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Sports and Child Development

Your child is growing and building new skills every day. Even though sports seem mostly physical, they also include other areas of development. More specifically, all of the areas of development – cognitive, social, and emotional. Understanding the connection between what your child is doing right now, can do, will do, and might not do for a while, and athletic types of activities can help to make the most of your child’s sporting experience. Learning about the sequence of child development, major milestones, and what to expect (and when) in terms of team play gives you the power to pick a sport that suits your child’s needs and abilities. So, what’s going on with your awesome athlete’s development? Check out the milestone markers that may directly affect what and how your child plays!

Preschoolers

It seems like your cute little baby just learned how to walk. And now you want to put them onto the soccer field? What? That’s right, kids as young as the preschool years are ready to start a sport. This doesn’t mean that your 3-year-old is passing the ball and scoring goals ala David Beckham. But, your sporty toddler can begin with basic activities that teach teamwork, listening/paying attention, balance and coordination. Look for these sports-related developmental milestones during the 3- to 5-year period:

Motor development. Your child is developing the abilities to:

  • Run
  • Kick a ball
  • Hop
  • Stand on one foot (for a few seconds)
  • Throw a ball (overhand, at this point)
  • Swing a bat (hitting a ball off of a tee)

Cognitive development. Your preschooler is building skills to:

  • Understand the concept of time (before the game, during the game, after the game)
  • Count up to 10
  • Follow up to a three-part command
  • Recall stories or some information that the child is told verbally
  • Participate in pretend play
  • Understand and follow rules (this is still emerging)

Social/emotional development. The milestones during the preschool years include:

  • Cooperating with others
  • Sharing
  • Taking turns
  • Resolving conflicts (this skill is only starting to emerge – the child may need adult help with this one)
  • Act independently
  • Show empathy

Kindergarteners and Young Elementary School-Aged Children

During the next few years your child is refining those preschool-period milestones. While you shouldn’t expect your young athlete to have a full grasp of sharing and turn-taking during the preschool years, as an older grade schooler you can. These budding abilities, along with developing empathy and resolving conflicts, help your child to better understand teamwork and good sportsmanship concepts.

Your child is also now able to follow a longer list of directions (in other words, more than three steps) and understands that rules are rules. During this period, kids are able to start learning about the more sophisticated rules of game play and follow a coach’s instruction.

As your sporting child is learning more about how the game is played, they’re also developing complex physical skills. Instead of stumbling often or missing the ball most of the time, your child is better able to aim and coordinate movements. This may show up as your child goes from hitting a ball off of a tee to hitting one with a bat, finally getting the ball into the basket or when they are able to move up to a new level/league.

Older Children

By the time your child is nearing the end of elementary school or starting middle school, they’re completely able to follow the sport’s rules. Young athletes, at this age, also have the ability to listen attentively to a coach, follow directions and demonstrate good sportsmanship.

When it comes to physical development, older kids are tackling complex motor tasks, building strength and improving flexibility. At this point your child may be developmentally ready for a travel team or league that provides a more competitive environment. Keep in mind, your player is still a child. They may understand that no one wins all of the time, but they won’t like losing. Your child may still stomp off the field or break out in tears when they don’t get a win.

Teens

Physically your teen may be on par with an adult when it comes to game play. Teenage athletes often specialize in one specific sport and have an amazing ability to focus on training. But, that doesn’t mean all teens have chosen one standout athletic activity. The teen years are a time of experimentation and trying to sort identity out. This may mean that your child who once loved tennis now wants to try soccer or volleyball. It’s not that your teen is indecisive, lazy or being difficult. Instead, it’s more likely that they are trying out all of their options.

Keep in mind, developmental milestones aren’t set in stone. While the sequence is fairly predictable, some children meet milestones right on time and others may be early or late.

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Breaking Gender Stereotypes in Sports

Boys play football and girls ice skate. Right? Isn’t this how it goes when it comes to sports – there are boys’ sports and then the ones that girls participate in. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Even though we’ve come a long way since the days when girls stood on the sidelines cheering for the ‘big, strong boys’, gender stereotypes still persist. What can you do as a parent or a coach to break down these biases that ring false?

