TrueSport Resources

 Turning Sports Leaders into Life Leaders
(1/13/2022)
 
   

Turning Sports Leaders into Life Leaders


How to ensure that the leadership skills learned in sport can translate to other spaces


You likely already know that beyond the physical benefits of playing an organized sport, young athletes are also in a great position to learn valuable leadership skills through sport. While some kids may not consider themselves natural leaders, it's important for athletes to understand that they can learn these skills. But how do you, as a parent or a coach, hone those leadership skills and help athletes see the benefits of enhancing those skills in and out of sport?

Here, TrueSport Expert Deborah Gilboa, MD, explains how to ensure that the leadership skills learned in sport can translate to other spaces.

Teach athletes that leadership is a learnable skill
Many athletes, especially those who may be shy or introverted by nature, may not believe that they're leadership material. But like dribbling a soccer ball or perfecting a swim stroke, leadership skills can be mastered with practice.

Have athletes create a list of leadership qualities at the beginning of the season (depending on the age, you may need to help them). Try to broaden their definition of being a leader from the basic 'taking charge' or 'being outgoing' to softer skills like empathy and listening. With this expanded definition of leadership, athletes can practice a style of leadership that feels most natural to them and is sustainable through sport and life.

Use athletics as a starting place to discuss leadership
"As parents, it's rare that we get to sit and watch our child for an hour, but when they're playing a sport, we get to do just that: We get to observe our children from the sidelines," Gilboa says. "The next time you do this, pay attention and catch them doing three things that you admire. It could be how they treated someone else, or how they handled themselves during adversity, or that they passed to a kid who'd been left out for most of the game. Then, on the ride home or during dinner, tell them about those things you noticed."

The more positive aspects you can call attention to, the more you'll see that behavior playing out. On the flip side, if you constantly point out negatives about your young athlete, it's likely that you'll see more negative behavior as a result.

Bring in alumni
For older athletes, getting to know athletes who graduated a few years prior can be a huge boost to their growth and development. “It's really crucial to find people who have gone as far, or a little further, than your young athletes in their sport,” says Gilboa. “Get them to come to a practice to talk about what they learned through the sport and how it has helped them in the rest of their life." This helps student athletes begin to understand how leadership in athletics can transfer to other parts of life.

Avoid being the middleman
As a coach or parent, you may occasionally find yourself in the position of playing middleman between a young athlete and a teammate or adult. But Gilboa says whenever possible, try to avoid being a moderator and instead, help the young athlete take responsibility for hard conversations. For example, if you're a parent and your child is complaining that they don't get enough playing time, don’t call the coach on their behalf. Instead, help your athlete prepare to have a conversation with the coach.

Unless your athlete reports feeling unsafe or you're worried that the situation is unsafe, help your athlete be his own advocate whenever possible. "If they're not in danger, they're just uncomfortable,” Gilboa says. “This is a chance for them to learn new communication skills and improve their emotional intelligence and resilience.” These skills are the foundations of a strong leader.

Coach athletes to practice resilience
"Being able to build connections, set boundaries, stay open to new ideas, manage discomfort, set goals, find different options, take action, and persevere in tough times are all qualities of a resilient person, as well as a great leader," she says. Make sure those skills make it onto your athlete's leadership quality list and point out whenever you notice that your athlete is displaying one of those skills. For example, perseverance could mean staying late at soccer practice to help a teammate master a certain kick.

Takeaway
There are many styles of leadership that make it possible for athletes with various personalities to become leaders. Leadership qualities can be honed during your athlete’s time in sport and applied both in and outside of sport.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 7 Tips for Meal Prep to Fuel Young Athletes
(12/23/2021)
 
   

7 Tips for Meal Prep to Fuel Young Athletes for the Week


Tips for successful, simple meal prepping


Meal prepping is a common recommendation for busy parents who want to provide healthy meals and make weeknights smoother, especially when there’s a young athlete with a packed schedule and a big appetite in the house. But meal prepping can also be overwhelming, and most people simply don't have six hours to spend in the kitchen on a weekend.

