TrueSport Resources

 Top 3 Nutrient Deficiencies in Teens
(10/13/2021)
 
 
   

Top 3 Nutrient Deficiencies in Teens


Most common nutrient deficiencies in teens


Your young athlete works hard on the field, at practice, in training, and at school—which means their bodies need proper nutrients and fuel to keep up. But with so much going on, it can be hard to prioritize a healthy nutrition plan and that can sometimes lead to certain nutrient deficiencies. Here, we're looking at a few of the most common nutrient deficiencies in teens.

Before we dive in, though, it's important to note that generally, these deficiencies can be fixed with real, whole foods versus supplements. If you believe your athlete needs a supplement, it's a good idea to check with your family doctor, get screened for deficiencies, and determine the best course of action before adding supplements. Remember: Food first whenever possible!

Iron
Teens, especially those who are opting to eat less meat—or who truly hate their dark leafy greens—while still training at a high level, may find that they're deficient in iron. This is a problem worldwide, researchers have found. In 2016, researchers noted that for preteens and teens aged 10 to 14, iron deficiency is the leading cause of "ill health." And overall, females face more health issues due to iron deficiency, which is often tied to iron loss during menstruation.

According to the American Society of Hematology, iron deficiency (also referred to as anemia) can lead to fatigue, headaches, unexplained weakness, rapid heartbeat, and brittle nails or hair loss.

Iron levels can be raised by adding iron-rich foods into an athlete's diet. The Mayo Clinic lists the obvious red meat, pork, poultry, and seafood as the easiest ways to get iron, but your teen could also add beans, dark leafy greens, and even dried fruit and iron-fortified cereals into their diet.

Vitamin D
Since most young athletes get their vitamin D largely from sunlight, it's common to see deficiencies in teens—one study found nearly a quarter of teens surveyed were severely deficient. Wintertime for outdoor athletes, and anytime for indoor-sport athletes who spend most of their sunny hours inside for school and practice, means less vitamin D from the sun. However, food can also help supplement vitamin D for adolescents, who need around 600 IUs per day.

Vitamin D deficiency can be hard for an athlete, since symptoms include fatigue and weakness in addition to bone pain and even depression, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

To boost vitamin D through food, think dairy products, eggs, and seafood. The easiest way to hit your daily dose? A single tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1360 IUs of vitamin D.

Protein
While most research is based on specific micronutrient deficiencies, many teens—especially those who are extremely active athletes—may be missing enough of the macronutrient protein. Since protein is vital for not only muscle building, but also for repair and recovery, it's critical that young athletes are eating enough of it throughout the day. Often, children will have a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast like cereal, followed by a carbohydrate-heavy lunch like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bagel, then another serving of carbohydrate around practice, so it's not until dinner that they're eating a solid serving of protein in the form of meat or fish. But young athletes should be prioritizing protein throughout the day for optimal benefits. Add eggs or Greek yogurt to breakfast, consider adding a low-fat milk to the side of a sandwich at lunch, and keep that healthy protein at dinner.

Other micronutrients teens tend to miss out on
Zinc and calcium are less common deficiencies but still are important for immunity and bone health, respectively. Research has shown that these are common micronutrients that get missed—but they aren't too hard to add back in. Zinc can be easily found in whole grains, dairy, red meat, poultry, and oysters (if you have a teen with an adventurous palate). Calcium can also be found in dairy. For vegetarian and vegan athletes, vitamin B12 deficiency can also be a problem, as can calcium for vegans. For a vegan athlete needing B12, consider adding nutritional yeast on top of meals (it has a tasty, cheesy flavor) or simply opt for plant-based milks that are fortified with B12 as well as calcium.

Takeaway
While nutrient deficiencies seem like a daunting challenge to parents of a picky eater, consider this: a bowl of cereal that's fortified with iron and zinc, plus a handful of raisins, with milk that's rich in calcium, vitamins D and B12, and protein covers most of these deficiencies. And for most teen athletes, cereal isn't exactly a tough sell.


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.


 How to Regulate and Manage All Emotions
(9/22/2021)
 
   

How to Regulate and Manage All Emotions


How you can support your emotional athlete


As the parent of a young athlete, you're probably used to seeing a whole range of emotions, from wild joy to intense anger to devastating sadness. While it's tempting to try to help your athlete ditch the anger and sadness, it's actually more important that you let your athlete experience, understand, and move through their range of emotions.