Avoid Stereotyped Speech

“You throw like a girl!” How many times have you heard that one? It’s the middle of baseball practice and one of the boys gently tosses the ball. It totally misses its target. Suddenly someone (it could be another child, a parent, or even a coach) makes this gendered statement. It’s so common, that you might not even think twice about it. But, what does it even mean anyway? Are girls so weak that they can barely throw a ball? Little League superstar Mo’ne Davis would probably have something to say about that.

Along with watching what you say, stay on the lookout for other people’s gendered speech. If you overhear a child spouting off stereotypes, don’t immediately jump in and yell. Stop the child and ask them what they mean and why they said it. In some cases, the child might be repeating something they heard (and have no idea what it truly means). Discuss why it’s not okay to speak this way, why this type of talk is insulting and how both girls and boys can play sports – all sports.

Be a Role Model

Who says that only dads can coach baseball or that mom’s role is to hand out the after-game snacks? Acting as a role model is an easy way to show your child, or your team, what you mean when you say, “We don’t believe in gender stereotypes.”

Asking a few of the moms to coach or help coach (or volunteering yourself) shows the players that women can be just as knowledgeable and ‘into’ sports as men are. This type of traditional (in other words, stereotyped) role reversal helps girls to see that they can do anything a boy can do, while at the same time showing boys that females can be strong sports figures.

Look to the Pros

Professional sports figures have an almost superhero-like status, especially when it comes to how kids view them. Use this to teach your child (or your team) that gender stereotypes shouldn’t exist. Do some biographical work and take a look at some of the most powerful, famous and influential women in sports history. This includes super-star sisters Venus and Serena Williams, Monica Abbott, Rhonda Rousey, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Maria Sharapova, Mia Hamm, Billie Jean King and many, many others.

Yes, learning about these awesome athletes gives your little girl a boost when it comes to being confident in a woman’s ability. But, it’s equally as important that boys learn about these fabulous female figures too. They need to know that men aren’t the only ones who dominate in the athletic arena.

Try a Boys-and-Girls League

Some sports leagues/classes don’t differentiate between boys’ and girls’ teams. If you have the opportunity to try one of these out, take it. This shows both young boys and girls that they can play the same sports, in the same way, at the same time. It breaks the gender stereotypes and forces kids to realize that they’re all equal when it comes to game play.

So, the next time your son says, “That boy runs like a girl” or your daughter says, “Eww football! That’s for boys,” turn their ideas around. Let them know that men and women (or boys and girls) can all be athletes – no matter what the game is!

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Girls and Sports: Mallory Pugh

Girls and sports go together like peanut butter and jelly. Really! Even though sports such as football, baseball and even soccer seem like they’re dominated by men, take a look around at all of the awesome women winners out there. From tennis greats such as the Williams’ sisters to the embers of the U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team, girls totally represent when it comes to sports. One of these fabulous women is Mallory Pugh. She might not be much older than you, but she is already a sports star on the rise. At only 18-years-old, Pugh was the youngest player ever in the U.S. Women’s National Team player pool. And, that’s not all.

Bright Beginnings

Even though Mallory Pugh is a well-known soccer sensation now, she once was a little girl who tagged along to her older sister’s club practices. It was there, at these practices, that her mad soccer skills started shining bright. Of course, that doesn’t mean Pugh hadn’t played before. She started at the young age of four, and then followed in her sister’s footsteps. It didn’t take long for Mallory to become a standout though. In 2010 and 2011, she helped her team (Real Colorado) win state titles. In 2013 and 2014, Pugh helped Real Colorado win runner-up at the national championships. She was also named MVP of her regional tournament.

During Pugh’s junior year in high school, the soccer player scored a whopping 24 goals and had 12 assists in 18 games, helping her (high school) team get to the state semifinals.

Olympic Goal

She might just be a girl from a town outside of Denver, Colorado, but when Pugh hit the Olympic soccer field in the 2016 games, she made a stir. That’s to say the least. The then-18-year-old player was the second youngest woman to compete in an Olympic soccer game since 1904. Not only did she make news for this, but she also became the youngest player to score a goal during an Olympic game – and that is ever!

Player of the Year

As a high school junior, Pugh won Gatorade’s National Girls Soccer Player of the Year Award. But, that’s not the only award this young player has won. In 2014, she also won the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s Youth National Player of the Year for club soccer.

