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.

How Important is Nutrition in Sports?

How Important is Nutrition in Sports?

Besides training long hours for their sport, a youth athlete’s body also develops quickly. To get everything needed for proper body development and to optimize their training, a healthy eating plan must be a regular component of an athlete’s workout regimen.

Benefits of Nutrition to Youth Athletes

Snack and meal planning are often pushed to the side because of hectic schedules (it takes extra time), but it has to be a priority. The benefits of a proper nutrition plan include:

  • Muscle healing and recovery
  • Strengthening of the immune system
  • Injury prevention
  • Decreased muscle soreness and tiredness
  • Increased focus and attention span
  • Improved energy levels

Youth Athletes and Their Nutritional Needs

Children who eat well-balanced, healthy meals will get the nutrients required to perform at their best in sports. But child athletes have higher energy requirements. Children and teenagers involved in strenuous endurance sports or all-day competitions that can involve a few hours of activity at a time may need to consume more food and fluids due to their increased demands.

Besides getting enough calories, youth athletes need other nutrients to be at their peak form, such as:

  • Protein. Thanks to protein, muscle tissue is able to build and repair. Protein-rich foods include lean meat, fish, poultry, soy products, nuts, beans, and dairy products. However, too much protein can lead to calcium loss and dehydration.
  • Carbs. Carbohydrates provide energy for the body and are an important source of fuel for every young athlete. There is no need to eat a lot of carbs before a big game, but without them, children would be running on an “empty tank.” Carb-rich foods include brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain cereal and bread, and plenty of vegetables and fruits.
  • Vitamins and minerals. For athletes, iron and calcium and the two most important minerals. Iron helps carry oxygen throughout the body, and iron-rich foods include chicken, lean meat, salmon, tuna, fortified whole grains, eggs, leafy green vegetables, and dried fruits. Calcium helps our bones be strong to resist stress fractures and breaking. Some of the calcium-rich foods are cheese, yogurt, milk as well as leafy green vegetables.
  • Fluids. Dehydration can zap energy, coordination, and strength, so young athletes must drink enough fluids to prevent it. The feeling of thirst is not a reliable sign of one’s hydration status. Experts recommend that children should drink water (or other fluids) every 15-20 minutes during their physical activity.

On Game Day

On game days, it’s essential for young athletes to eat well. The game-day meal shouldn’t be much different from the one they would have eaten throughout their training. They can choose to eat healthy foods they believe will boost their performance and don’t cause stomach upset or other problems.

  • Three hours before a game – the meal should have enough carbs and protein, but must be low in fat and fiber because it can cause digestion problems.
  • ●        If children eat less than three hours before practice or game, they should consume a snack or lighter carb-rich meal that includes easy-to-digest foods like bread, crackers, fruit, and vegetable or fruit juice.
  • After the practice or game, kids should eat carbs within 30 minutes after activity and again two hours later. That’s when your kid’s body is replenishing energy stores and fluids as well as rebuilding muscle tissue, so it’s crucial that the post-event meal be a balance of protein, fat, and carbs.

When it comes to young athletes, eating for sports should be an extension of normal healthy eating for life. Young athletes should eat the right mix and amount of foods to support their increased level of activity. However, their nutrition regimen shouldn’t be too different from a regular, healthy diet.

Equal Playing Time for All vs. Winning a Game – Which is More Important?

Equal Playing Time for All vs. Winning a Game – Which is More Important?

It’s a tricky question and an endless debate to which we have an answer. An answer that won’t satisfy everyone, but after long research and discussion, we believe it to be the only reasonable solution.

It’s Not as Simple as You Might Think

What’s more important in youth sports? Giving players equal playing time or winning the game? More often than not, the two can’t go together. You have to opt for one and sacrifice the other.

If you give everyone equal playing time, that inherently means that the weak players will have to play as well. And that often results in a lost game. However, if you don’t allow them to play and thus learn, how are they to become better players?

On the other hand, if you focus on winning, many players won’t get the chance to shine and learn. That will leave you with matches won, but with a lot of disappointed children and parents.

So yes, it’s a tricky question to answer.

It Depends on the Age

Everyone wants to play the game, no matter the sport. That’s especially true when it comes to children. If they don’t get the chance to play in official matches, it will be like they never played at all, and they might as well be sitting at home watching the game on TV.

When children play sports and join teams, they don’t want to train merely. Training for them is a means to an end. They have to do it to get better and finally get a chance to shine in an official match where there are stakes involved.

As youth sports are all about the children, We firmly believe that the children should have the chance to do what they came here to do in the first place – play the game and have fun. Winning the game comes in second place.

However, that’s not all. That should be the case for children up until the age of fourteen and the high school years. At that point, there needs to be a shift in the way of thinking.

Children at that point are no longer only children, they are now real players, and as such, they need to earn their time on the field. At that point, they prefer winning, and they want to keep getting better. Those who don’t have nothing to look for on the field and don’t have to be there.

The Conclusion

As you can see, the answer is not simple, and there can never be a universal solution for everyone.

As long as kids are kids, they should have fun, and sports are there to provide precisely that. At these stages of their development, they should only have fun while developing their playing skills. The only way to do that is for them to play the game.