Here, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, explains exactly how you can support your emotional athlete so that you're setting them up for success on the field and in the real world. And remember: When we talk about emotions, it's not just about negative emotions. Being able to understand and regulate positive emotions is important as well.

Don't avoid emotions
You may have had a coach who told you to keep a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, or maybe you're uncomfortable with big shows of emotion. But letting your athlete show their emotions in a nonjudgmental space is critical for their development.

"What I always try to reiterate to athletes, their parents, their families, and their coaches, is that all emotions serve an adaptive purpose," Chapman says. "Anger, frustration, excitement, disgust, sadness, grief in the event of a loss...all of those emotions are important. They're all trying to tell us to pay attention to what's going on internally and externally, and then to motivate us to engage in a specific action." In other words, emotions are trying to help us navigate our world successfully by helping us evolve our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to the world around us .

Understand the Vocabulary
The crux of awareness training is recognizing that all emotions are complex, but Chapman explains that most people assume emotions are simply feelings. "Athletes often say things like, 'I feel like I shouldn't have made that mistake', or 'I feel like you shouldn't have said that to me', but those aren't really feelings," Chapman points out.

It’s important to understand what makes up an emotion:
Thoughts—What I say to myself.
• Example: "I'm so mad at my teammate."
Feelings—Physical sensations.
• Example: A higher heart rate or clenched fists.
Behavior—What I do about it.
• Example: The angry athlete may confront his teammate and yell at him.

Separate feelings from emotions
"If an athlete says, 'I feel anxious,' then a parent could ask them to explain the feelings of anxiety. And the kid might say, 'Well, my heart's beating fast.' Now that's an actual feeling," Chapman says. From that point, you can work on changing the feeling. Start with those physical cues—in this case, a rapid heartbeat—by countering it with a physical stimulus, like pausing and taking a few deep breaths with the athlete's eyes closed. That's a start to control the feeling, so you can then shift focus to dealing with the thought that’s causing the feeling.

Get out of emotional spirals by focusing on the present
Any emotion that your athlete is feeling has been triggered by a situation that happens before it. "It's important to teach athletes to become aware that how they respond with that emotion will lead to short and long-term consequences," Chapman says. Coming back to the present and focusing on the controllable elements of the situation, rather than giving in to an emotional reaction, is often easier said than done, but it's a critical skill to learn. "Can your athlete get focused on this pitch, this swing, this moment in time, as opposed to being concerned about what might happen in three days or what happened two hours ago?" Chapman asks.

Regulating emotion is important for positive emotion too
Emotional regulation is true for positive and negative emotional experiences, and successful athletes are good at regulating all strong emotion. Get too excited, and you could get ahead of yourself. Get too negative, and that could lead to a very poor performance. It's a balancing act and regulation will make it easier to find success.

"The classic example of too much positive emotion is anytime you watch a team performance, and they celebrate too early. One minute, you're celebrating your certain victory, the next minute, the other team gets the touchdown, you've lost, and you're crying," Chapman says.

Teach flexibility
Being flexible means being able to envision possible outcomes that are based on evidence. That's the key to emotional regulation: It’s being able to say, "It could be ______. But then again, it could be ______." Or more specifically, "It could be that I'll never learn this skill. But then again, it could be that with practice, I’ll get it eventually.” Notice that the negative thought is still there, but the goal is to understand that there are also other possible outcomes.

Takeaway
Learning how to manage emotions, both the positive and negative, is key to success in sport and life beyond the field of play. These steps will help your athlete begin the journey to better understanding and controlling their emotions.


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.


 4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors
(9/8/2021)
 
   

4 Questions to Counter Negative Behaviors


The best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time


As a coach for young athletes, whether they're in elementary school or high school, you're going to deal with the emotional rollercoasters that young people experience. A fight with a friend over the weekend can translate to feelings of despair on game day, and stress over a championship game can leave an athlete feeling paralyzed. But as a coach, you can teach your athletes how to examine their feelings and move on from negative moments.

"Coaches care about athletes, which means we tend to give them reassurance when they have a negative thought," says TrueSport Expert Kevin Chapman, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of The Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders. "That works for maybe 30 minutes, but it's ultimately going to backfire because now you have to keep reassuring them. The way to get out of that is to teach an athlete to think flexibly by asking the right questions."

