Childhood obesity is a scary reality in this country, with approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years being obese. Obviously we as parents and coaches need to help our kids make the right kind of decisions when it comes to food and to encourage a more active lifestyle. But on the opposite end of the spectrum we have those “super youth athletes” that play sports all year round and are at risk of being over-trained, especially if they only do one sport, which can lead to burnout and overuse injuries. But does it have to be all or nothing when it comes to youth sports? Can’t we help our kids find a happy middle ground between not enough activity and too much?
Don’t just practice, play!
If you ask a youth football or basketball player what their favorite thing about their sport is you probably won’t hear “oh man, I love those passing drills!” Practice time doesn’t usually make it to the top of the list, especially if they have a coach that hasn’t quite figured out how to keep practice moving along so no one is standing around for too long with nothing to do. Never mind the fact that you aren’t doing too much moving at all while standing in line for a turn in the batting cage, let’s be honest, practices can be really boring. So instead of just practicing how about we play a little more? Instead of the usual passing drills why not turn it into a game and have some in-team competition? Give kids a reason to hustle and move and try and pay attention (but please don’t punish the “losing” side with running). Exercise is always easier when it’s been cleverly disguised as fun!
Let your child try different sports.
A lot of coaches love to hear that players are multi-sport athletes because they know that each sport will teach players different skills that can then be applied to other sports. Instead of playing baseball all year round, why not give soccer or tennis a try? Or maybe even karate or swimming? Who knows, maybe your child will discover they absolutely love floor hockey! At the end of the day the best way to keep kids active is to make sure they are having fun and aren’t bored or burnt-out. Playing a new sport every few months helps keep them on their toes and gives them the chance to stretch their wings and learn new things.
Get active with them.
Exercise is almost always more fun when you have a buddy to do it with, so if you want your kids to be more active then you need to get more active! Sign-up for a family 5k or road race (like the Freihofer’s Junior 3K) and start running together. Register for a kids and teen yoga class or family rec night at your community center; go for a bike ride, a short hike, race your kids in the pool and so forth. We want our kids to get used to being active and moving and actually enjoying it, so hopefully they will carry that attitude with them for the rest of their lives.