When children get older, there should be a gradual shift towards them earning their place in the game along with a focus on winning the games. Nothing in life will come free, everything must be learned and earned, and when your players are old enough, that’s precisely when they should learn this simple truth. However, they should still have some fun as well!

Bombs Away – The Prominence of the 3-Pointer in Youth Basketball

Bombs Away – The Prominence of the 3-Pointer in Youth Basketball

This year, the NBA has suggested a change in the overall rules and guidelines for youth basketball. Among many changes, the most prominent ones are the exclusions of zone defense and 3-pointers.

The Changes – Are They Necessary?

The NBA argues that these changes will help with the development and enhance experiences for children. The current rules are more fit for adults, and many believe that children easily get discouraged from playing basketball as the games are long, the basket is high, and many shots are hard to accomplish, like the ubiquitous 3-pointers.

Many changes have been made, but all of them have been set to accommodate players according to their age, which is why the guidelines divide into four segments, ages 7 to 8, 9 to 11, 12 to 14, and grades 9 to 12.

For the first three segments, there are lower baskets as well as slightly smaller balls. Furthermore, neither group will play zone defense, and the 3-pointer shots will turn into regular 2 pointers. The opinions differ, and it doesn’t mean that everyone in the USA will implement the rules (the NBA and USA Basketball do not govern all youth tournaments in the country).

However, 3-pointers indeed are tougher for younger players, even high-schoolers. So, let’s see how prominent these shots are in youth basketball so you can decide for yourself whether or not they should exist.

The 3-Pointers in the Youth Basketball

Many youth sports have been losing in popularity in recent years, but 3-pointers in basketball have always been popular. However, their prevalence is high in adult basketball, which is not to say that they aren’t popular with kids as well. They indeed are, maybe even more so, however, they are not as prominent as they are in professional basketball because the children do not have the physical ability to shoot 3-pointers with relative ease as the adults do.

The basket is high and to achieve 3 points you have to be very far from the basket, which is a tough thing to accomplish when you’re young.

However, youth players do love basketball, and they usually try to emulate their role-models who are in most cases the big shots from the NBA. Since 3-pointers are ˝cool˝ in the eyes of children, they often try their best to perform them. It usually ends up as a waste of time because they sacrifice increasing their skills in other areas of the game.

Many would agree with this assessment, like one of the greatest NBA shooters of all time, Stephen Curry. He said: ¨My dad had the same kind of mentality of development as I got stronger and bigger. He wanted me to make sure I didn’t sacrifice form and mechanics just to be able to shoot an NBA three before I was ready.¨

For children, emulating their heroes is an excellent way to improve their skill, but when they attempt something that’s almost impossible for them at their age, they are wasting time that should be spent on the improvement of basketball skills in general.

We would love to hear your opinion, especially if you’re a parent or a coach, so comment below with your views on the matter.

4 Stretches to Do Before You Go on a Run

4 Stretches to Do Before You Go on a Run

Are you starting the healthy habit of running? Maybe you’re looking for ways to improve or add to your current regiment. Whatever the case, stretching before a run is crucial in preparing the muscles and the entire body for this strenuous activity. It will also reduce the risk of potential injuries.

Here, we offer you some useful stretches which you can perform before you begin every run.

1.    Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are practically necessary before a run and are one of the best stretches you can do. That’s because they emulate the act of running itself, which means that all the muscles you’ll use while running, will warm up during these stretches.

How are they done? You stand with your feet joined, and you take a long step forward with one foot. You then bend the knee on this foot to 90 degrees and the other knee until it’s almost touching the floor. Remain like this for a few seconds then slowly rise and repeat the same thing with the other leg. You can make about 10 of these lunges.

2.    Calf Raises

As the calves are under a lot of strain while you’re running, you can help them out a bit by stretching them a bit before a run.

How are they done? Start by standing on the edge of a stair, facing in. You need to stand on the balls of your feet while the rest of each foot is in the air, over the edge. You can also hold onto a stair rail to keep your balance if you need to. Now start by rising on your toes and then slowly lowering the feet until they come below the stair. Hold for a moment and then repeat the same thing several times. If you want, you can do this for each foot separately.

3.    Side Stretches

Since side stitches are a common problem for runners, side stretches can be useful as you stretch the torso that’s affected from this type of pain. You can do these while standing, or you can do them while you’re performing the kneeling hip flexor stretch.

How are they done? First, you bring your arms up over the head, and you lean to one side then to the other, bending only the waist, all the while keeping your abdominals tight. You can take these stretches a step further by remaining in position while bending for a few seconds on each side.

4.    Around the World Lunges

Once again, you can stretch all of the major muscles used while running with these stretches.

How are they done? First, one of your legs needs to be stationary, and then you lunge backward with the other foot. Then you make a side lunge, and you have to remain there for a moment. Now, return to the center and lunge forward with the same foot. Again, make a side lunge. When done, you need to make a curtsey lunge which is done by bringing the same leg behind the other one and then bending the knees (basically, like you’re attempting a bow or dip.) You need to repeat this pattern five times, and then you can switch the legs and do the same thing again.

If you are a regular runner, or you’ve only known pre-game stretches and are not familiar with the ones needed before running, these four will undoubtedly help you properly warm up all the necessary muscles used in the run.