Experience shows that nurturing a student athlete goes beyond the sports field or the gym. Taking a holistic approach and focusing on external factors is a surefire way to maximize an athlete’s potential. Here are some tips we have developed from working with our athletes at Origin to help you optimize your student athlete’s performance:
Focus on Proper Nutrition:
A big obstacle for many of the athletes we see at Origin is inadequate nutrition. Many athletes are not getting enough calories throughout the day. A simple, yet effective, solution involves adding a mid-morning and an afternoon snack to an athlete’s day, especially before practice or competition. For athletes without dietary restrictions, an optimal snack includes complex carbs, protein and some fat – for example, a nut butter or turkey sandwich. Adequate calorie intake and proper nutrition lead to increased energy during practice and competition.
Ensure Adequate Sleep:
Many athletes are by nature competitive personalities who cram alot of activities into their day. Like many people, they are also frequently too distracted by electronic devices. As a result, they don’t get enough sleep. Teenagers should aim for 9-10 hours of sleep each night. Turn off all devices: cell phones, Ipads and TVs at least an hour before bedtime. Eat a nutritious dinner and enjoy easy leisure reading to relax before bedtime. Sleep in a dark and peaceful setting. Athletes will wake feeling more rested, more focused and with higher energy. They will also benefit from better neural recovery and cell repair.
Teens also experience too much stress due to homework. Experiment with different schedules and decide what works best for your teen – is it better to get to bed earlier and wake up earlier to do the most difficult work? Or does your teen cope better by staying up later to work and then sleeping as late as possible in the morning? Also, examine your teen’s activities, are there some activities that can be shifted to the weekend or decreased in frequency to allow for a less stressful day?
Stagger Sports Schedules:
Many student athletes overtrain, failing to allow their bodies to rest. Parents also tend to overbook young athletes’ competition schedules. Sports practice and competition needs to be staggered. Downtime should be used for psychological and neural recovery as well as for strengthening and conditioning.
Parents also tend to over-specialize and over-schedule in one sport, leaving teens prone to overuse injuries and psychological/emotional burnout. Cross training in other complimentary sports and/or adding strengthening and conditioning offers a solution. Another side benefit is that well-rounded athletes are often appealing to coaches.
Find a Proper Training Program:
For athletes looking to take their skills up a notch, training for whole body health and moving beyond sport specific training is key. Ideally the athlete should regularly work with a trainer, but when that is not possible and the parents/athlete are motivated to train on their own, a trainer can create a customized home-program. Such programs often focus on total body/full body strength and conditioning and include sport specific movements designed to train the athlete’s neural system. Ideally, even with in-home programs, an in-studio session every 3-4 weeks with a trainer would provide an opportunity to gauge progress, technique and accountability as well as update program design. An in-studio session also allows for coaching on the intangibles like motivation, outlook, confidence and energy.
By focusing on the bigger picture beyond the sports field, you can help an athlete realize his or her true potential and move from good to great.