- Remember that many coaches are volunteers with little (or no) specific training. Don't assume the coach knows how to prevent or treat injuries... you should ask what their experience is! Be sure there are always at least 2 adults around (this is abuse prevention... another topic entirely, but important!)
- Encourage athletes to take the time to warm up and cool down.
- Make sure athletes drink plenty of water, especially in warm weather.
- Be sure they are playing at a level that meets their skills.
- Let them know that they should enjoy playing for the fun of the game, not to win.
- Be sure to remind them that you enjoy watching them play ~ not watching them win!
- Have kids take time off a favorite sport to try something different for a season. This not only keeps the game fun, but it works different muscle groups and improves overall fitness.
- I am also a firm believer in sleep for kids of all ages! Sports practices and games can interfere with an appropriate bedtime and adequate sleep, so make sure your child doesn't suffer from sleep deprivation.
- Athletes should take 1-2 days off per week from competitive athletics and competitive practice to allow physical and psychological recovery.
- Athletes should be a member of only one sport per season.
- Athletes should take at least 2-3 months away from a specific sport during the year. During this time another fun activity can be done to prevent loss of skills or conditioning.
- The focus of participation should be fun, skill acquisition, safety, and sportsmanship.
- Weekly training time, number of repetitions or total distance should not increase by more than 10% per week.
- Watch for possible burnout if the athlete complains of nonspecific muscle or joint problems, fatigue or poor academic performance. Consider time off at that time to allow physical and psychological recovery.
- Use caution for younger athletes who participate in multiple games during a short time period.
- Children should participate in a sport at a level consistent with their ability and interest.
- Single sport specialization should be avoided before puberty. Young athletes who participate in different sports at various seasons have less burnout and fewer overuse injuries.
- Parents should be aware of the coach’s knowledge of proper training techniques, equipment and training of a particular age group. Parents should encourage organizations to mandate coach training in these areas.
- Never allow an injured athlete to participate in activities until completely healed or cleared by a physician.
- Children are more at risk for heat injury. Proper hydration should be encouraged. Avoidance of prolonged activity in moderate temperatures or any activity in extreme temperatures should be enforced.
- Ensure proper nutrition:
Proper caloric intake is based on body size and growth rate in addition to calories burned. Monitor for signs that the athlete is trying to lose weight to benefit performance (to the detriment of overall growth).
Balance nutritional elements based on the Food Guide Pyramid.
Adequate iron is needed. The amount of iron needed in the diet is highest during the growing years and sports may contribute to iron losses. Athletes need adequate iron to bring oxygen to tissues in the body.
Calcium intake is important for normal bone growth and possibly to help prevent and heal stress fractures.