In Pursuit of the ‘Coveted’ Athletic Scholarship

Synopsis: Blame it on the fact the cost of a college education has obtained a permanent place on the escalator to infinity. Blame it on the fact the plethora of sports-related cable/satellite channels are so hungry to fill vacant viewing hours athletic participants of every intercollegiate sport offered are capturing their version of Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame. Whatever the reason, there continues to be an upsurge in the efforts put forth by high school student-athletes (and parents) to reach the promised land of a secure college athletic scholarship. IMG_3601

Reality is the best starting point when discussing athletic scholarships. A University of Washington study found 59 percent of high school varsity football players believe they will receive an athletic scholarship upon graduation. In reality, only two percent of all high school athletes will participate collegiately in any sport. A snapshot of NCAA Division I and Division II sports offerings put the number of athletic scholarships in the vicinity of 138,000. Break that down further by looking at the number of high school girls track athletes (over 600,000) and the number of collegiate track scholarships in those two NCAA divisions (4,500), and the sting of reality is even greater.  Only four NCAA sports offer complete scholarships, also referred to as ‘full rides,’ a fact which also needs to be understood.

Those realities aside, there are still opportunities for those student-athletes not considered among the elite in their respective sports. Regardless of whether the student is an elite athlete, academics cannot be discounted. Intercollegiate athletic recruiters want to see how successful student-athletes are in the classroom, as well as ACT and SAT scores. A gymnast with a 3.4 GPA is likely to get the nod over a recruit of similar athletic ability who carries a 2.7 GPA. Recruiters will also ask classroom-related questions such as:

·      How much does the student-athlete participate in class discussion?

·      Do teachers consider the student-athlete responsible and committed?

·      Are homework assignments turned in on time?

·      Is the student-athlete self motivated?

College recruiters want to fill rosters with student-athletes who have the focus and motivation to earn a degree. They want athletes who will commit to athletic and academic disciplines.

Student-athletes need to be involved with other extracurricular activities –besides sports. Leadership is also a big part of being a team member. Holding a position in student government or being a part of a thespian group may show the initiative a college coach seeks in a player.

Student-athletes need to inform their high school coaches early on about their desire to play collegiately. It is common for high school coaches to ask players after their freshman year of their intent on playing an intercollegiate sport. If a coach does not do this, the student-athlete must take the initiative and initiate the conversation about playing the sport at the college level.

It is important for the student-athlete to research the universities that interest him or her. At this step, parents and student-athletes must become realistic. Look at schools that will fit the athletic and academic level of the student-athlete. Ask the high school coach for input. Good high school head coaches will assist players in initial contacts and introduction packets to be sent via email. Recruiting visits are not limited to the major universities. After narrowing down the potential colleges to attend, schedule a visit during the student-athlete’s junior year. Interested college recruiters may also make such invitations if there is mutual interest.

Even if the student-athlete is not expecting to be recruited at a Division I or II university, do not forget to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse. A college recruiter may see something in a student-athlete that a parent or the player may not recognize. Not being registered with the clearinghouse process could result in a lost opportunity for the student-athlete.

 

 

 

 

 

Are Youth Sports a Deterrent to Child Obesity?

DSC_0886Synopsis: As obesity rates among children in the United States continue to be a major concern among parents, educators, and health officials ,the issue of whether or not participation in youth sports can be part of the solution.

There are many reasons parents and pediatric experts encourage children to participate in youth athletics. Organized sports offer an atmosphere where children can interact in a positive manner, working together toward a goal, developing friendships as well as interaction with adults whom are not family members. There is an ability to develop motor skills, and develop a sense of self assurance. Many also believe youth sports participation will lead to better exercise habits which can help to curb the nation’s child obesity problem. It is a subject up for debate.

A 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics calculates the effect participating in two sports teams per year would have on adolescent obesity. The study claims obesity numbers would plunge as much a 26 percent. The same study shows if all adolescents would walk or bike to school four out of five days the obesity rate would drop by 22 percent.

A report by the American College of Sports Medicine which provides contrasting information was published a year earlier. The report compared the research of 19 different studies on the subject. The report agrees with the assumption that sports participation is a great way for the nation’s youth to develop numerous physical and social skills, and athletics provide the setting for pursuing obesity prevention goals. However, the ACSM report also takes into account other pertinent information gathered from those 19 research studies. Data shows the increase in physical activity was in direct correlation to the youth participants increasing the amount of their food consumption, including some unhealthy food and beverage choices.