Sports and Education

Don’t think that Pugh put off school entirely just because she has an amazing soccer ability. Yes, she had to take time off from her education to train and compete at an Olympic level. But, the sports standout also graduated from high school and made plans to attend college. Her post-high school educational career includes attending UCLA (starting in January of 2017), where she will also play for their soccer team.

What can you learn from Mallory Pugh? That with hard work, focus and practice, you can do anything you set your mind on! To score an Olympic goal at the age of 18 shows that anything is possible. If you come up against obstacles, or someone tells you that you just won’t succeed, think about Pugh. Remember that there was a time when she was just a little girl trying to follow her sister’s lead. Now she’s a leader – showing the world that women are exceptional athletes too!

Photo Credit:  Makaiyla Willis (CC by 2.0)

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Chronic Conditions, Kids and Sports: Type 1 Diabetes

Having a chronic health condition doesn’t mean that your child has to sit out of the game. Plenty of athletes have health issues that don’t stop them from practicing, playing and competing. One of the major chronic conditions that affects athletes is type 1 diabetes. Pro football players Jay Cutler and Kendall Simmons have it, and so do basketball players Chris Dudley and Adam Morrison, and baseball player Ron Santo. Formerly known just as juvenile diabetes, type 1 often has an onset in childhood or adolescence (but it’s also possible to develop it as an adult as well). People with this disease do not produce insulin on their own. That means they need to monitor their blood sugar, watch what they eat and take insulin injections. Whether your child has this chronic condition or you coach a child with it, understanding how type 1 diabetes and sports impacts each other is critical for the athlete’s health and success.

Blood Sugar and Activity

It’s common to see a drop in blood glucose (blood sugar) levels with or after exercise. What does this mean for a child who plays sports? To start with, it’s absolutely essential for the child to monitor their blood sugar during practice and directly after. Of course, proper blood glucose testing is always a must-do. When you add in physical activity, the child may see a sudden drop. These lows can result in serious symptoms such as dizziness, weakness, nausea, seizures, or unconsciousness.

Many diabetics are able to feel lows as they come on, before they get too severe. But, a child who is intensely into an activity or doesn’t want to leave the playing field may ignore the signs. This puts them at risk for developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Keep in mind, lows don’t always happen with exercise. For some diabetics, activity-induced hypoglycemia strikes minutes or hours after the exercise is over. This makes post-practice/post-game monitoring extra-important.

Keeping Lows Away

Along with monitoring, the child’s doctor may recommend eating an extra snack before or during exercise. Before starting any new sport, always speak with the medical pro. Ask the doctor for recommendations on dealing with potential lows. Every child is different, and you need to make sure that the treatment matches the diabetic’s overall plan and needs.

Most children will need to keep a small snack nearby just in case of an unexpected low. This is typically equal to 15 grams of carbs, and may include a juice box, fruit snacks or some other carbohydrate. Children can also carry glucose tablets to eat if needed. In the event of a low blood glucose emergency, injectable glucagon is a medication that can raise the level. Diabetics should carry a glucagon kit with them at all times, just in case. Parents and coaches should know when and how to use these injectable kits. They are literally life savers.

Some children may need to stop part-way through practice or a game to test their blood sugar and eat a small snack. This can prevent or reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.

Spotting Problems

It’s the middle of a soccer game. One of the children, a diabetic, is starting to seem sluggish. The child is confused, complaining of weakness, and appears nervous. These are often symptoms of hypoglycemia. These, along with other signs such as headaches, sweating, chills, clamminess, irritability, sleepiness, anger (for no real reason) and lack of coordination, may all mean that the child needs a dose of carbs.

If you spot a possible problem, stop the child immediately. Time is not a diabetic’s friend when it comes to lows. Have the child test their blood sugar. If the level is low, treat it with glucose tablets or a snack. Instead of letting the child go back into the game right away, wait 15 minutes. Have the child re-test. If the blood sugar is still low, have another serving of carbs and wait again to re-test. If it’s normal, the child can go back to the activity.

