I read an article by Asha Forster Grebenik this week titled “How to Coach Your Gymnast at Home” – it honestly should be required reading for all sports parents – feel free to substitute your child’s sport for the gymnastics references in the post – and for that matter all parents in general! From her post…
Your gymnast does gymnastics at home. All the time. In every room. And you’ve watched enough gymnastics to know that certain things she’s doing are incorrect. So how do you make these corrections at home? You don’t. Let me repeat that. Do. Not. Coach. Your. Child. At. Home. Nothing will make your child’s coach cringe internally more than hearing that you worked on x, y, or z at home. You are not her coach. Don’t do it. Don’t even tell her to point her toes.
As sports parents most of us are guilty of “trying” to help our athlete at home – we think we are helping – we think we know what they need to hear – but guess again. As sports parents our job is to get our kids to practice, support them at meets, keep them fueled, and be their biggest fan.
So next time you feel the urge to make a correction from the bleachers, in the car or in you own home – STOP – DON”T DO IT. Instead, give your athlete a hug and let her know you are so proud of all her hard work!
If you have an athlete, there is going to come a time where they get injured. Ankle injuries are VERY common and can happen when you least expect it. So how do you know if it is a sprain or a break?
That photo is of my daughter’s ankle a few weeks ago. She had just finished cheer season and was returning to the dance studio. She did three classes and in the final 15 minutes of her last class of the night she did a leap – like the ones she has been doing since she was little – and for some strange reason she just landed wrong and ended up in a heap on the floor.
Her ankle swelled IMMEDIATELY (this is a clue).
I have been around kids and sports long enough to know that if an injury swells up immediately, you do not play the wait and see game. You go directly to the Emergency Room. No questions asked. GO.
When we got to the ER they immediately did x-rays and the x-ray did not reveal a break of any kind, so they diagnosed it as a sprain, gave her an air cast and sent her home.
I also know that the ER does not always get things right and that their job is to care for the critically injured/sick and as far as they were concerned this is not critical.
The next day I called the Pediatric Sports Medicine Orthopedic group that we have used in the past and they definitely wanted to see her. They took a look at the same x-rays, spent some time talking with her, examining the injured area and they came back with a different diagnosis. Yes, there was a hairline fracture and significant soft tissue damage and she was best treated by putting her leg in a cast for three weeks.
In the end, there is no way you as a parent or a coach can diagnose a sprain versus a break yourself. Yes, there are some indicators – such as swelling, ability or inability to move the affected area, pain levels – but when in doubt, get it checked out. It could be the difference in your child returning to play in a few weeks versus dealing with months of recurring injuries, pain and discomfort.
My daughter is sporting a nice pink cast for the next few weeks, but I am confident that once it is removed, she will be healed and ready to get right back to cheering for basketball and for dance.
Note: I originally published this a few years ago but find it very helpful to revisit at this time of the year!
Our kids go back to school soon but many of our mid-west friends have kids who go back to school this week. For us the first week of school is also the first week of practice on the fall schedule for the gymnasts I coach and my own kids go back to swim team practices this week, as well. As a coach and a parent, I know the next 3 weeks are going to be HARD! That’s because it is going to take about 3 weeks for the kids to adjust to being back in school all day and then going straight to practice a few times a week. But it’s going to be okay. Experience tells me that these first few weeks will be tough, but the kids will adapt.
As a parent, you can help make this transition time easier by:
- Make sure your athlete is going to bed at a reasonable time. Summer sleep schedules were lax at best around my house so it is time to recalibrate the kids’ sleep schedules. I aim to have my 10 year old in bed between 9 and 9:30 on school nights. She can sleep in until 7 so that gives her plenty of time to rest. My 14 and 16 year old have to get up earlier but don’t seem to need quite as much sleep so they go to bed no later than 10 – closer to 9:30 on night’s where the homework load is light.
- Make sure your athlete is adequately fueled. Long school days mean less opportunity for snacking but it also means that they will be hungrier when you see them after school. Start with a balanced breakfast – no a frozen waffle on its own does not count. Encourage your athlete to help pack their lunch or at least give you input so the chance of them eating it all is better. If you are going straight from school to practice, make sure you provide a healthy mini-meal to refuel their systems (check our list of Healthy Snacks and Mini Meal Ideas). After workout try a tall glass of chocolate milk and a banana or bagel for immediate muscle recovery!
- Communicate with teachers! If your child is still in elementary school, definitely let their teacher know what days they have sports practice. Many teachers will be willing to give homework at the beginning of the week so that you can focus on homework on off days, or at least conquer the more time intensive pieces on non-sports days. For middle school and high school students, it is a great time to learn time management skills. My kids have learned how to take advantage of in-school study halls and extra class time to get a jump on homework so they don’t have as much to deal with after school.
- Allow for downtime. Be sure not to completely over schedule your child these first few weeks. Add activities incrementally and allow for some relaxation time. Time to read, play, enjoy family time and just chill is just as essential for kids as the sports they do!
As a coach, you can help by:
- Being aware of the transition that your athletes are dealing with. Just acknowledging the new schedule and challenges will go a long way to helping the children relax.
- Taking a few minutes to communicate with your athletes. When we start practice we have the girls all line up first so we can give them any pre-practice information, greet them and we usually go down the line and ask them each how their day was or some silly question. It helps the girls change gears and it helps facilitate the coach/athlete bond.
- Stressing the importance of school. Remind your athletes that school comes first. If they need an extra 15 minutes at the beginning of practice to finish up homework, give it to them. As the year goes on they will find their stride and will learn to manage the homework/practice balance better. Allow athletes to leave practice early on night’s where they need to study for a big test or have a larger than normal homework load.
- Adjusting practice intensity. Know your athletes and know the signs of fatigue. The first few weeks of school you may need to adjust the intensity, number repetitions and lower your expectations a bit.
Years of experience from the coaching side and now from the parenting side have taught me that kids are resilient, they adapt and even the busiest schedule can be a positive thing – IF – parents and coaches are working together with the athletes as a TEAM.
Do you have tips for making the transition from the lazy days of summer back to the structure of balancing school and sports? If so – share them in the comments below! We can all benefit from working to support our athletes.