Posts from 2018-09-30

Role Models in Sports

Are Professional Athletes Really Good Role Models?

Whether we like it or not, professional athletes are role models to a lot of young kids. Who we identify as a role model reflects certain values of a society.

In the past two decades, sports have taken a larger role in entertainment, education, and careers. Sports have become an integral part of American culture. As a result, professional athletes have been put in the spotlight. With great skills and talents, athletes merit great respect.  However, does sporting ability automatically qualify someone as a role model?

What Makes A Good Role Model?

Sports promote health, giving kids an opportunity to be active and social. It has been shown that children who exercise perform better in their academics and social relationships.  Kids are especially sensitive to how adults are promoting health and social relationships. They look to adults for model behavior.

Because we want our kids to live a healthy life and because we know lessons learned in sports can be applied throughout life we would like to assume that an athlete would be a great role model.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case.

Traits of a good role model

  • A good role model is enthusiastic. They enjoy their sport and are excited about being a role model. A good athletic role model is also a good sport, showing values of sportsmanship and humility. They make a commitment to behaving responsibly, in a way that shows their personal integrity.
  • They have an altruistic mission. A good role model is active in their community. They use their position of influence to have a positive effect.
  • A good athlete promotes health and displays it. They show they can have fun while balancing a nutritious and tough training lifestyle.
  • They encourage a healthy relationship between education and physical activity.

Social Media and Sports-

Keeping Kids in the Game

“Take me out to the ball game. Take me out to the crowd.”

Everyone knows the tune. Baseball is a national pastime. The Super Bowl is a nationwide holiday. And who doesn’t love filling out a bracket for the NCAA basketball tournament?

Media keeps every viewer involved and excited for sports. It is especially exciting for young athletes to see professionals on television, skillfully mastering their sports. Athletes have a great influence on what kids take in as values, how they feel about education, their training objectives and even their career goals. For some kids it may feel as though they are watching a real life superhero on TV, capable of incredible feats.

Girls and the Media

While there are a lot of people who might be role models for girls, an athletic role model may be just what our girls need.   Girls participate in sports as much as boys until age 13, but then drop out at twice the rate of boys, studies find. Watching someone like Abby Wambach or Serena Williams perform at a high level may help them to stay in sports even on a club level.

But even for those who don’t stay in sports, an athletic role model may be helpful to a young girl.  Social media can be damaging to the image of the female body, causing stigma and lowered confidence, especially found in high school girls. Athletes model healthy exercise and healthy eating without the goal being to be skinny.  Female athlete may be able to help combat the image that much of social media portrays by showing what it truly means to be healthy.

Having female athletes portrayed in a positive, healthy way has shown to be helping keep girls in sports. Self esteem and body positivity is important to young women as they are trying to grow and identify themselves. Self-esteem, which influences so much else in adolescence, increases with sports participation—teens who participate in two or more sports have a 10 percent higher score on self-esteem than teens who don’t play any sports.

Girls now are in critical need of positive representation in the media, and seem to be finding it in athletes.

Athletes worthy of role model status

Eli and Peyton Manning - The two giants of football. The Manning brothers are famously known for their Super Bowl rings. Using their names and money, they help support children’s hospitals. They have donated and raised money for children’s hospitals and clinics, continuing to serve the community.

Mia Hamm - One of the greatest female soccer players of all time but also one of the most respectable athletes of all time. She remains relevant, even after retiring, continuing to promote health and sportsmanship. In addition to her success in sports, Hamm has given to the community. She started a foundation for bone marrow, seeking to promote awareness and raise funds for families in need of a transplant. She also encourages girls to stay in sports!

Steve Nash - While Steve is famous now, he was not always so. Nash had to work hard to achieve his dreams and continues to remain humble after realizing his goals. He has started his own charity to aid children.

Robbie Rogers - A professional soccer player who has played on the US National Team. He was the first active “out” player, becoming an admirable role model for the LGBTQ youth and all children. Rogers remains true to himself and is a great example of what is really means to be brave.

Serena Williams - A great role model for women everywhere. Her incredible drive has propelled her to be 18 time Grand Slam Champion in tennis. She has worked hard for her goals and encourages other young women to do the same. Along with her tennis career, Williams is an actress, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, fashion mogul, equipment spokeswoman, philanthropist, and part owner of the NFL's Miami Dolphins.

Serena is also human and has recently shown the human side in her outburst at the US Open.  She is a good example of role models are only part of the formula to guiding our children. When we know that our children look up to certain people and we take an active role in that part of their lives we can use behavior as an example. 

