The competition for rosters spots on school sports teams seems to be more competitive than ever. There are a few very important ways that you can help your child get the edge he or she may need to win a spot. Here are some tips for parents on how they can help their child perform at their best during tryouts:
- It's all about attitude. A secret I have learned from polling hundreds of coaches over the years is that many coaches choose lesser talented athletes over more talented athletes if they have that "winning" attitude. A player who runs to the practice field with enthusiasm, great team spirit and the desire to learn and excel will be the one that is able to rally all of her teammates in the tough times. Players who are all about putting the team's needs before theirs are highly desirable team members. Let your child know that coaches value these traits.
- Shape up, or ship out. Athletes need to be in excellent physical shape before the tryouts begin. Have your son or daughter attend a pre-tryout clinic or camp that focuses on developing stamina, endurance, agility and strength. This way anything the coaches ask them to do should be easier.
- Time for a check-up. Make sure the child's pre-participation physical evaluation (PPE) is up-to-date. Not only are PPEs important in identifying physical conditions effecting sports participation, such as asthma or a history of concussions, but a signed, up-to-date PPE form is required by virtually all schools before an athlete is allowed to play sports. Because different schools use different PPE forms, make sure your child's doctor signs the correct form and that you make three copies: one for your records, one for your child to hand-deliver to the school nurse, and a third to hand-deliver to the coach/athletic director. Many an athlete has missed the first critical days of tryouts because the PPE form was lost or was outdated. Have all dental work and check-ups completed weeks in advance so they do not have to miss any of the tryout days.
- Rack up the zzzz's. Make sure your athlete gets enough sleep. Studies show teenagers need nine hours of sleep but only get about seven. A tired athlete, especially one still playing on another team, isn't going to be able to perform at their best during tryouts. You can help by setting a consistent "lights-out" time for turning off the computer, mobile phone, MP3, other devices and the TV, so your athlete gets the rest needed for peak performance. Have phones and other handheld devices docked away from the bedroom to reduce the opportunity for late night texting, gaming and noise interruptions such as miss dialed numbers and messages.
- Make sure the shoe fits. Poorly-fitting or worn-out shoes can trip up an athlete on the way to making the team. Make sure your young athlete is trying out in properly-fitting footwear, that they have been broken in before tryouts start, and that they are providing the proper support. Many an athlete has been sidelined by blisters from practicing hard in brand-new shoes. It is also important; both for peak performance and to prevent overuse injuries, that the shoes be periodically replaced. For athletes playing tennis, basketball or volleyball, shoes should be replaced every month for those playing 5 to 6 times a week and every 3 to 4 months for those playing 2-3 times a week.
- Be pro-active about hydration: Even mild dehydration can keep an athlete from performing at his best during tryouts. Staying hydrated during the school day is particularly challenging because athletes often can't or don't remember to hydrate properly or regularly. Indeed, studies show that many athletes are dehydrated before they even start their sport, making it difficult to catch up. Three things to remember about hydration: First, athletes need to be hydrated for sports, no matter the season or the weather. Even athletes exercising outside in cold weather get dehydrated. Second, water does not hydrate as effectively as a sport drink like Gatorade that is scientifically formulated with fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates to rapidly replace what athletes lose in sweat and provide energy to keep them at the top of their game. And, third, remember that thirst is not a good indicator of hydration, so encourage athletes to drink on a schedule and teach this simple urine color test to determine hydration status.
- Fuel sports nutrition gaps: The importance of proper nutrition and hydration in athletic performance is often overlooked, but cannot be stressed enough. Athletes need to be properly fueled before, during and after tryouts, especially multi-day tryouts, to get the most out of their bodies and perform at their best. Athletes typically have little time in the school day to eat before tryouts, so they start on an empty stomach or choose ineffective sources of fuel based on what's readily available. And there is often a time gap between the end of a practice or game and sitting down to dinner when, studies show; tired muscles need protein to recover to get ready for the next day of the tryout. Make sure your athlete has the right fuel when it's needed by packing scientifically developed sports nutrition products like Gatorade's G Series to provide the fuel, fluids and nutrients athletes before and during sports, and the fluid and protein they need to recover after a grueling day of tryouts.
- Gear up. Not having the right equipment could knock an athlete out of a tryout before it even starts. As competition for roster spots becomes more and more intense, the risk of injury from a flying elbow to the mouth or a finger poke to the eye increases. Making sure your young athlete has a mouth guard and is wearing protective goggles will help keep him in the game.
- Take it easy. Tryouts are a great learning experience for parents, too. The more relaxed you as a parent can be, the more relaxed your kids will also be. This is an important time for you to be a calm, level headed parent and not a coach. Young athletes with the "home team advantage" truly do have a leg up on other kids trying out.
Posted August 1, 2011