Medical Professionals and Education

Including the child’s doctor in the choice to play a sport is necessary. Unless there are other issues going on, it’s unlikely that the doctor would nix the notion of playing a sport. The medical professional can create a revised treatment plan, taking the new physical activity into account. The doctor can also provide coaches or teammates with extra information on type 1 diabetes. Along with the doctor, organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, are resources that offer plenty of easy to understand information.

Type 1 diabetes is a complex chronic condition. Exercise can bring on life-threatening lows. Obviously, this is a scary thought for any diabetic, parent or coach. Even though physical activity can drop the child’s blood sugar, exercise and athletics are important for the diabetic’s overall health. Unless a doctor says otherwise, quitting the team because of a diabetes diagnosis is completely unnecessary. From pee-wee football players to pro stars, athletes of all ages practice, play their games and still manage type 1 diabetes in healthy ways.

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4 Things Every Teen Sports Player Secretly Thinks (But Would Never Admit)

Some things are best left unsaid, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist in thought bubbles. Here are some things all teen sports players think but would never admit.

You might not want to admit the following, because they’re secret, but that doesn’t make them any less true. You’d be hard pushed to find a teen sports player willing to admit to thinking any of this, but that doesn’t mean they don’t. Here are just four of the things every teen sports player secretly thinks but would never admit:

1. Look good, Feel good, Play good

Look, nobody is going to admit this. It’s way too vain. But every teen sports player in the history of teen sports  has taken the time to admire their reflection whilst wearing their uniform. Hey, those uniforms cost a lot of money and they signify greatness, you can’t blame a teen sports player for loving how they look. Not that they’d ever admit it.

2. Sometimes Sports Aren’t Fun

Even the most dedicated of sports players don’t love getting up at 6 a.m. to run around in the rain. Who would enjoy that?! Certainly not a teenager, that’s for sure. Getting up early on weekends is tough, even if you’re going at it in the hopes of being the greatest sports player that ever lived. And yeah, sometimes even teen sports players press the snooze button a few too many times.

3. Daydream Believing

Most teen sport players will act coy, if you ask whether they dream of making it big. After all, the chance of it happening is slim. But, deep down, that’s exactly what every teen sports player is hoping for. They dream of glory, fat paychecks and the celebrity lifestyle, of course they do.

4. Playing Sports Helps with Romance

Look, it’s nice to believe that it’s your adorable hairstyle, quick wit and crooked smile that wins the heart of everyone around, but every teen sports player knows it’s really the fetching uniform, healthy physique and school-wide celebrity status that helps them get their beau. Not that they’ll ever admit it out loud, because that’s not why anybody plays sports. Obviously.

What’s missing off this list? Comment below to add your secret thoughts.

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Who are the people behind Future Stars? Julia Duffy’s Journey from Camper to Counselor

First day of camp and jittery nerves go together like bread and butter.  Julia Duffy looks back at her 12-year-old self and remembers quite clearly how nervous she was.  As she got off the bus to walk across the long field, she met a camper from a neighboring town.  By the time they reached the end of the field, her nerves had calmed down and she had made a new friend.  For Julia, this chance encounter ended up leading to a long-term friendship with her new friend’s older sister.

Julia and her younger brother were outgrowing their local town camp and family friends recommended Future Stars Camp.  Since then, Julia and her brother have spent all or most of their last 6 summers at Future Stars’ SUNY Purchase Camp location.

Now at 18 and a senior in high school, Julia was a camp counselor for the last 2 years and 3 years ago she was a Counselor-in-Training (CIT).  Her young brother was a CIT last year.  Julia says, ” I went to soccer camp with my brother but I quickly made new friends. I still keep in touch with a lot of campers from my first year.  I even plan to visit some of them at their universities”

Julia loved soccer camp, she tried tennis camp but came right back to soccer.  Julia plays soccer for her high school and attributes her game skills to her first counselor, Anna Edwards.  Anna is now Julia’s manager and current Soccer Director at Future Stars (FS) Camp.   Great rapport with your manager improves employees’ potential and morale, Julia says, “I feel really comfortable asking Anna for advice when I need help with my own counseling.”

At camp, Julia made a lot of new friends from different towns and even different countries.  She remembers playing soccer with French and Italian campers.  When asked what her camp experience was like she said, ” My time at FS Camps, in a nutshell, was a great experience where I made a lot of new, diverse friends who all shared a common interest with me.”

