Keeping Young Athletes in Shape Mentally and Physically

In early March, many of us were excited about our kids’ spring athletic programs. There were tryouts, opening day parades, practices, games, new uniforms and equipment, fundraisers and developing friendships among teammates.  Then everything came to a sudden halt when the shelter-in-place was announced.
Spring athletic programs at schools will not happen this year and the fate of sports leagues and community programs is uncertain.
So now what?
Mike Mowery, executive director of the Bay Area chapter of Positive Coaching Alliance, says now is a good time to work on other aspects of being a good athlete. Positive Coaching Alliance is an organization that focuses on character building and instilling life lessons for athletes. During this time, it is offering some free online classes and resources to help young athletes (see Online Resources below).
“During this time, kids need to be active, which is extremely difficult to do while you’re sheltering-in-place. But this is also the prime time to work on how they can become a better athlete mentally, psychologically and in terms of their character development,” Mowery says. “With that, once they are able to play again, they will be playing at a higher level because of the way they’re thinking about their sport and themselves.”
He says he realizes how difficult this must be for everyone involved in kids’ sports.
“For kids who have been in school anxious for their sport to start, it’s difficult to lose out on school and your league not starting,” Mowery says. “It’s difficult for those leagues. High school sports may have lost out for the spring season, but they know they’re going to continue and there’s going to be funding for the schools come the fall. But a lot of leagues run using volunteer coaches and volunteer boards. There’s probably more uncertainty about when sports will start up and if sports will start up.”
Young athletes also need to find ways to stay conditioned so they are not more susceptible to injuries when they do go back to playing sports, says Chuck Lienhard, head coach for Arroyo High School’s junior varsity baseball team in San Lorenzo.
Stretching and doing things that prevent muscle loss are extremely important, he says.
If you have hand weights, do regular reps with those. If you don’t have weights, use some cans of vegetables or anything that will provide some resistance, Lienhard says. Athletes should also be doing things like push-ups, sit-ups, planks and leg lifts. They should also be finding ways to do cardio workouts like running or bicycle riding.
If they play baseball, just standing in place and swinging a bat can help, he says, adding that if there’s a baseball tee and a net to swing a ball into, that’s even better. Playing catch with someone in your household is another way to stay in shape, Lienhard says.
“They can make up conditioning exercises. They just need to try to not lose muscle,” he concludes.
Teresa Mills-Faraudo is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.
Online Resources
Dicks Pro Tips. Dick’s Sporting Goods offers online baseball and softball drills as well as other online programs with helpful tips.
Little League. This site offers tips and programs helpful to baseball and softball players.
Positive Coaching Alliance: Online Course for Youth Athletes. This highly interactive course provides specific tips and techniques for mastery and continuous improvement in any sport, seizing opportunities to encourage and support teammates, and competing fiercely to win, but only within an ethical context of “Honoring the Game.”
Positive Coaching Alliance: Dealing With Disappointment During COVID-19 Blog Post. Tips for helping young athletes deal with cancellations during the coronavirus outbreak. 
TGA Premier Sports. This includes golf and tennis video-lessons from coaches, videos of kids playing the games, warm up exercise videos and games to play solo or with the family.


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