Sports are an important social and educational aspect of student athletes’ lives. Professional athletes are adults they will look to for exemplary behavior, on and off the field. Sports are important, introducing necessary values into their development. Guiding those values with healthy role models is important.  Looking up to athletes is only natural. As with anything, what matters are the values they are being exposed to and internalizing? Identifying positive role models who exhibit model behavior is important for any growing youth.

The Current Crisis in Youth Sports

Youth sports have seen a dramatic change over the most recent decade. Ten years ago, kids in high school and middle school were encouraged to participate in various sports and develop multiple skills. A gradually growing trend has reshaped youth sports leagues for present day athletes.

Year-round sports make a new demand of young athletes.  Too often these year round programs are aimed solely the goal of winning. With new emphasis on victory over development, kids are being turned away from teams. Unfortunately, this often happens before an athlete has grown into their ability and we are missing the opportunity to find athletes who bloom later.

The Crisis Facing Youth Sports:

New studies find that youth sports are facing a crisis unlike before.  According to the Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), athletic participation for kids aged 6-12 has dropped down almost 8 percent over the last decade.

Introducing a competitive agenda at an early age impedes crucial skill development that should be nurtured during those ages. Discouraging multi-sport play and informal game play leaves kids discouraged, feeling sports inaccessible to them.

The Divide

Recreational Leagues Versus Specialized Leagues

Recreational leagues encourage fun and inclusion. This often means relying on volunteers to help get the kids involved.  Because we are relying solely on volunteers the kids may have fun but not learn the skills they need to develop are they grow.

However,  in many specialized leagues the idea of game comprehension and creative skill development has been left behind and created an elite approach to youth sports. A hypercompetitive selection process beginning at a young age shapes a psychological and social attitude. The value on winning has overtaken the value rightfully placed on education and enjoyment. And this specialization often means a kid forgoes playing other sports.  This not only causes burnout but can lead to injuries. 

Ideas of Success

The Concept of Winning

Participation in team activity is an important part of youth development.  The goal of youth sports programs should reflect the value placed on the long-term development of young athletes.  By allowing a shift in youth sports, leagues and organizations have demonstrated there is greater value being placed on winning as opposed to the mental and physical health of athletes or the learning that should be part of the game.

At API, we love to win, but we also believe that sports are a metaphor for life and the lessons learned on the field go far beyond the field, often being taken into adult life.  We want our athletes to understand their game and while we want a sense of commitment to the team, we also want out athletes to play additional sports.  We want them to learn that sports is about more than winning.  It’s about teamwork, perseverance and life lessons. he goal of youth leagues and organizations should be to create an inclusive space for all athletes. Making sports accessible to minorities and other hopeful athletes will have a long-term effect.

"Hey Coach!"

Hey Coach

Things to Remember Before Speaking with the Coach

Being a parent is hard.  There is no guidebook and as our kids get older it only gets harder. While some things, like parent-teacher conferences are laid out for you.  There are many we have to guess at.  One question we hear a lot is “How do I know when to talk to my child’s coach?”

Speaking to a coach can seem intimidating but it can also feel like confrontation and no one likes confrontation.

Every parent on the sidelines wants what is best for their athlete. Luckily, most coaches have the same goal in mind.   Still there are times when you might doubt it.

It may be tempting to call foul on the coach, but there are a few things to keep in mind before you blow the whistle.

Before Speaking to the Coach:

  1. Let your child do the talking - If the concern is a frustration your athlete has, then they should address the situation. You can speak with them before they take it to the coach, but allow them to express their athletic frustrations. The coach will most likely  be willing to help.
  2. Keep the focus - This is about your kid, but it’s also about the team and coaches are juggling both everyday. Athletes and parents alike should demonstrate good sportsmanship. When approaching the coach, do not make it personal. Keep the focus on your kid and be honest about your frustrations towards what can be controlled. Remember, however, the coach has a team full of other kids and concerned parents.
  3. Approach with the goal of learning, not accusing - Accusations will not quickly lead to resolution. Open-ended questions and patience between both parties will result in a compromising solution for everyone. While you may know what is best for your child, their coach also has their best interest in mind. Experts in their sports, they are knowledgeable educators to the team. Don’t try to accuse and teach but listen and learn!
  4. There is no “I” in Team: The coach is not there to make you happy. The coach is there to develop player’s skills and abilities and teach them a love for the game. Their goal is not to placate parents. A good coach cares for each player as an individual, but they also have to keep the entire team in mind. Sometimes, what’s best for the team may not be what you think is best for your child.
  5. Remember, the coach is human too!- They may know the game inside and out and know each of their players names by heart but even coaches make mistakes. They get frustrated, grumpy and make up bad plays. Patience and mutual respect are key. Maybe an extra granola bar for the coach at the next practices, too.
  6. Take a day - In the end one of the best tips is to take a day.  Don’t approach the coach after a practice or game in which you experience frustration. Wait a day, take a breath and see if the issue is worth discussing the next day.