Obese children face another obstacle should they decide to initiate participation in organized sports. Just as sport is a great way to create a sense of self worth and accomplishment, it can also foster an adverse atmosphere for the obese child. The obese child is confronted with a body type which may hinder the development of sport-specific skills. The inability to positively contribute to the overall team effort may result in the obese child losing interest in the sport or quitting the team. Parents and coaches must prepare themselves to address such a scenario.

Many pediatricians believe introducing youth into organized sports is just the first step toward attacking the child obesity issue. Parents need to address the eating habits of the entire family. Making changes to everyone’s diet. Unfortunately, sometimes it is involvement in youth sports which attributes to unhealthy eating. Game times interfere with normal dining hours, leading fast food takeout. Dieticians suggest preparing meals ahead of time for such evenings.

Family exercise is another step to take. Not only are obese children increasing physical activity a few times a week on a court or ball field, they are taking a nightly walk or bike ride with parents and siblings. A family game of wiffle ball or tossing a Frisbee can offer more than just physical benefits to children.

Positive Coaching and Your Child

DSC_9185Positive Coaching and Your Child

It’s half way through the middle school wrestling match. On one side of the mat the coach is sitting with laser focus, watching his player move. He’s shouting out words of support, “Good job!” and giving detailed directions, “Get your leg up” over the cheers of the team. And, then there’s the other side.

The other team’s coach is shouting too. But, he’s not giving words of support or even helpful directions. With a pained face he’s whaling, “Oh come on! Really? Take him. Do better!” When his player gets pinned he throws his hands up in exasperation, turns his back and walks away. As he shakes his head one of the parents joins in with an audible, “That was terrible!”

This is a true story, and one that illustrates two coaching styles. The first is positive, insightful and focused on helping the young athlete to perform at his best. The second, not so much. The second coach wants his player to win (what coach doesn’t?), but at any cost. Does this help the player? Does this turn a child into an athlete? Beyond the shame and hurt that the player may feel, this type of aggressive coaching cultivates a culture that is far from motivational.

According to Positive Coaching Alliance, coaches should use positive reinforcement and constructive criticism. This doesn’t mean that the coach needs to tell your child that he’s “the best” when he’s not or hand him a trophy just because he walks out onto the field and stands there. Instead, the coach is responsible for help young athletes learn the game and develop skills.

If you’re wondering what your child’s coach can do to help him succeed, youth coaches should:

  • Understand what’s appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level. A 5-year-old can’t physically perform in the same way that a 12-year-old can. Your child’s coach should never expect him to play the game in a way that’s out of his age range.
  • Provide instruction. Your child needs to know the rules of the game, the vocabulary and what he’s supposed to do before he hits the field.
  • Acknowledge that players have different skill levels and different amounts of knowledge. Some kids start playing a sport in preschool, while others wait until much later. A coach shouldn’t assume that every older child, tween or teen is well versed in a sport just because of his age.
  • Give genuine, truthful feedback. This doesn’t mean that the coach needs to be brutally honest. Instead, the coach shouldn’t tell your child that he’s a perfect player when he’s not. When your child does a great job the coach should let him know. But, if your child isn’t trying or is making mistakes, the coach should constructively correct him.
  • Model good sportsmanship. Coaching is a leadership role. Your child’s coach should demonstrate good sportsmanship practices at all times.

Coaching isn’t an easy job. Your child’s coach is his teacher, cheerleader and often a support system. If you feel that the coach isn’t acting in an acceptable way, is negative more often than not or is constantly criticizing in ways that are far from constructive, talk to him. While you don’t want to tell the coach how to do his job, you also don’t want one bad experience to turn your child off from sports. If your child voices his upset or anger at the situation, have an honest discussion. Let your child know that you want to help him succeed and that you believe in him no matter what.

What Age Should Children Start Sports?

DSC_6360Are you over-the-top excited about signing your little slugger up for t-ball? Maybe you can’t wait until your pint-sized player starts soccer? If you’re wondering what age is old enough for a child to start sports, the answer isn’t exactly clear-cut.

Developmental Differences

Not every child develops at the same rate. Your 4-year-old may not be at the same physical level as your BFF’s preschooler. This means that setting a specific start age for beginning sports isn’t easy. While you’ll need to go by the league’s, team’s or school’s rules for a minimum start age, that doesn’t mean your child has to begin the moment that she hits that magical number. You need to factor in what your child is able to do right now and what you think she can master with instruction.

It’s Not All Physical

Even if your 3-year-old has the physical prowess of a much older child, that doesn’t always mean he’s ready to join the local league. Sports aren’t all about motor skills. Keep in mind that your child needs the attention span to concentrate on the game, social skills to show good sportsmanship and emotional control to keep her frustration in check when she loses.

