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Archive for High School Sports

Oct
23

Is Cheerleading Too Dangerous?

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While watching ABCNews.com this evening I caught a segment they did on the dangers of cheerleading, the growing trend towards higher, more dangerous stunts and tumbling, and the rise in injury rates among cheerleaders. So, in case you missed it, here is the news piece:

So, what do you think? Is cheerleading too dangerous? Should it be considered a high school sport? Should there be different rules for High School Cheerleading vs. College Cheer vs. private club programs?

Now that I have a child who is a High School Cheerleader, who is a “flyer” at times, I have a little different perspective – good and bad.

Cheerleading is a great next stop for competitive level gymnasts who have left gymnastics for one reason or another. This has been very true for my daughter. She went straight from competitive gymnastics to trying out for the JV cheer squad. The practices, community service (Pee Wee camps) they did, and camp experience gave her an immediate transition that was at a level she was used to and it also made the transition from middle school to high school easier.

At the high school and/or college level it is a team sport – whether they want to call it that or not – and team sports are a positive part of the high school experience. The camaraderie (girl drama and all) has definitely been one of the things my daughter has enjoyed most in her first season as a high school cheerleader. That said, with just a few weeks left in the season, she is ready for a change of pace and has opted to swim on the high school team rather than do winter cheer this year. She is swimming because her older brother is on the team, but I am going to guess she will miss cheer almost immediately.

I do like that at our high school the cheerleaders are treated like athletes. They have to have sports physicals, they pay the same athletic fee as the other sports, they have access to the athletic trainer and they all get their baseline concussion test before practices even start (and there have been quite a few of them who have been retested throughout the season). They also follow the high school athletic league’s guidelines on stunting (no more than two high) and tumbling. It is definitely a step in the right direction.

But as positive as this first experience with high school cheerleading has been so far, there definitely are plenty of things that do concern me – not just from a parent perspective but also from the 20+ years of coaching gymnastics that I have to draw on.

While my daughter’s squad seems pretty good about progressions and not rushing the girls to try new skills until they are confident with the pre-requisite steps, I still get concerned about the fitness, strength and focus of the girls in general. Those are things that take years to develop and you can’t expect a 14 year old who has only ever done parks and rec cheer clinics to have the skills to lift another athlete in the air let alone catch her if she falters.

Tumbling on an outdoor track or basketball courts scares me. I’m sorry, it just does! Even when I see the girls who I know can tumble, and tumble well, I just don’t like the pounding on their wrists and ankles – not to mention the risk of injury if something goes wrong.

Cheerleading and the dangers associated with it is an important issue – as are ways we can prevent sports injuries in general. I found out about a Twitter Chat on the topic that is taking place today from the Women’s Sports Foundation Facebook page:

Please join us for a Tweet Chat with ABC News’ chief medical correspondent Dr. Richard Besser. The topic is kid’s sports injuries. This is a great opportunity to get your questions answered and voice your concerns to some of the top experts in the country. Simply head on over to Twitter Tuesday, October 23rd, 1:00PM EST and search for the hash tag #abcDRBchat. Or enter that hash tag into tweetchat.com and follow a streamlined version of the chat. We look forward to hearing what you have to say about this important issue!

I plan on joining in the conversation – how about you?

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Aug
20

Support Your School’s Athletic Boosters

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booster club

Last week at the high school’s fall sports meeting I heard a very startling fact. In our public school district, every high school receives $7500 per year to fund their ENTIRE sports program. Are you kidding me? $7500 to fund 17 different sports teams? WOW! I was stunned. Then when I heard that the officials bill for those 17 sports totaled $41,000 last year I really had to shake my head. How on earth do the school sports function?

Answer: the Athletic Boosters and volunteers

In order to make up the difference in the funds that the athletic department receives from the county and the amount that they need to buy uniforms, equipment, pay for officials, etc, the athletic boosters helps them out through ticket sales, spirit gear sales, fundraisers, and concessions.