Striking Out-

Keeping in Mind How Not to Approach the Coach:

  1. Don’t ambush the coach - Parent committees find comfort in numbers. While there may be many of you, there is only one coach. Set up a meeting date and time and possible representatives to keep the conversation smooth and focused.
  2. Don’t make it personal - It's about the team and your athlete.
  3. Don’t compare your player to another - This may hurt the players feelings but also the coaches. The coach feels they may be making the best tactical decisions based on individual skills. Trust the coach. Don’t get others involved. Keep the conversation focused.
  4. Do not question tactical coaching decisions - Again, these are experts in their sport! They know what they are doing and could use your support as much as your athlete.

Every parent feels concern and wishes the best for their kid. Coaches also want the best for each individual while working on the team to be the best unit. You have the right to speak your mind and express your concerns to any of your children’s coaches or teachers.  You invest in your child’s sports and education, waking up Saturday and Sunday mornings to cheer them on. Remember, the coach is there those Saturdays and Sundays too, perhaps earlier than you!

Teamwork isn’t only for the kids on the field, but for the adults on the sideline as well.

Off to a Fast Start

Tips To Prepare For A Busy Season

As a parent, you know that days can get long with classwork and practices back to back. Preparation means more than packing their lunches or making sure they don’t forget their soccer cleats. Preparation begins a day, days or even weeks in advance.

For parents and athletes alike, there are no such things as a short day. A lot goes into each day and it takes more than a fully packed bag to get through it. Mental, physical and emotional preparations are all part of getting your head in the game and into your work!

Six Ways To Prepare Your Young Athlete

Set Your Goals

Get a head start. Visualize what the coming week may look like and begin to prepare for it. Visualizing cases and scenarios helps reduce stress about unexpected or forgotten events. Research shows that mental practices are almost as effective as physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either method alone. Envisioning your goal can extend far beyond the racecourse to your everyday endeavors. We suggest that your athlete focus on three goals for the week.  Three things they can accomplish that would make the week a win.  This may take some of the pressure off to get everything done.  But at the very least it will help your athlete focus on goals that are truly important.

Take Care to Energize

Eat responsibly! This is an important concept for you and your athlete. Getting a balanced diet throughout the week prepares you for the demands of the day. Proper nutrition directly affects and benefits cognitive skills, quality and quantity of sleep, energy levels, and work/academic performance. Your athlete may be the one running the field, needing extra care of their diet, but you as a parent, you have to keep up as well.  If your young athlete sees you practicing self care, they are more likely to follow suit.

Don’t forget breakfast.  It is easy for a young athlete skip breakfast when they are running late.  Preparing for this eventuality can help.  Eating a balanced, nutritious breakfast is something you should do every day, but especially the morning of a big event for a boost in mind power and heightened alertness.  What can you put in the refrigerator or on the counter that can be grabbed as they are running out the door?

Take a Time Out

Removing distractions is a benefit to our students, but it can be for parents as well. Student athletes take on schoolwork and teamwork, a combination that makes for a sometimes overwhelming schedule. Getting downtime is as important as getting the work done. Rest and recovery is an essential part of any athletes training.  Again, this is a place you as a parent can mirror the behavior you want for your child.  Taking the time to rest and rejuvenate is important.  Show your young athlete the importance by scheduling downtime for yourself as well. Mental preparation, exercise and rest are just as important as the physical.

Dress to Impress

Whether its game day, school day or a meeting at the office, dress to impress. Dressing for success has actually shown to lead to higher self-confidence, self-assurance and attitude positivity. A soccer jersey or a tie are both feel good uniforms.  Helping your child find a style that works for them, that causes them to walk straighter and with more confidence can actually help them perform better on the field and in the classroom.  More importantly, it can give them the confidence to make it through

Don’t Get Blindsided

Prepare for anything! Always be prepared. When you visualize your week, imagine possible scenarios. Don’t get caught without an extra pair of goggles for the swim meet or your spreadsheet for the meeting. Preparing takes only a few minutes but saves a lot of time down the road. 

Pre Game Rituals

Get ready for the big days! If you know you or your athlete have a big day coming up, personalize your downtime to prepare. Listening to music, movie night or a walk in the park are ways professional athletes have admitted to spending their downtime getting ready for a game. Getting your mind off the big stuff may sometimes be the best way to

Get your head in the game!

Preparation extends beyond stretching and eating well the night before a big game. Preparation is mental and physical, preparing the mind to take on classwork and the social aspects of teamwork after school. Physical activity is a strain on the body and the mind and demands preparation on part of student and parent.

These preparation habits can benefit our athletes and those of us on the sidelines, too!

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