According to Chapman, "The whole point of these questions is to get the athlete to look objectively at situations and not rely on emotional experiences. As the coach, you know the answers to the questions that you're asking, but it's going to be much better for the athlete if they work it out for themselves rather than you spoon-feeding them the answer.”

Here, Chapman offers some of the best questions to ask when your athlete is having a tough time or a negative moment on or off the field. And remember, these are also questions that you can teach athletes to ask themselves so that they learn how to question their behaviors and solve problems for themselves.

QUESTION: What's the evidence that this thought is true?
"This is one of my favorite questions to start with," says Chapman. "If a kid were to say, 'I know we're going to get blown out at the next game,' I would ask, 'Well, what's the evidence that this thought is true?'”

“He might answer something like, 'They beat us by about 20 in the last game.' Now we're starting to think evidence, not emotion."

QUESTION: What's happened in the past? Could there be another explanation?
"To change an athlete’s thought process, we’re asking evidence-based questions, not emotion-based questions," Chapman says. Your job here is to take the emotion out of the equation and force your athlete to come at a question logically, looking at only objective facts. Often, athletes will realize that their emotional argument isn't based in logic, which allows them to change their conclusion.

QUESTION: Does blank have to mean blank?
Being flexible is being able to generate other possible outcomes that are based on evidence, which means being able to say, "It could be ______. But then again, it could be ______." For example, getting beat in the last game sounds like a pretty good argument for getting beat this time. But follow that up with these questions: 'Does them beating us by 20 mean that they will automatically beat us by 20 again?'

Are you 100 percent sure that this outcome will occur? Are you certain that this thought is true?

In math class, students are told that they need to show their work on a test to get full credit. Make them do the same as athletes: What is the incontrovertible evidence that this is going to be the outcome?

QUESTION: What's the worst that can happen? Can you cope with that?
It sounds counter-intuitive to force an athlete to go even deeper into a negative thought. But leading the athlete through the worst-case scenario often helps them understand that the 'worst case' really isn't so bad. "This one is what I call the catastrophizing question," Chapman says. "Because catastrophizing is thinking the worst. It's actually great to make an athlete think through the worst thing that can happen. Once they decide what that is, ask: ‘Can you cope with that?’ The answer is almost always yes."

The easiest example is a playoff game. The worst thing that could happen is the team could lose because of a fumble made by the athlete. But can the athlete survive that? Of course. He won't be kicked off the team, his teammates will understand, and his coach will support him.

Takeaway
Many coaches wonder how to help their athletes overcome negative thoughts that impact performance and enjoyment of the sport. Use these questions to help your athletes change a negative thought process in their sport and beyond.


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.


 How to Help Athletes Have Difficult Conversations
(8/25/2021)
 
   

How to Help Athletes Have Difficult Conversations


How to use a form of nonviolent communication


Whether you're a child or an adult, a coach or a parent, a teammate or a team leader, difficult conversations are never easy. Having frank discussions that feel confrontational can be intimidating and emotionally taxing at any age, but fortunately, there are ways to improve your athlete's ability to handle difficult conversations with teammates, coaches, and parents. And this won't just improve their ability to communicate with their team now—this is a skill that will help them navigate life.

Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, explains how to use a form of nonviolent communication when beginning a tough conversation, as well as how to practice it in a low-stress setting.

Be okay with emotion
The most important lesson to teach a young athlete is that it's okay to feel emotional when approaching a hard conversation, whether it's asking the coach how to get more playing time, or asking a teammate why she won't pass the ball during games. "People often avoid having hard conversations because they're afraid that they'll get emotional—start crying—during them," Kyba says. "But that's okay. And if you take the time to prepare and have a bit of a script, maybe even practice having the conversation out loud to yourself or a trusted adult, then it's going to be easier to do it. I try to get people to prepare ahead of time when possible, and then invite the other person to have the talk at a set time rather than just getting into it."