Thankfully, meal prep doesn't have to be a drawn-out process. Here, TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, shares her tips for successful, simple meal prepping.

Planning is part of meal prep
Carve out time once a week to plan out meals for the coming week, including breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks—the busier your schedule is, the more important this step becomes! "Every weekend, I sit down and look at the week coming up," says Ziesmer. "For instance, I know that on Tuesdays, my son has soccer until 6:15 p.m., which means there's not a lot of time to make dinner. We know that meal should be leftovers from the night before, which means the night before, I need to make a bigger meal so that we have those leftovers."

Build a regular grocery list
Meal prep also means having all your ingredients on hand. Once you decide on meals for the week, you can build a comprehensive grocery list. "Blindly going to the grocery store and shopping at random usually means you'll be back at the grocery store within a day or two," Ziesmer notes. And once you've created this master grocery list once—ideally in a digital format so it doesn't get thrown out—it becomes easier to quickly look in the fridge and pantry each week and add or subtract items from the list as needed.

Redefine what meal prep means
The concept of meal prepping calls to mind stacks of perfectly organized containers in the fridge, labeled with which night they'll be eaten. That's not realistic for most families. "Before I had kids, I used to spend Sundays meal-prepping, making all of my food for the entire week, but now there's no way I have half a day to devote to that," says Ziesmer. Now, she meal preps by always cooking extra when she is in the kitchen. "Cook extra when you do cook! Rather than make everything on Sunday, I double recipes for dinner every time I cook it, and then we have that for lunches, or use the extra ingredients to have a dinner made with leftovers," she explains.

Apply meal prep to breakfast too
Most people think of meal prep as a lunch or dinner solution, but Ziesmer also loves simplifying a healthy breakfast. "I make overnight oats to save cooking time in the morning, or I'll make a big egg and vegetable frittata with whatever vegetables are starting to wilt in the fridge and we'll eat that for a few days," she says.

You can find a great hot oatmeal recipe here, but instead of cooking it on the stove, simply put the ingredients together in a container and refrigerate overnight, then warm up in the microwave in the morning or enjoy cold!

The right equipment helps
"Getting an Instant Pot is easily my number one tip," Ziesmer says. A pressure cooker like the Instant Pot can cook an entire chicken in under an hour, slow cook a chili or stew all day, or make rice in minutes. "It's great for quickly cooking frozen meat and vegetables—with so much going on, I often forget to take things out of the freezer for dinner, but with the Instant Pot, I can still cook quickly," she says. An Instant Pot or slow cooker also helps avoid massive cleanups, since most meals can be made using just that pot. And since you don't need to stir or sauté when using an Instant Pot, you can dump your ingredients in, walk away, and come back to a perfectly prepared meal.

Look for whole food-friendly shortcuts
Think past the traditional Sunday meal prep and keep your kitchen stocked with foods that don't require much forethought or meal prep at all. Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh ones, and if you're the kind of person who often ends up with wilted, moldy vegetables in your crisper, you may want to swap at least some of your veggies to frozen options that can be sautéed or tossed in a stew or chili. And stock favorite easy meal staples: Things like canned wild-caught salmon, five-minute brown rice, canned black beans, and a jar of salsa in the pantry can be used to make a healthy burrito bowl in minutes.

Use spices and condiments to keep it interesting
Rather than making completely different meals for every day of the week, consider how basic ingredients can be seasoned in different ways in order to make each meal taste completely different despite the same base. For instance, chicken and brown rice cooked in the Instant Pot can be made into a Thai-inspired dish by adding some peanut sauce and frozen peppers and onions in a stir-fry; or a curry with the addition of some curry powder, a bit of coconut milk, and frozen cauliflower; or a burrito bowl with some shredded lettuce, guacamole, and pico de gallo. This simplifies your meal prep and prevents tastebud fatigue.

