With the school year getting under way, youth sports will also kick into high gear.
But according to the National Alliance for Sports, 70 percent of kids in the U.S. will drop out of organized sports by the age of 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.”
We have five ways to prepare your kids for sports.
No matter what kind of sport it is, most every parent wants their young athlete to have a good experience.
Chelsea Hansen of Rochester Hills is planning to start her 3-year-old son, Oliver, in a learn-to-skate program for hockey soon.
“It’s not about competition or winning -- just more about having fun,” explained Hansen.
So, where do parents begin?
We enlisted some help.
Coach Chris Fritzsching, Director of Football Education for the Detroit Lions, and Grace Derocha, Health Coach and Registered Dietitian with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, have some sound advice.
Both are also parents who can relate.
Their number one recommended way to prepare kids for youth sports?
1. FIND THE RIGHT FIT
It starts with having a conversation with your kid. Talk to your child about what they’re interested in – their likes and dislikes when it comes to activities. And don’t be afraid to experiment.
“A lot of times I think we get focused on what we did growing up,” said Derocha. The goal is “kind of expanding our horizons to try a lot of things,” she added.
How do you know when you’ve found the right fit?
“When that child is walking off the field each and every day with a big smile on their face,” replied Coach Fritzsching.
If your kid wants to quit? Try to see it through. Because of the relationships and lessons your child is learning, because they may see themselves improve over the course of the season. It shows sticking it out has benefits.
Coach Fritzsching said it’s about finding the fun in fitness. Not making exercise a punishment – like a coach saying drop and give me 20 push-ups. Make push ups something fun that you can work on and achieve.
2. INTERVIEW THE COACHES
Attend the sporting events in which your child is showing interest, and then ask questions.
“’What is your background in coaching this age group? What is your practice plan format – your philosophy – if you will. Are you focused on results only? Or again, are you focused on the hard work and effort to get you to the results?’” Coach Fritzsching said rattling off some suggested questions.
Other examples include asking if the coaches are background checked? Are they up on concussion awareness? Do they know how to deal with heat and hydration? Before your kids sign up for the sport is the time to ask as many questions as possible.
3. PLAN AHEAD
Knowing what you’re getting your family into by planning ahead is very important – especially if considering multiple sports or if you have multiple kids.
Derocha said parents need to see if they can handle the financial and logistical requirements involved with the sport.
“They want to look at the schedule, they want to look at timing, equipment, and budget, and then transportation to and from,” said Derocha.
Juggling it all can be complicated, but thinking it through can ease stress for all involved.
4. FUEL UP
Your children need to eat and drink something before and after practice or a game.
“Definitely some carbohydrates and some protein before and after as well. The carbohydrates are the energy burst. The protein is the sustenance,” Derocha explained.
Her favorite fuel before an activity is an apple or banana with peanut butter or mixed nuts.
If it’s an hour or less before the activity, Derocha recommended a yogurt drink or yogurt with granola because they’re easy to digest.
Within 30 minutes after an intense activity, she said it’s time for more carbs and protein.
Derocha also suggested fruits, vegetables, and hummus. And, of course, don’t forget hydration.
“I love coconut water. I think it’s a great way refuel and get those electrolytes re-balanced in the system,” Derocha said, adding that sports drinks are really only necessary if a child has been working out for more than two hours.
5. PRACTICE/PLAY AT HOME
Yes, you can run through drills with your kids. But also remember, kids need to just play!
“It can be anything. It can be riding bikes. It can be throwing a ball back and forth. Playing catch with Mom and Dad,” said Coach Fritzsching.
He recommends kids play outside for 60 minutes a day.
The more they move, the better.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and the Detroit Lions teamed up to create the #MIKidsCan Play Like a Lion Experience on August 19, 2019.
It was a VIP event aimed to encourage Michigan kids to adopt healthy habits. They invited over 50 children from Special Olympics Michigan to Ford Field to take part in on-field exercises and to meet current and former players.