You know what? Most teens eat horribly, especially when it comes to breakfast!! While there could be numerous reasons for this, many times it just comes down to laziness. Yes, I know that there are some people whose eating habits are affected by their current financial situation. I understand that fully. However, most of the time when you ask kids why they didn’t eat breakfast, some version of the phrase “I didn’t have time” is what you get. In other words, “I didn’t get my lazy self out of bed early enough to eat”.
So, how does this affect us as coaches? Let’s use a typical example. Assume that Johnny eats dinner at 7pm. Then after going to sleep for the night, he skips breakfast the next day. Eventually he eats lunch about noon, and then heads off to practice after school. Is it any wonder that Johnny starts to run out of energy about an hour into practice? He’s eaten one meal in 20 hours? What did we expect to happen? I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve had kids start to feel dizzy, weak, nauseous, etc during practice. Guess what? About 75% of those kids skipped either breakfast or lunch. It doesn’t matter what you do to help that kid feel better, until he or she eats a meal, they are won’t be able to practice. If you add an in-season workout into the mix, the situation gets even worse. Even during the off-season, you can’t get a good effort from an athlete that doesn’t have any energy.
So what do I do when I encounter this? You have to use it as situation to educate the athlete. They may not be able to perform today, but if you don’t educate them the situation will reoccur. Explain all of the details about why they feel like they do and how they can prevent that in the future. Now, when I deal with teenagers, I try to simplify things for them. Since the most common excuse is a lack of time, I try to point out to them how they can eat something fast, even while rushing to meet the bus. Oftentimes I suggest things like granola bars. I explain to them that these aren’t an ideal breakfast, but I point out that they are better than nothing. I figure that if a kid already uses a lack of time as a reason, I can’t expect him to get up 30 minutes early and fix eggs, toast, etc for him or herself. I can however at least get them to put some food in their belly. That’s why I start with simple things. Hopefully as they get in the habit of eating something, I can eventually encourage them to eat healthier.