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.
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.
The body is an incredible machine. It performs countless functions without our knowing and is able to turn the food we eat into energy to do homework, play sports, lift the remote to change channels, walk the shores of Lake Mendota, and do every other activity we do. But what happens when our bodies don’t get the energy they need? This is a topic that has been studied by many doctors and organizations, including the International Olympic Committee.
Since Title 9 was enacted in 1972, more girls have participated in sports than ever before, but that doesn’t mean challenges no longer exist. A quick look at current stats reveals that there’s still a long way to go to address underlying issues that make it difficult for girls to participate in organized sports past middle school. Consider this:
I was going to write about a completely different topic for this week’s post, but I just saw an incredible presentation about sport specialization by UW’s own Alison Brooks, MD, MPH, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Dr. Brooks was presenting research about whether sport specialization – when an athlete focuses on one sport, usually throughout the year and at the exclusion of participation in other sports – is a healthy and effective way to help youth achieve their athletic goals. In other words, does someone who wants to play in the WNBA have to play in a year-round basketball league before high school (or even middle school)?