If you have an athlete in high school or one coming up through the ranks, get involved with your school’s athletic boosters. They need volunteers. They need fresh ideas. They need support. Your athletes need you.

The principal at our school was talking with the parents and said something to the effect that if they offered a class that taught leadership, teamwork, ethics, time management and fitness at the high school, they probably wouldn’t have anyone sign up, but if your child’s sports coach says see you at practice on Monday at 9, every athlete would be there. Sports teaches all of those important life skills. And without the booster clubs, parent volunteers, and support from the local community, many more cuts to the already suffering athletic programs would have to be made.

Contact your school’s booster club and see how you can get involved in something that will truly benefit your student athlete.

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Sep
20

Distance Running for Teen Girls

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girls cross country

Long distance running can be intense and challenging. Yet, with women’s cross country and track and field on the rise, at both the professional and scholastic levels, more and more teen and preteen girls are taking up the sport. Whether competitive or non-competitive, long distance running gives one a feeling of accomplishment and can positively impact girls’ self esteem. By training properly and staying motivated and positive, teen and preteen athletes can improve their running ability while avoiding injury.

For preteen and teen girls it is recommended that the focus on competition be minimized and instead placed on form and endurance. Sprint-based exercises have been proven to create a stronger foundation for future competition. By developing these aspects, it lessens the chances of injury. A balance of 60-percent training and 40-percent competition is optimal. Most experts also agree that young people should not train for excessively long events. Encourage your child to look at track events, organized cross –country events for teens, or fun 5k or 10k events, while saving their marathon, or even half marathon, dreams for when they are older and fully developed.

Safe and reasonable training is essential for teen and preteen girl distance runners. Most girls reach their peak height velocity between the ages of 12 and 14. This is a period when their bones lengthen but are porous. In addition, the growth plates are open. Due to these factors, it is important to avoid overly intense training as it can lead to injury. Grueling workouts can also slow puberty in young girls or cause them to develop the female athlete triad. The female athlete triad consists of amemorrhea, eating disorders, and osteoporosis. It has become increasingly common among young female distance runners. These issues need to be dealt with in a positive manner to avoid health problems later in life.

After reaching peak height velocity, development of speed, aerobic base, and good nutritional habits will enhance distance running ability. To boost aerobic base but also prevent injury, it is recommended that girls increase their mileage by no more than 10-percent a week. Stretching is a must to stave off injury due to the sudden growth of the musculoskeletal system. Strength training is also beneficial. Girls under the age of 12 should develop strength through body weight resistance exercises. Girls over the age of 12 can begin a mild weight training regimen.

Ideal mileage depends on the individual. Studies concur that moderate mileage is suitable. Estimates of a healthy weekly distance for teen and preteen girls can vary considerably with ranges reported from 30 to 70 miles with most estimates closer to the lower end at no more than 40 miles. After 70 plus miles per week, improvement in aerobic fitness stagnates and musculoskeletal injuries are more prevalent and that level of training that is more appropriate for an older or particularly talented athlete. While a distance base is necessary, workouts should vary to include training such as intervals. One tip that coaches have been using with stellar results is the total fitness regimen. This well-rounded training is designed to prevent injuries. In addition to running, athletes do weight training, calisthenics, pool exercises, and plyometrics. Girls can keep track of mileage and fitness training through a journal or, if she is into gadgets, read up on how to choose the best GPS watch for her needs.

Motivational techniques are another key element of training teen and preteen girl distance runners. First, coaches and parents should avoid putting pressure on an athlete, which can cause poor performance and decreased desire to run. During the preteen and early teen years focusing on having fun and achieving personal bests, as opposed to competition, yields better results. Discussing racing strategy before a competition can help ease the runner’s mind. Visualization techniques, where the runner sees herself doing her best, have been proven to increase confidence. Finally, a big motivator can be incorporating days of rest into the schedule. This allows the girl’s body to recover while also improving mental fitness.

About the Author: Carleen Coulter is the owner and editor of RunGadget, a site that focuses on running gear reviews.

Image Source: Idaho Statesman

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