Takeaway
Meal prep should work for you and your family, which may mean reimagining the process to save time, accommodate picky tastebuds, and work around your athlete’s busy schedule.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 When to Apply Heat and Cold for Recovery
(12/9/2021)
 
   

When to Apply Heat and Cold for Recovery


How heat and cold can be useful tools for recovery


As a coach, you may have suggested icing a sore ankle or taking a hot bath after a grueling practice to alleviate aches and pains. But some of the age-old recommendations around ice and heat have been debunked. Ice and heat still have a place in an athlete’s recovery, though, and can be incredibly useful tools when applied appropriately.

Dr. Michele LaBotz, TrueSport Expert and sports medicine physician, will explain some of the best practices around using heat and ice for recovery, but notes that both are rapidly evolving fields of research. She expects to see a lot more research on how heat, in particular, works for athletes. In the meantime, here's what we know.

Recovery is a nuanced process
Unfortunately, the entire topic of recovery—especially in terms of temperature—is very nuanced. What works well for one athlete may not work for another, and best practices are rarely clear-cut. For instance, using ice to help with inflammation right after an ankle sprain is going to be helpful, but using too much of it a few days later may actually slow the healing process, LaBotz says. So, try to avoid giving athletes any "one-size-fits-all" recommendations.

For acute injury, use ice
"If you sprain an ankle during a game and you're on the sidelines with an ankle that is swelling up, that's an inflammatory process that is out of control,” says LaBotz. “Putting ice and some compression on the ankle to keep inflammation under control in that acute setting is a reasonable thing to do, and your best first step."

But stop icing it eventually
While ice is a good idea in the first stages of an injury, it shouldn't be something you use non-stop. "One of the concerns about the use of ice is that it slows down blood flow. That means that it slows down the inflammation, and it slows down all the enzyme reactions that are part of the inflammatory process," LaBotz explains. "While inflammation sounds like a negative, it is actually necessary and part of the healing process that needs to occur at some point."

"There have been some studies showing that athletes don't replenish glycogen as quickly if they have a muscle that's been iced down," she says. "Old recommendations were to continue to ice a spot a few times a day until the soreness went away. But because we want injuries to begin to heal, we want blood flow to come in and we want cells to have access to glycogen and glucose so they can do the healing work. With that in mind, you need to strike a balance between icing to alleviate pain and inflammation and allowing inflammation to do its job."

Heat helps... eventually
Heat application won't help much on the sidelines of a game, but post-practice heat application is a good idea. "You would use heat in the short term to help with pain or muscle soreness," says LaBotz. "But some of the newer data on the role of heat in recovery and repair suggests that over the longer term, using heat can stimulate the growth of capillaries and turn on the enzymes to start the repair and muscle building process. This effect may ultimately help support optimal performance and recovery, which reinforces the consistent use of heat, but these changes take time and aren’t expected to result in any immediate impact for the athlete,” she explains.

Be smart about cold application
There's a fine line between too cold and not cold enough. Occasionally, there are issues with frostbite from chemical packs, LaBotz says. But more frequently, athletes have such a thick towel between their body and the icepack that the ice can't actually cool the muscles. "You want the cold penetrating into the injury," LaBotz says. "You get the best conveyance of cold using something like a dampened thin kitchen towel over the ice pack." And don't leave it on past the point of discomfort. If you're noticing more discomfort because of the ice, or if the area starts going numb or tingling, take the ice pack off.

Skip the ice vests
You may be tempted to recommend ice vests or other icy cooling solutions to your athletes on hot days. But LaBotz recommends that instead of ice vests, your athletes focus on minimizing time in the direct sun and sipping icy water or sports drink before their practice or game. "Athletes need to be aware of the environmental risk, and with ice vests on, they may not realize how hot it is until they're playing," explains LaBotz.

Hot and cold gels and lotions aren’t the same as ice and heat
You might be tempted to grab a balm or gel that offers "heating and cooling" action. But while these topically applied rubs might feel icy or hot and may relieve discomfort, they aren't doing anything for the healing process. "These balms just give the sensation of cooling," LaBotz says. “They don’t change the temperature of the muscles. When we're discussing the effects of heat and cold, we're talking about enough heat or enough cold to change the temperature of the muscles beneath. The cooling from a gel is mental. It distracts the nerves from the pain, which can be helpful. But it's not going to give you the same effects as actually heating or cooling the area."