Think before you start
On the note of preparation, Kyba is a firm believer in scripting out what you want to say and knowing what you want to get out of the confrontation. The worst kind of difficult conversation is when both parties leave feeling as though they weren't understood and their needs weren't met. "Whenever you're feeling like you're about to have, or need to have, some kind of confrontation, the best thing to do is to step back and pause," says Kyba. Think about the conversation you hope to have. What are the facts that you're bringing in? Are there any assumptions that you're making that may not be true? What exactly is the problem that you want solved? Taking five minutes to journal through these questions can make the conversation much clearer, which means it's much more likely to get resolved in a way that benefits both parties.

Set the stage
For a young athlete, setting the stage for a conversation may mean setting a time to speak with the coach during his or her office hours, texting a teammate to see if they can talk before or after practice, or even leaving a note for a parent asking for a parent/child meeting in the evening. Having a face-to-face discussion is ideal, Kyba says, but video chat or phone will work if in-person meetings are impossible right now. She recommends avoiding text or email to have a tough conversation though, since tone of voice is critical. "If you're nervous about crying, then try having your talk on the phone—plus, that way you can have your notes in front of you," she points out.

Follow the script
Kyba recommends using this five-step approach to a difficult conversation. Of course, not every person will be on the same page, but having this script worked out in your head or on paper before beginning the conversation can be extremely helpful.

1. Acknowledge: "Thank you for taking the time to talk to me."
First, thank the person and acknowledge them for being willing to have this conversation, Kyba says. This helps establish a positive space for the discussion and emphasizes the desire to have a conversation, not a fight.

2. Describe: "In the game yesterday, I was open a lot, but I noticed that you never passed me the ball."
Without adding any emotion or feelings, explain what you want to discuss. Use facts and keep it as simple as possible.

3. Feeling: "I felt overlooked."
Now, you can explain how the incident made you feel, but beware of using a feeling to create a fact. For instance, saying, "I feel like you don't like me," or "I feel like you think I'm a bad player," isn't about your emotion. This part of the script should only focus on your internal emotion, not attaching blame. More specifically, try to avoid saying "I feel like," since that often adds an external element to your feeling instead of describing an internal emotion. For the person you're having the conversation with, this will feel less like a personal attack.

4. Need: "I need to understand if there was some reason you weren't passing me the ball."
Difficult conversations often go poorly when the person initiating the discussion doesn't actually know what they need in order to resolve the problem, so before you start speaking, make sure you know what you really want. "What do you need in order to feel better about the situation?" asks Kyba. Often, the answer is more complicated than you might initially think. In this example, for instance, the immediate assumption would be that the person starting the conversation wants the ball to be passed to her. But really, what she needs is the reason the ball wasn't getting passed in the first place. Did her teammate simply not notice her, or is there a social dynamic at play, or was another player just within closer passing distance?

5. Request: "Could you let me know what your thinking was during the game?"
After you've stated your need, it's important to break down your need into a request that the other person can respond to. Again, people often skip this step and leave a conversation unfulfilled because they couldn’t articulate what the other person can do to meet their specific need. "In this case, you're not trying to change what happens in the next game yet, you're just trying to gather the facts and information from this last game and understand why the ball wasn't passed to you," says Kyba. Then, you have the information to either continue the conversation or make an action plan for the next game.

Your conversation may be concluded at this point. If you haven't come to a good understanding or found a solution, you can begin the process again. This is just a starting point, says Kyba. Thank the other person for taking the time to listen to you and try describing what you think the response to your request was, and how you feel about it.

Practice, practice, practice
Don't wait for a problem before teaching your athletes about this script! Parents and coaches can benefit from roleplaying a few difficult conversations with their young athletes. "You can role play some silly scenarios and let athletes work out their scripts, which feels like fun, but they do learn to be more prepared for when they need to have real conversations," Kyba says. "The more you get used to using this script, the easier it is to have a difficult conversation that ends with both parties feeling heard."

Takeaway
Having difficult conversations is never easy, but it is important for young athletes to learn this skill, as it offers benefits in both sport and life. These tips will help parents and coaches prepare their athletes to have difficult conversations and find effective resolutions.


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.


 How to Minimize Conflict Arising from Assumptions
(8/11/2021)
 
   

How to Minimize Conflict Arising from Assumptions


How assumptions can go from a minor incident to a major problem for a team


We all make assumptions throughout the day—it's part of human nature. But young athletes sometimes make judgements based on assumptions that may or may not be true, and these misguided assumptions can hurt a team's dynamic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated assumption-making in every arena, and young people are particularly vulnerable as school and sports practices have shifted to remote models.