By the time that he’s in kindergarten he should have the basic skills that he’ll need to make it through practices and games without having major meltdowns. That said, some children may need extra time to develop the cognitive, social and emotional skills necessary to handle organized sports. If this is the case, you can keep working on the physical part of playing sports at home or informally with friends. This gives your child the chance to keep physically fit and become familiar with the game while he is developing and refining the other skills that he needs.

Coordination and Age

Before age 6 your child most likely lacks the coordination to play complex sports. That said, she can start playing sports before she gets to grade school. Many teams and instructional programs have athletic opportunities that are specific for younger children. These help preschoolers to develop the coordination that they’ll need later on.

Instead of expecting your child to use coordinated movements that she’s not ready to, an early childhood sports class or program starts with basics that are age-appropriate. For example, instead of teaching intricate sets of movements, a pre-k karate class may help younger kids learn how to kick forwards or work on stretching exercises.

While your child’s age certainly plays a large role in when she starts sports, don’t forget about his interests and opinions. If your child is resistant to play, back off and don’t push him. There’s no rule that says all kids need to start soccer, softball or skating the moment that they can stand up and run. Forcing a young child into playing a sport when he would rather run around the backyard isn’t likely to result in a positive experience for anyone. Instead, wait until your child is excited about and engaged in the athletic endeavor. Doing so helps to start a life-long love of physical activity and fitness!

110% Effort vs Rest & Recovery

leading the pack ltGo 110% all the Time! 

We have all heard a coach saying give me 110%. While in theory this would be great, our bodies do NEED rest periods. Within a training week we must take at least 1 day off. No matter where you are in your training, you need a day off to allow your body to rest. In addition to this, we can’t always go 100% the other 6 days a week. To understand this, we must understand how our bodies recover. 

We do not build muscles during workouts; rather we build muscles during the recovery. The workouts themselves make micro tears in our muscles, that later heal stronger. Imagine you are taking a test, and you do not pass. The next time you take the test you will have built up your knowledge and will do better. You do not want the same questions to trip you up a second time. This is how our muscles work. As they tear, they do not want the same weight or load to tear them again, thus they come back stronger. However if you do not allow for recovery you will only continually tear the muscle, until it becomes weaker or injured. 

So within a given week we must have recovery days. If you do a strength based day you will need 1-2 days of recovery. That doesn’t mean you take these days off. These days could be lighter in intensity, more cardiovascular based, or even focusing on technique for your sport. 

This is the idea behind what is called a micro cycle. With this in mind we also need to take into account macro cycles. This is a time period of 4-8 or so weeks. If we compete every weekend, we can not be at our absolute best every race. We need to pick 1 race every 4-8 weeks, that we will peak for. This means a series of building weeks, where strength work is at a premium, followed by a speed week of less length but higher intensity, and lastly a recovery week. We must lower intensity immediately before a peak race. So a week or two before your peak race we need to reduce the intensity and do what is called a taper. 

In my current training cycle I am in my last intense build week, before I begin to taper 1.5 weeks before nationals. My workouts will get shorter and faster with longer recovery until the day before I compete. During these build weeks I will knowingly sacrifice some top end speed in order to train with less recovery. These are the hardest weeks in the cycle and the last opportunity I will have to actually get faster before my peak competition! 

So the next time your coach asks you to give 110%, take that term with a grain of salt. BUT STILL GIVE IT YOUR BEST!

-Kyle Essex (http://www.gofundme.com/speedskate)

 

Why You Need to Get Active for Your Kids

Ferrying your kids between team practices and sports events might be helping them develop a love of fitness that will see them through life. But, if you’re not practicing what you preach, they could still inherit your lazy ways.

Encouraging your kids to get active is all well and good, but if you’re a coach potato, your bad habits might still rub off on them. Recent research has highlighted the importance of parental activity, and you might be surprised to hear that the activity levels of both parents were important for encouraging good fitness habits in children.

Research published in the J Sports Sci Med in September 2014 studied the link between parental activity and childhood weight and activity levels (you can read the full research study here). Researchers found that children with inactive parents were more likely to be overweight. The study also found that children’s BMI percentiles were lower if both parents were physically active, compared to children who had just one active parent. That said, even having just one active parent had a positive effect on the amount of time children spent participating in organized sports.

The researchers also identified a strong association between parental physical activity and the amount of time children spent participating in organized sports each week.

