Youth Sports and Athletic Development

As parents, we’ve likely experienced those moments of doubt – are we doing enough to help our kids succeed? And one area where that’s prevalent is youth sports. It’s a billion-dollar business in the U.S. Kids as young as 7 are in training camps, traveling the state (sometimes the country) on competitive teams, and parents often feel like if kids haven’t been training before the age of 9, there’s no point to trying a new sport because they’ll be too far behind.

But there’s another well-known stat – by the age of 13, approximately 70% of kids in the U.S. stop playing organized sports because it’s no longer fun.

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Don’t Delay if You Want to Play

Scheduling a child’s school or sports physical can be a tricky task if put off until the last minute.

What many parents don’t know is that they can schedule these exams now and avoid the push for appointments that comes in August. While local clinics make every attempt to accommodate the demand, each new school year they see a heavy volume of students needing physicals for sports, kindergarten registration, and other periodic check-ups.

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How Much Activity is Too Much?

You know your family’s schedules are busy – sports, school, after-school, music lessons, play dates. Sometimes it can feel as though quality family time involves driving between activities. And what about those kids who enjoy being active – playing soccer, hockey and lacrosse? Or maybe it’s swimming, tennis and baseball? How much is too much?

Dave Knight, manager of UW Health’s Sports Performance Program, offers a relatively simple formula based on a child’s age and grade.

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Health Issues at the Olympics

Aaahhhhh….the Olympics.  The time where one becomes an expert in a sport they only watch once every 4 years (“What were the curlers thinking with that move?!?”, “That ski jump was way more difficult than the other that got a higher score!”).  I have enjoyed watching this Olympics more than prior years.  One reason is that there were many teenagers doing really teenagery things (I’m aware teenagery is not a word, but it should be).  There’s the 17 year old gold medal snowboarder, Red Gerard, who overslept on competition day after a night of binge-watching Netflix (and he couldn’t find his coat, so had to borrow someone else’s).  Another 17 year old gold medal snowboarder, Chloe Kim, tweeted about her dietary habits in between her runs.  It’s good to see all the Olympic fame hasn’t changed them.

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How a sport psychologist can help youth athletes

Young athletes can be hard on themselves and each other. A missed pass, a dropped ball, a slow swim time can lead to feelings of “I’m not good enough” and that they let their coach, teammates and even parents down.

While no athlete is immune to anxiety, teens seem to be particularly vulnerable to the effects. The pressure they put on themselves can be intense, and unfortunately they’re not necessarily able to manage it. And it can ultimately affect their performance.

UW Health sport psychologist Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, explains that anxiety causes us to think less clearly, have slower reaction times, tense our muscles and even be less willing to take risks. All of which can affect an athlete’s performance during the game.

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