Takeaway
While using heat and ice for injuries is a nuanced topic with rapidly emerging research, there are some best practices to keep in mind when helping your team recover safely and effectively.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 6 Things To Do When Coaching Your Own Child
(11/25/2021)
 
   

6 Things To Do When Coaching Your Own Child


Best advice for what to do when coaching your own child


Many parents get into coaching because they have a child in the sport. It can be a fun, rewarding experience for both of you, but as you might have realized, it can also be a challenge. As a parent and a coach, it can be difficult to establish expectations and boundaries that keep everyone happy, including you, your athlete, and the other parents and athletes on the team. Here, several TrueSport experts share their best advice for what to do when coaching your own child.

Find your why
While coaching your child can deepen and enhance your relationship, it can also strain it if you’re not mindful. “A good starting point is to reflect on why you are coaching this team in the first place,” says TrueSport Expert Nadia Kyba, a social worker and expert in conflict resolution. “Is it because volunteerism is one of your core values? Are you hoping to give your child their best shot at an athletic scholarship? Is it to become closer with your child by spending more time together? There are no right or wrong answers, but the key is to be aware of the reasons and to ensure that your actions as a coach are reflecting that purpose.”

Establish clear boundaries
Before the season begins, create a set of rules for yourself that break up your coach role and your parent role—you can even ask your student-athlete for his or her input. “Remember, whether your child performs well or poorly, your relationship with them shouldn’t be impacted,” Kyba says. One way to navigate this is to have set times that you will talk about the sport with your child. Your athlete may also have some rules for you, like not using their nickname in front of the team.

Focus on positive reinforcement
“As parents, our children can often be the targets of criticism since it is easy to point out their negative behaviors,” says TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. But as a coach, rather than punishing an athlete for a mistake, reward them with positive reinforcement when something goes well. “Remember reinforcement is meant to increase behavior whereas punishment is designed to decrease behavior,” he adds. “Reinforcement is always more powerful than punishment."

Open communication with the team (and other parents)
As a parent-coach, you can expect parents of other athletes on the team to occasionally question your choices: If your child is always in the starting lineup, for instance, you might deal with a parent who feels that starting position is a result of favoritism rather than skill. Because of this—whether the complaints are perceived or based in reality—it’s important to open lines of communication between yourself, the athletes, and their parents. Kyba suggests holding bi-weekly team meetings with this format:
1. What is working well
2. Issues/Concerns
3. Ideas/Options
4. Action plan for going forward

“These meetings give athletes and parents an opportunity to have open conversations if they have concerns,” Kyba explains. “This is the time to be transparent about your decision-making and to allay any concerns about bias. Have an awareness of the power you hold as a coach and what barriers that brings to athletes and parents coming forward to ask questions or voice concerns about bias. Communicating an acknowledgment of this power and how you work to mitigate the problems it can create is so important!”

Frame feedback positively
Try to keep feedback positive, highlighting things that your athlete did right, rather than phrasing it as ‘constructive criticism.’ Then, add what they can try in the future. Kyba shares two examples of good feedback: "I noticed when you made a second pass, the team was able to score more often than when you took the shot off the dribble. I’d love to see you try a similar strategy during the game. What do you think?" or "I saw that when you stood up and cheered from the bench Lucy started to run faster and made a great pass. That type of energy can go a long way when we are down. When you’re quieter on the bench, I don’t see the same immediate impact. Thanks for contributing!”

Adopt a “What did you learn?” mentality
Chapman believes that as coaches, parents need to help their student-athletes adopt a process-oriented mentality. “Asking your child after competition, ‘What did you learn?’ is one of the most powerful questions to ask, since it will assist your child with a focus on the process of competing as opposed to the outcome of competition,” Chapman adds. “This will also build rapport with your child  and allow you to avoid criticizing poor performances.”

Takeaway
“Just enjoy it, because it goes by so fast,” hockey coach Greg Krahn, the latest TrueSport Coach Award winner, reminds parents. As Kyba said earlier, many parents choose to get into coaching to have quality time with their athlete, so make sure that your coaching is enhancing the relationship, and that you’re both having fun.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.


