With the return of the intense summer heat, parents should take extra precautions to ensure the safety of their young athletes. Athletes 14 through 18 generally are in better shape and have a greater sense of the stresses that inflicts on their bodies. However the reason they call us “coach” is to make sure that we provide the greatest amount of safety for these young performers.
Younger athletes under 13 require extreme supervision. They really have no idea the trouble their stubbornness can get them into. I’m sure that you hear, “I don't like the taste of this,” “I don't want drink this, I only want to drink that.” As coaches and parents we really have to take charge in these situations. It is unwise to give children too many options when they cannot completely understand the consequence of their actions.
Here are some suggestions for the upcoming week.
First of all as head coach you are legally responsible for the well-being of the players on your team. The hold harmless contract, indemnification clause, written by the league or travel team and signed by the parents is absolutely worthless in these negligent or failure to provide a legal standard of care, situations.
Parent’s Clear Purpose
Next please keep in mind "it's all about the kids"; not your coaching or parental ego. You have said this often, now hold yourself accountable. On the hundred-degree afternoon you can bet your bottom dollar its five or more degrees hotter on the playing surface and the heat index likely 110. Each parent has a personal decision to make. You must ask yourself if the game is really vital to play; on that day, at that time in the extreme heat and humidity? An experience responsible coach will also be of good counsel. A rainout game should be equal to a heat-out game!
I think by now most teams understand the value of ice towels. An ice towel is used in a small cooler with a reusable ice pack. Just add water and a face towel. Make sure that the players use it frequently on their wrists and in the back of the neck to eliminate heat buildup in their bodies.
Performance hydration begins 6 to 8 hours before the event, the game or practice. The water that players consume during competition does not increase their performance it basically provides survival nutrition.
Elite performers know to eliminate protein 6 to 8 hours before competing. Proteins is not a source of energy but is used to rebuild muscle fiber after the game is over. Quantities of protein, particularly processed protein, will do more harm to the athlete than good, in that it the body requires more energy to digest of protein. The body recruits blood from the extremities to deliver the energy to digest a difficult task. This is why your mom told you to wait 30 minutes after eating to swim. The arms and legs will cramp.
Pregame diet should consist of complex carbohydrates and water; or an engineered high carb drink (not caffeinated or 5-hour energy either). New energy drinks and snacks during the game have been recently engineered to not only taste good, but provide an enormous amount of complex carbohydrates that are quickly digestible. Post Game – now load up on proteins and extra amino acids.
There are two sources for energy information. 1) Google “complex carbohydrate foods” and you'll get a very detailed list. 2) go to any running-specific store. Runners don't have big pockets. They need to load up before and be very efficient in what they consume during their competition. Today companies like GU (Goo) provide an extraordinary amount of engineered nutrition to athletes. The founder of GU originally invented the Power Bar. They produce “Chomps” a personal favorite of ours. Similar to gummy bears and taste great, which should be easy for a parent to sell?
Do not let your children over sleep on game days. It creates an unusual and divergent pattern in their daily routine. Sleeping in till 10 or 11 creates a jet lag condition and a lethargic athlete in the afternoon. Get the kids up at the normal time. Keeping them busy, keeping them occupied will ensure a more alert athlete in the afternoon.
The Bottom Line
Adults can and usually deal with heat much easier than children; they can read their own bodies better. The heat sneaks up on kids; they don't see it coming. There's nothing worse than seeing a kid fall to his knees with severe exhaustion or throw up due to dehydration. Again these are just children; even the teenagers are not elite athletes with a staff of trainers. There is no game worth risking your child's health.
For older competitors who are looking to expose their talents to colleges please remember this; there is no second chance to make a good first impression. Failing to take care of your body in extreme heat conditions will only produce, in the eyes of a recruiter, an out of focus and lethargic recruit whom they will likely pass by.
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