Teen Athletes: Extra Recovery Needed?

sleeping teen pic

Is your teen athlete getting enough recovery time?

One two separate occasions recently, I have had some sort of discussion about recovery for teen athletes.  Once was with a coach and once was in response to a comment on my blog.  Both of these got me thinking about the demands that we tend to place on teenage athletes.  I don’t think that we always account for all of these when we plan out our training programs. As coaches, we often think that the athletes are only practicing or exercising when we see them.  However, that isn’t always the case.  So what does the “average” teenager do in a normal day?

  • School
  • Homework
  • Chores at home/job
  • Social time
  • Eating, showering, and other necessary things

So what about their sporting activities?

  • Practice for sport #1
  • Practice for sport # 2 (if applicable)
  • Travel time necessary for away games/practices
  • Strength training/conditioning
  • Miscellaneous sports activities – pick up basketball, PE classes, etc

While not all of these apply to every teen, this isn’t that uncommon for some teens.  I have talked to many teens who are involved in multiple sports for a large portion of the year.  They try to squeeze in as many practices, games, and strength & conditioning sessions as they can in the course of a year.  So where does that lead?  It leads to athletes who are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  It leads to athletes who aren’t happy, who suffer academically, and who end up a physical mess due to never getting enough breaks and recovery time.

So what should we do as a coach to help?

  • Get to know your athletes – Do they play other sports?  When?  How often do they practice/play?
  • Try to coordinate – I’ve seen too many times that a coach tries to keep their athletes going year round and never give them a break.  Try to work things out with the athlete and their other sport(s).  Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to work out too often.  Usually it’s because the ADULT EGOS get in the way.
  • Give athletes ample recovery time – Plan it into your season and your training.
  • Educate your athletes – I realize that athletes (and parents) won’t always listen to you.  Regardless, you should still make every effort to educate them about recovery and overtraining.
  • Don’t be afraid to make an athlete take a break – The best thing for them may be to send them home for a few days and make them take a break.  Of course, you can’t control what they do during this time off, but hopefully they actually rest.

We can’t control everything that our athletes do, especially when they are away from us.  Also realize that we haven’t even touched on nutrition, sleep, the growth state that teens are in and how they affect recovery.  As a coach, we know that all of these things work together and drastically affect how our athletes recover and perform.  However, coaches need to focus on what they can control.  Make sure that you know all of the demands placed on your athletes, plan appropriately, and attempt to educate them.  Even though many things are out of our control, hopefully taking these steps will help.

Mark

 

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Nutritional Supplements & Young Athletes

Supplement Use By Youth For Sports Performance Improvement

I found a news article a few days ago about the usage of nutritional supplements by kids.  The article discusses a study that was originally published earlier this year.  It focused on the use of supplements by children and adolescents for the purpose of improving sports performance.  So what do I think about all of this?

Shocking Findings

So what are my thoughts on the study?  I decided to put my them on video.  Here they are:

 

Help your young athletes to make good nutritional choices.

Mark

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Good Nutrition is 24/7

Fruit stand pic

What do your athletes eat???

As a coach, you have control over what your athlete does for a few hours a week.  You can control what drills they do, how they do them, etc when you are coaching them.  As for what happens the other 22 hours of their day, that is up to them (and their parents if they are young).  Unfortunately, what they eat during that time away from you can drastically affect their recovery and their future performance.  As we all know, the eating habits of the average person in the US are currently lousy.  This includes both adults and kids.  That means that we have an uphill battle to fight.

(As a side note, sometimes parents allow kids to make horrible choices.  A prime example was an 11 year old that I used to train.  He regularly showed up to training sessions with a huge energy drink.  What???  How does an 11 year old do that???  Oh, that’s right.  His mommy let him do it.  When dealing with kids and teens, it is often vital to change the parents ideas on nutrition.  If they don’t change, the kids won’t ever change either.)

So, what can we do?  Here are 3 things:

  1. Get the athlete professional help – First off, we have to leave the diet planning to the Registered Dietitians (RD).  We wouldn’t want them writing our training programs and we shouldn’t try to do their job.  We can however have one speak to athletes and parents.  This could be done as an occasional seminar for all athletes/parents.  It could also involve one-on-one help if needed.  Regardless, it can be beneficial to develop a good working relationship with a local RD who has a background advising athletes.
  2. Have plenty of handouts ready – Having handouts ready on nutrition is a good way to get info to parents and athletes.  Parents are often willing to look through these while their kids train.  There are all kinds of wacky diet plans and concepts that have been publicized.  While someone may believe some of these, it never hurts to present them with good info from trusted sources.  Who knows, it might change their thinking.  Where can you find this info?  Try your local RD or various nutritional sites on the web.  The Gatorade Sports Science Institute also has a lot of valuable handouts on their website.
  3. Become a thorn in the side – Make sure to constantly remind your athletes (and parents) about good nutrition.  Ask them how they ate since their last workout.  Remind them when they are leaving to eat well.  Just mentioning it to them once probably won’t do the trick.  Let them know that even though you aren’t there with them 24/7, what they do during that time still matters.  For older athletes, if you know that they are going to a big cookout or some other event, you might send a text to remind them to keep things in check and not eat everything in sight.

How an athlete chooses to eat when they are away from you is ultimately up to them (or their parents).  While I’m not one that thinks that a kid should never have a piece of cake or pie, I do believe that it is part of a coaches job to impress upon them the importance of good nutrition.  As we’ve seen in the news, most of the teens and adults in the US are missing out on that message somewhere.  Maybe we can help a few of them.  Plus, if they are serious about their training, good nutrition is vital to recovery and performance.

Mark

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Motivation For Sports Training

Any idea how many hours of training it takes for an athlete to perfect their sports skills?  The Soviets believed in the 10 year/ 10,000 hour rule.  They felt that it took an athlete 10,000 hours of practice spread out over 10 years to achieve their maximum potential.  That works out to about 20 hours per week for 10 years.  That doesn’t take into account school, work, family, friends, travel, vacations, and all of the other stuff that seems to fill up our time.

Clock Picture

What motivates you through all the hours of practice?

So, where does an athlete get the motivation to endure all these hours of practice and keep going?

  • Parents?
  • Coaches?
  • Teammates?
While all three of these can give some external motivation, the fact remains that the athlete had better be able to provide their own source of internal motivation. If they can’t, they won’t be able to achieve much.  If the athlete doesn’t want it bad enough, no coach, parent, or teammate can get them to put out 100% effort every day.  We all have days when we feel sluggish or unmotivated.  That’s where external motivation can help.  We all reach points of frustration in our development.  Again, that’s were external motivation from others can help.  However, if the athlete can’t motivate themselves to go all out, to put in extra practice time, to get plenty of rest, to eat right, and to do all of the other things that are necessary to excel,then they will NEVER achieve their fullest potential.
If you work with young athletes, it’s never a bad idea to find some time for teaching about life.  It doesn’t matter if the kid grows up to be an athlete, a salesman, a DJ, a teacher, or anything else, they need to learn the importance of giving 100 % effort so that they can excel in their chosen field.  That’s one lesson that is more important than sports.
Mark 
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