However, her voice takes a real lilt when she talks about how she loved the drills and games both as a camper and as a counselor.  “Typically, each day of the week at soccer camp has a theme. Monday is dribbling, Tuesday is passing, Wednesday is 3v3 tournaments, Thursday is shooting, and Friday is competition day. The counselors really kept me engaged with a good mix of drills and games, along with competition to get us all moving. This experience later taught me to be engaging as a counselor as well. Individually, I’d say I became more confident in my abilities as a player through countless skill drills, and as a team player, I really learned to work with other players of different skill levels.”

Julia’s FS Camp journey from young camper to mature counselor has been fulfilling.  “Being a soccer counselor, in my opinion, means keeping the campers engaged and having fun, as well as, teaching them about a sport I love. I’ve been a counselor for two years and I am playing soccer at my high school. I am not looking to play soccer at a varsity level in college, but possibly at a club level depending on where I end up.”

There are so many aspects to camp and Julia said, “My favorite part of Future Stars were the scrimmages at the end of the day, where different groups of different ages came together and formed teams to play a full 11v11 game. The counselors would join together and have a “draft” and we would have a week long tournament with our teams, and everyone really gets into it.”

You can’t talk about a day camp and not mention food.  “There is an option to bring lunch but the food was so good at camp.  We had a salad bar, pasta station, sandwich station and hot lunch.  It was really cool to go into a college cafeteria and chose what I wanted to eat.”

Future Stars Camps is not just all about the drills, games and the food.  ” Jordan Snider, Site Director at SUNY, Purchase, has had a lasting impression on me because of his dedication to the camp.  Jordan makes an effort to visit soccer camp every day, and even takes the time to join a scrimmage or game.  Every year that I come back to FS, I see a lot of the same people but I also make new friends. It has been a great experience for me, from camper to counselor, and I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in soccer.”

Julia, wherever you end up, they will be lucky to have you.  Thank you too for all the gifts that you have brought to us!

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What Can You Do When Your Child Wants to Play, But Is Injured?

A sprain, a strain, or a broken bone. Your child is injured. Injuries during athletics are common. There are more than 3.5 million childhood sports-related injuries per year, according to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Whether your child’s injury is fairly minor or it’s much more major, it’s likely that they’ll have to sit on the sidelines – at least temporarily. Here’s where the problem comes in. Your child understands the issues that come along with injuries. The pain is real and your child  knows that they have to heal. But, that doesn’t stop your young athlete from wanting to play, practice and compete. What now?

Create an Alternative Role

Participation is a major part of sports play. Your child isn’t just an athlete, they’re a team member too! Now that your child is out for the season (or at least for right now), they need a new role. Talk to the coach, asking what your child can do to stay actively a part of the team.

It’s possible that your child can be in charge of equipment, help pass out water/snacks or act as the team mascot. Get creative and look for ways that your child can do more than just sit alone. Is your child artsy? Maybe it’s time to draw a few “Go team!” banners. Maybe your child loves cooking. Help them to bake cupcakes in team colors or organize a bake sale (to benefit the team) during the game. Obviously, these aren’t the only ideas. Work with the coach, and the rest of the team, to brainstorm other roles your child can play.

Modify the Workout

It may seem like there’s little point in going to practice if your child can’t run down the field, lift weights, or hit a ball. Even though your child can’t get completely in on the action, sitting on the couch at home isn’t the only option – it can be an unhealthy one.

No, your child can’t work exactly like everyone else is. But, your young athlete can do a modified version. Work around your child’s injuries, looking for ways that they can join in or get some sort of physical activity. This might mean extra running (if your child’s arm or hand is injured) or doing upper body-only exercises (if their lower body is hurt).

How does this idea play out on the practice field? Let’s say your child has a broken hand. When the rest of the baseball team is practicing throwing and catching, your child can run laps or do sprints in-between the bases.

Be a Cheerleader

Okay, so this doesn’t mean your child needs to join the school’s cheer squad. Chances are that their injury would prohibit this anyway. Instead of silently sitting in the bleachers and watching the team play, encourage your child to cheer as loud as they can. Turn watching from a passive activity to a totally active one. Whether your child has signs to hold up or is just using their voice, this is an easy way to make your athlete feel like they’re still part of the team.