 Hydration Tips for Competing in Higher Altitudes
(11/11/2021)
 
   

Hydration Tips for Competing in Higher Altitudes


What you can do to ensure your athletes are prepared for altitude


If your team has a hefty travel schedule and you regularly compete in cities that are more than 3,000 feet above sea level, you may be concerned about how to ensure your sea-level-dwelling athletes are prepared for the higher altitudes. The good news is that you can mitigate some of the potential negative effects of altitude for your athletes so that they can focus on the game and not the thinner air. TrueSport Expert Kristen Ziesmer, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, explains what you can do to ensure your athletes are prepared for altitude.

Know your altitude
Most destinations for travel sport teams won't be at altitudes that will really affect your athletes' performance, says Ziesmer. But anything over 3,000 feet above sea level, such as Denver, Colorado, will start to shift their hydration and fueling needs, as well as their perceived exertion.

Pre-hydrate
"Make sure your athletes are well-fueled and well-hydrated before they go," says Ziesmer. "That really goes for any type of competition, but it's especially important at altitude. Have them up their drinking game the week before, aiming to drink between 25 and 50 percent more than they normally would."

... And keep hydrating
"The same thing applies once you're at altitude: Athletes should aim to drink about 25 to 50 percent more than they would drink normally,” says Ziesmer. “They should adjust their fluid intake based on the color of their urine—it should ideally be a lemonade-like pale yellow—and their weight. If they're gaining weight, they can cut back on water, but if they're losing weight, they should drink more."

Remember dehydration signs may change
At higher altitudes, it's easier to becoming dehydrated faster—and research has found that thirst cues are less reliable. "Your body is cycling through oxygen faster as altitude increases," Ziesmer explains. "Higher altitudes also tend to be really dry, so athletes will sweat more, which makes them dehydrate faster. Typically, people also urinate more at higher altitude, which can add to dehydration."

Check in on sweat rate
Keeping an eye on the scale while at altitude is important, and if your athletes have done calculations on their sweat rates in the past, they may need to retest their sweat rates while at altitude. "Some athletes respond differently to altitude and to different weather situations," says Ziesmer. "If an athlete is losing a lot of weight during exercise at altitude, then they need to adjust how much they're taking in in terms of fluid during practice. They also need to appropriately rehydrate and refuel afterwards."

Drink regularly, don't chug
Throughout the day, athletes should be steadily drinking. Dehydration at altitude isn't just happening from a lack of hydration during practice, it's happening because athletes aren't drinking enough during the rest of their day. "The best thing for an athlete to do is try to drink a little bit every 15 to 20 minutes, rather than just chugging a bunch of water when they have a break," says Ziesmer.

Add electrolytes
"At altitude, because you're sweating more, the body requires a bit higher electrolyte intake," says Ziesmer. Not every drink needs to be a sports drink or electrolyte-infused, but Ziesmer favors splitting drinks between water and an electrolyte-based drink.

Fuel appropriately
While hydration is critical, proper fueling matters too. Traveling for training or competition can shake up an athlete's eating routines and mealtimes, but because of the high energy output they'll be expending during training or competition, it's important that their carbohydrate stores are topped up. In fact, research has found that most issues related to altitude training are actually related to the increased training stress rather than the altitude itself. "Training camps and travel competitions mean that athletes need to be eating more, not less," says Ziesmer. "But weird schedules and less access to food can make eating enough difficult." Make sure your athletes have access to regular meals and healthy snacks that they can grab between practice sessions.

Takeaway
Coaches are often responsible for athletes’ health and wellbeing while traveling, and when competing at altitude, hydration is especially important. These tips will help keep your team hydrated, feeling good, and performing well.


TrueSport®, a movement powered by the experience and values of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, champions the positive values and life lessons learned through youth sport. TrueSport® inspires athletes, coaches, parents, and administrators to change the culture of youth sport through active engagement and thoughtful curriculum based on cornerstone lessons of sportsmanship, character-building, and clean and healthy performance, by creating leaders across communities through sport.