency Department Sports Medicine at Mount Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mount Sinai-Roosevelt Hospital.

Another issue, raised by Dr. R. Dawn Comstock, is that kids may take longer to recover from concussions because their brains are still growing.

Leber said that more concussions are reported now simply because of the heightened awareness, not necessarily because more are occurring.

“We should try to prevent concussions, but we should not let the fear of concussions or any sports-related injuries drive kids out of playing sports,” said Comstock, associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health.

How to Effectively Use Social Media for Your Youth Sports League

How to Effectively Use Social Media for Your Youth Sports League

Do you follow a pro-golfer on Twitter? Or how about your favorite basketball team on Instagram? From football to hockey, sports are definitely present on social media. This includes news, opinions, updates and personal posts from players, and many teams have shown both their good and their bad through their comments and posts on social media channels.

However, social media isn’t just for the big guys. If you work with, are responsible for or know of a local youth sports league, they can be just as successful on social venues like Facebook and Twitter.

What are the benefits? One, it gets the word out. If you need fundraising done fast or to get more bodies in seats at your next game, social media is one way to make things happen. Two, it’s an inexpensive form of marketing. It’s likely you don’t have much of a budget to work with, so forget printing out expensive fliers or running TV ads. If you’ve got a social media page, you have all the advertising you could ever ask for – and it’s free.

A third benefit of social media is that it’s relatively easy to use. Not so sure? Follow this advice and you’ll be a social media pro in no time.

First, start simple – get Facebook.

Many soccer moms and football dads are on Facebook, and that’s really the audience you want to target. Facebook is still the most used social network, and this is especially true for the child-rearing age crowd. Making a Facebook fan pages comes with many benefits, including:

●      Keeping team parents informed.

●      Giving parents and fans alike an easy way to contact you.

●      Fans have an all-in-one page for communication and updates.

●      Team members with Facebook can also be personally up-to-date with their own activities and schedule.

Facebook is also a great way to easily share highlights, news articles and other material you could be putting on a website – but Facebook is free and easier to use!

Twitter is your second route.

If you want updates that come in real time, Twitter is your best bet. Facebook news feeds can get muddled, but Twitter will give followers updating and real time info. Instead of Facebook, use Twitter as your broadcasting platform. Facebook is great for in-advance reminders, but Twitter is what you use if you’ve got a game in 15 minutes and need to get the word out fast.

Use social media as a sponsorship platform.

While the main point of social media for youth sports is to keep people informed, another great way you can benefit from a social media platform is through sponsorship opportunities. Local businesses will love it when you retweet them because they’re you’re sponsor, and sharing sponsor support messages on Facebook also sends a message to other businesses who may want to get in on the action.

In general, social media is also a platform of spreading gratitude. If you have volunteers that help you, send them a thank you shout out on your social media pages. Why? This not only shows how thankful you are for the help, it also may encourage others to pitch in as well.