Watch and Learn

Doing isn’t the only way to learn. Your child can also learn a lot by watching what’s going on. Even though no one wants an injury, this presents a perfect opportunity for some in-depth learning about the sport. Now your child has the chance to sit back and truly see what’s going on in the rink, on the field, or in the court.

Did a play go completely not as expected? Ask your child what they saw that contributed to it. Maybe there’s a sports superstar on your child’s team. Have your child watch what the other player does, learning from their moves and actions. From the best plays of the day to the worst flubs, your child can use this time as a chance to improve their skills through careful observation.

Choosing an alternative way for your child to participate in the sport when they can’t play is a motivating way to keep your young athlete’s interest up. Keep in mind, not all children respond in the same way to injury. Some kids are quick to get in there and cheer for their team, while others let the injury seriously get them down. Talk to your child, asking what ideas they have for participating during this time. Try incorporating their ideas with yours, and the coaches. Make the most of this time and before you know it your pint-sized pitcher or tiny tennis star will be back in the game!

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Things Every Teen Sports Player Knows To Be True

If you’re a teen sports player, whether you’re into soccer or baseball, you probably already know everything this post is about to say.

There are some things every teen sports player can agree on, no matter what team they’re on. Here are just a few of them:

Nothing Can Match the High you Feel at Game Time

Teens do all kinds of things to enjoy life, but you have all the excitement you need right there when you are playing your sport. There is nothing more exciting than scoring the winning point with just a few seconds left on the clock.

It’s Not Easy Getting School  Work Done

Playing for a team is a demanding hobby. It takes up hours of time and, guess what, you won’t get less school work to do as a result. You’ll have unwritten essays and test revisions piling up while you’re jogging around in the rain. You’ll be up late trying to get schoolwork finished on time because you’ve been out scoring points for your school all evening.

Coach Will Be Tough on You

Even the nicest coaches are tough. They might have hearts of gold, but when it comes down to it, they always favor the tough love technique. You’ll get told off, reprimanded, shouted at and forced to work harder at every opportunity. If they weren’t doing that, they wouldn’t be doing their job. And you know that. What coach says goes.

Playing Sports Gives You the Edge When it Comes to Dating

Spending time working out and prioritizing fitness and health gives you an edge in the love stakes. Peers admire the sports star who knows how to take care of themselves. Plus, scoring the winning points and being the school hero doesn’t hurt.

Not That You’ll Have Any Time to Actually Date

Between matches, practice and school work, good luck finding time to date any of your admirers. You’ll be working all day every day just trying to get everything done. There’s simply no time for cinema dates or sharing sundaes.

When You Do Date, It Has to Be a Sports Fan

If you do somehow manage to find the time to date somebody, it goes without saying it has to be somebody who loves sports. Not because that’s your type, but because most of your dates will be spent at games. They’ll be watching you run around the pitch, so if they are not into sports, it probably isn’t going to work out. Plus, you’d never see each other.

What else does every teen player know to be true?

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3 Ways To Stay Busy When You’re Injured

When you live for your sport, an injury is one of the worst things that can happen to you. Here are a few suggestions of ways to keep busy when you’re counting down the days until you can play again.

Injuries are an annoying set back. That goes without saying, right? If you live for your sport, there is truly nothing worse than an injury. All of a sudden, you have nothing to do but be in pain and wish you were playing on the team. Sports injuries give you a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out), no doubt about it. So, what can you do to keep busy and stop yourself going crazy when you’re stuck on the sidelines with an injury? Here are three ideas:

Reflect

It’s not often you get the time to sit back and take stock of your life. Your game is strong, your technique is good but there are always things you could improve. An injury, frustrating as it may be, gives you the time to analyze your game. Where are you going wrong? What could you do differently? How can you work towards that goal? It might not sound like much fun, but this injury could actually be a blessing in disguise, if it helps you to improve your game.