Making a Change

If you find yourself slotting into the inactive parent group, it might be time to make a few positive changes to your daily routine. You’ll be pleased to hear it doesn’t take much effort to switch to a healthier lifestyle. As well as helping your child to develop a love of health and fitness, you’ll also improve your own health by making the few small changes listed below:

  1. Ditch the car – don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re destined for a life on public transport, it just means you need to make better choices about when to use your car. Lots of people are guilty of using cars for short journeys that could easily be made on foot. As a general rule, you should avoid using the car for journeys of less than one kilometer. Try limiting your car usage and increasing the number of steps you walk each day. The average person should be walking at least 10,000 steps each day, so get a pedometer to see how close you come to that target.

  1. Get some wheels – cycling is a great way to get fit, and the perfect way to discover the world outside your door. For journeys that are a little too long to make on foot, cycling is a perfect option for anyone wanting to improve their fitness levels. Invite your family to join you on a cycle ride through the countryside, or challenge them to a day at a BMX track. Cycling holidays are a great way to enjoy quality time as a family whilst seeing the great outdoors and staying active.

  1. Schedule in some family time – spending time as a family doesn’t have to mean a trip to the movies or staying in and ordering a pizza, there are plenty of ways you can get active as a family. See if your loved ones fancy joining you for an adventure, and head out for a walk or hike in the countryside. Without the distraction of a screen, you’ll get to enjoy some quality family time whilst staying getting your heart pumping.

  1. Find an exercise you love – they key to staying active is to find an activity you love. Whether it’s evening dance classes, stress-relieving yoga, an early morning swim, or a spin class with your friends, find something you love and it won’t feel like a chore. Make it a regular part of your week and you’ll soon be reaping the benefits of a more active lifestyle.

  1. Join a team – team sports aren’t just for children, there are plenty of sports teams you can join as an adult. Think back to your favorite sport at school, and then search your local area for a team you can join. Soccer, basketball, netball and hockey are just some examples of teams you can join as a hobby.

  1. Use your time wisely – while your child is at practice, walk laps around the field. Instead of just sitting on the side chatting, you can be getting in a good 45 minute brisk walk and even still chat with the other parents that will join you too!

The Rise of ACL Injuries in Youth Athletics

Concussion prevention should not be the only prevalent topic in regard to injuries affecting youth and adolescent athletic participants. The number of young athletes damaging the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) has increased significantly over the last 15 years. Parents, coaches, and youth athletic organizations must take steps to correct this problem.

Of the four ligaments which connect the bones of the knee and provide stabilization during movement, the ACL carries the biggest workload. Orthopedic surgeons nationwide have seen as much as a 400 percent increase in ACL injuries over the past decade. These medical professionals point out today’s youth athlete is subject to an increased amount of participation hours compared to similarly aged athletes of earlier generations.

Example: Consider the athletic participation by the average high school soccer player. Children as young as four begin their organized soccer experience. There are fall and spring seasons, as well as indoor soccer sessions. In theory, the body of a 16-year-old may have been subject to 36 soccer seasons during the 12 year span. The same can be said of other ‘year round’ sports such as volleyball and basketball. Children playing baseball or softball are involved in seasons running from early spring through late summer, and those same players will then participate in fall leagues lasting one to two additional months.

For decades, many youth athletes would participate in shorter seasons which allowed them to play two or three different sports during the year. Athletic organizations are now pressuring prepubescent and adolescent athletes to specialize in a single sport at an earlier age. The age of specialization has created an increase in repetitive, or ‘overuse,’ injuries to youth participants. Whereas a change in sports meant a change in how an athlete’s body was being used, the single-sport athlete now uses the same muscle groups continuously throughout the year.

Some doctors worry the way children are now being trained for a sport is too harsh for the undeveloped body. Many youth coaches use the same training approach as is used with professional athletes. A child’s body is not fully developed and injuries to such areas as the ACL come into play. Teaching the proper fundamentals to young athletes does not have to include training sessions geared for an adult’s body.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons believes more studies are necessary to improve the knowledge of injuries occurring to youth athletes. An increase in proper conditioning can reduce the injury numbers. In the case of older children and adolescents, strength training programs need to focus on muscle efficiency and strength. This differs tremendously from adult-oriented bulk strength training.

Just because youth athletes play multiple sports does not guarantee a lesser chance of an ACL or other serious-type injury. Rest also plays a huge part into recovery time for a child’s body. Consider placing the child on a less competitive league, or one which has a lesser amount of games for the season. There is also nothing wrong with a child taking a break from a sport. Giving up fall baseball or indoor soccer may lead to an overall healthier environment for a youth athlete.

This research coupled with “over-use” injuries that are growing, it is important to be an advocate for your child when selecting programs, teams, coaches, and camps.

Goals and Commitment from Salt Lake City

My training has recently been upped to 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. I have learned a lot about my commitment to sport and commitment to self.

I set goals for myself, and understand that I can do a lot to help myself achieve these goals.

