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Preparing the student athlete for sports season

Kristina Marquez, BSN, MPH has been in the fitness and medical field for over 12 years and is an outdoor and endurance enthusiast residing in Buffalo, New York.

Get ready to win

Months of schlepping gear to and from practice and long workout sessions have you and your child excited for the new sports season. Learn how you and your kiddo can prepare to excel this season, and what your coach should provide. Dr. Damion Martins, director of orthopedics and sports medicine at Atlantic Health Systems/director of internal medicine for the New York Jets, gives you the details on athlete preparation and what to expect from a coach.

Boy playing lacross

Top 3 preparation tips for student athletes

According to Dr. Damion Martins, no matter the sport, the top three things your child athlete should do are:

  • Build muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular training.
  • Eat a balanced diet and drink enough water.
  • Prepare his or her mind and be mentally healthy.

Optimize your training time

Help your kids understand that they don't want to play too hard and too long while they're training because they'll be burned out and less able to perform well when game time arrives. Dr. Martins suggests kid athletes "alter [their] workouts to maximize effectiveness of the training." Make sure your kids take days off to allow for adequate recovery and to focus on nutrition to fuel their bodies. In addition, work with them to include dynamic strength exercises like squatting, pushing/pulling and core stability, and incorporate speed and agility drills such as plyometric exercises.

Avoid heat-related illness

Hot weather or hot indoor conditions can put your child at risk for heat-related injury. Dr. Martins warns that preventing heat-related illnesses starts before game day. The best way to avoid heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion or heat stroke, is to begin drinking enough fluids before and throughout the exercise. "Start a few days before the event and drink 16 ounces immediately before exercising," he advises. Have your kiddo drink a sports drink if the activity lasts more than 60 minutes.

Know the signs of heat-related illness

Suspect heat-related illness if you see or experience the following symptoms and seek medical attention: nausea, confusion, headaches, drenching sweats, and cramps.

Work out wisely in hot weather >>

Coach's corner

Talk to your kids about the importance of listening to their coaches. "Coaches should educate athletes on sport-specific and individual nutrition, hydration and calorie requirements," stresses Dr. Martins. Coaches play a vital role as mentors, educators and trained professionals. Coaches teach goal-setting to increase commitment to the sport, a healthy lifestyle, personal perseverance and dedication.

More on sports preparation for kids

Keep your kids safe on the sports field
Feeding your child athlete
Team sports: Benefits of organized athletics for kids

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