Keep Up With Your Exercises

It’s really important that you listen to your healthcare provider to allow yourself the best recovery possible. Speak to your healthcare provider for advice on exercises that will encourage your body to heal and help prepare you for your return to your sport. Do these exercises as often as your doctor advises and make sure they become a part of your regular routine. If you have a bad injury, the exercises may be minimal and seem pointless but it won’t be long before your doctor suggests increasing the amount you do. Remember, your doctor knows best. It may be frustrating having to rest but rest is important in ensuring optimum recovery.

Stay Positive

This isn’t easy, especially when you’re desperate to get back in the game. Having an injury can feel like torture and not just because of the physical pain. It’s that drive to play when all you can do is watch. It’s tough and it’s easy to get swept into a negative way of thinking. Don’t let that happen. Stay positive. Accept what’s happened, there’s nothing you can do now to change it. Yes, it’s hard that you can’t play but there are positives, too. It will give you a chance to focus, to rebuild, and to enjoy the other aspects of your life. See your friends, hang out with your brother, make weekend plans you can’t usually enjoy because you’re playing matches.

How do you keep yourself busy (and positive) when you’re suffering from an injury?

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Who are the people behind Future Stars? Meet Charlie VanDercook

We are excited to bring you inspiring interviews with some of our key family members! To kick off our interview series, we’re talking to the patriarch of it all, Co-founder Charlie VanDercook. On any given day during the summers, Charlie can be seen playing tennis with a 7 year old, jumping into a 4 v 4 soccer game, challenging a 14 year old to a push up competition, or simply introducing himself to kids at all of our locations. What is not seen by everyone, is that Charlie has already paddle-boarded for an hour before camp and will go for a mountain bike ride after all the kids go home. His love for sports and physical activities is contagious but even more remarkable is his positive outlook and encouragement to the children.

Youth athletics brings in adults from a variety of backgrounds. From former athletes to educators, you’ll find a winning array of stories when you speak to coaches, staff members, directors and anyone else who has anything to do with helping young people develop their athletic talents. With that in mind, we wanted to know a little bit about Charlie’s background and how he ended up with Future Stars.

On his own background in sports, Charlie said, “I grew up playing all kinds of sports as a kid.” After trying a lot of different sports, he eventually focused on tennis. He played one year of college tennis and spent one season on the 1976 WATCH circuit.

When asked what drew him back to youth sports as an adult, Charlie told us, “I grew up playing tennis and became a tennis instructor. Teaching and coaching kids was a big part of my day and I gravitated to the students.” He went on to add, “I guess I’ve always been a kid myself and love playing games, and I brought that love of the game (tennis) to my junior students in the way of games.”

Charlie’s career didn’t stop at being an instructor – obviously. “I was Director of Tennis at a club in Lake Placid, New York.” While there, he directed the junior tennis camp, a junior program, and organized tennis tournaments. Following this, he was hired as Director of Tennis at the Banksville Racquet Club in Banksville, New York. “The biggest part of our business and our emphasis was on the junior program, where there were 350 participants. I was good at relating to kids, and they liked being with me. I made tennis fun and had aptitude as a teacher.” Between his own athletic background, instructing and directing, Charlie was well-versed in youth sports when he co-founded Future Stars!

Working in youth sports takes a certain love of the game. It also requires adults to consider what they think children can learn from athletics. We asked Charlie, what he thinks children can get out of youth sports?  He said, “Children learn life lessons and most everything about life through playing sports. The fun of striving and competing, and loving the process.” Our Co-founder of Future Stars knows kids can also take away, “The satisfaction of trying your best, whether you win or lose. Learning it takes hard work and tons of practice to achieve goals. They learn to respect the game, the coach, their teammates and opponents.”

The children aren’t the only ones who are reaping the benefits out of sports, and out of Future Stars. Charlie notes, “The biggest reward that I’ve received in my life is that after running Future Stars for 36 years is that, I’ve come into the second generation of campers. Parents that attended are now sending their kids to the camp, because they love Future Stars and they fondly remember their experiences.” And incredibly, Charlie not only remembers these campers’ names after all of these years, but he can tell stories about them from 30 years ago, both on and off the tennis court.

What he’s found particular gratifying is, “The kids I coached come to see me after 20 years, and show me pictures of their kids – relating their stories and giving me credit for shaping their success.” From his early days as a tennis player to inspiring generations of children, Charlie VanDercook has dedicated his personal and professional life to the game!