It is important for our young athletes to begin to set goals for themselves; both long and short term. These goals should be specific, as vague goals allow for slips.

 cross me

My personal goals, are clear cut. I have a specific time I want to achieve. I will get this chance at the upcoming nationals in March, at Madison, WI.

Goals must also be realistic. The times I will achieve at Nationals are challenging yet realistic. I understand i will be competing against some of the best skaters in the nation. It would be unrealistic to challenge myself to win the competition, against Olympians! But I must also push myself.

Our young athletes must also take ownership.

Notice I said “I WILL…” this phrasing will not afford me the opportunity to fail. If I say “I may…” then I will open myself up to coming short of my goals.angry face

 

Goals are something every athlete should think about; however, he/she MUST do this for him/her self!

No Athlete is too young. I always say…(every morning)… To be a champion one day… I must train like one now!

 

Greetings from Salt Lake!

-Kyle Essex

 

Are Your Kids Learning Integrative Muscular Training?

Synopsis: Sports injuries for children can be painful, upsetting and expensive. A recent study found that a great number of them can be avoided with the simple implementation of a good old fashioned workout before the game starts.

Health is one of the most commonly cited reasons parents give for encouraging their children to play sports from a young age. Parents believe that playing sports will help their children develop a love of fitness, avoid obesity, and promote great physical development. Many parents also believe playing sports from a young age will reduce their child’s risk of injury in the future.

Researchers have identified, however, that engaging in sports is not enough to reduce the risk of injury in children. In an interesting research study published in Curr Sports Med Rep, researchers looked at ways to reduce the risk of injury through sports. In many ways, risk is an integral part of sports, and many parents encourage sports participation as a safe way of letting their child take risks.

Though integrative neuromuscular training (the fancy term for warming up) is considered a normal part of sports practice for adolescents and adults, it is not yet commonplace on the fields of younger sports teams. Neuromuscular training does come with its own set of risks, and it was previously thought that younger children were not old enough to handle warm ups safely. The research study published in Curr Sports Med Pub, however, found that age appropriate, properly supervised integrative neuromuscular training progams may reduce the risk of sports injuries in younger athletes.

Integrative neuromuscular training is a particular type of warm up program that teaches athletes safe ways of moving during play so that they are less likely to injure themselves during the game. Individual programs differ, but many contain elements such as squatting, marching, side-to-side shuffling and jumping, with particular attention paid to alignment and positioning. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament are unfortunately common amongst sports players of all ages, but integrative muscular training can reduce the number of these injuries by as much as 50 percent.

The researchers identified that this type of training may even be most beneficial during pre-adolescence, highlighting the importance of more youth teams taking up this important training technique. Training programs should be tailored to accommodate the individual needs of each child, focusing specifically on developing motor skills. It is believed that introducing this type of training early will reduce the risk of sports related injury both now and in the future.

The cost of introducing a new training program like this is estimated to be less than $2 per child, making it financially beneficial compared to the cost of potential medical bills. Speak to your child’s coach to find out whether they are currently using an integrative neuromuscular training program, and if not, why not?

My Journey Into Speed Skating

speed-skate Hello… From Salt Lake City!

My journey into speed skating started not too long ago. It was around 3 years ago that I began. My sophomore year of college saw my Track and Field career come to an end, but my competitive itch was still there. Having been a hockey player and Track runner, I saw speed skating as the only logical option.

That winter break, my sophomore year, I gave this obscure sport a try, right here in our very own Flushing Queens. I was relatively fast but had little technique. I quickly realized that this was going to be something I would have to work at. I began training with two clubs up by my college (Syracuse and Binghamton). Although my skill was lacking it was the knowledge and drive from my other sports that allowed me to succeed. The same lessons I try to instill in our campers at Future Stars.DSCN4583

My Journey followed the same path until this past summer. Knowing I was going to graduate in the fall I began to prepare for the next step in my athletic career. Being a sport that isn’t high profile, there are select few places to train at an elite level. Summer training intensity grew as I was preparing to move to Salt Lake City, Utah. Home of the Fastest ice on earth, and is now the home to myself.

I have been here 3 weeks and have already improved tenfold, but it hasn’t come easy. I train every morning for 2-3 hours, and again at night for 3-5 hours, leaving me little time for a normal job. But it is this kind of commitment that success, at any sport or any goal, requires.

I look forward to keeping you all posted throughout my training, as well as seeing you all this summer!

-Kyle Essex

Kyle has worked at Future Stars Summer Camps at The College of Old Westbury since 2012 as our Swim Camp “dry land trainer” and our Off Court Tennis Camp Group Leader.