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.

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.