Here, Nadia Kyba, MSW, TrueSport Expert and President of Now What Facilitation, explains how assumptions can be dangerous and how an athlete interaction, when left unchecked, can go from a minor incident during a game to a major problem for a team.

The Circle of Inference

According to Kyba, the Circle of Inference explains how we interpret information and actions based on assumptions to form beliefs that drive our actions. Conflict arises when athletes misinterpret another person’s motives based on their own perception of the facts.

Below, Kyba walks through an example of how a missed opportunity for a pass in a soccer game could lead to a player quitting the team because he feels like his teammates all dislike him. It might sound overly dramatic to a coach or parent, but to a young athlete who's basing his actions on selected facts with his underlying assumptions and beliefs, it's a very real scenario.

The Action: During a soccer game, Joe is running up the midfield, open, and calls to Andy to pass him the ball. Instead, Andy passes the ball to Tim.

"Now, Joe is making a whole bunch of assumptions about why Andy made that pass choice," Kyba explains. "He isn't asking if Andy passed to Tim because there was actually a defender standing behind him, or because Tim was in a better passing position, or if Andy didn't hear him call out. Joe is seeing Andy not pass him the ball through his own lens of assumptions and beliefs." What we're looking at now is Joe's version of events, in order to see how dangerous assumptions can be.

Selected Facts: Andy ignored Joe in favor of passing the ball to another player.

Often, an athlete like Joe will operate with only the initial selected fact—that Andy didn't pass the ball to him—without thinking through other facts, like what else was happening in the game, if Andy heard him, or if Tim was in a better position. Instead, athletes should, "Start by asking ‘What do I know?’" says Kyba. You can also ask, "What don't I know?" Pausing and journaling about these questions may help an athlete skip assumption-making in favor of a more rational explanation.

Assumptions: Andy thinks that Joe is a terrible soccer player.

In this case, that's the assumption Joe is making. He doesn't have any facts that prove it—Andy has never said that Joe is terrible at soccer—he's basing this entirely on the lack of a pass during one game. But this is how the human mind tends to work, Kyba explains. "We make assumptions, working with selected facts. We're not working with a 360-degree view of exactly what happened," she says. "We just take the little bits of information that we have and form our assumption based on that small slice of information."

Beliefs: Beliefs go beyond assumptions from an event; they are based on how a person perceives the world and themselves after years of information being processed in a certain way. Here, Joe believes he isn't a very good soccer player and struggles with self-confidence.

"People who feel insecure in a situation or certain context will have a different narrative going in their head about what's going on," Kyba explains. So, in this case, Joe isn't just seeing Andy not passing him the ball, he's seeing this as confirmation that everyone else thinks he's a terrible soccer player. He might also already have a belief that the people on the team don't like him or think he's very good, which will also impact his assessment of the situation.

Interpersonal Mush: The goalie mentions to Joe that he noticed Andy purposely not passing the ball to Joe.

"The mush is incoming information based on the way other people are interpreting the story," Kyba explains. So, in this case, now the goalie's assumption that Andy didn't pass on purpose is added to the mix, further muddying the waters. The goalie has his own set of assumptions about what went on during the game, so now Joe has his own assumptions and beliefs mixed in with those of the goalie. This is why inter-team gossip can quickly escalate problems between teammates.

Actions: Joe quits the team.

With all the beliefs and assumptions at play, it's easy to see how Joe could end up leaving the team altogether. It seems dramatic to quit after a single ball-passing incident, but as you can see from the addition of beliefs and assumptions, a small action can lead to much bigger results—especially for young people who struggle to have difficult conversations to get to the bottom of problems. "He could quit the team, or maybe he goes home and sends a mean text to Andy and starts a fight, or he sends a text to other teammates telling them to not pass to Andy the next game—either way, Joe's response can easily change the team dynamic," Kyba says.

How to Avoid Conflict from Making Assumptions

From this somewhat simplified example, it's easy to see how one athlete failing to pass the ball to another athlete in the first game of the season can have a ripple effect for the next game, and the next, all the way to the finals. After one action comes a reaction, and that reaction starts the circle of inference all over again. That is why it's important to make sure that your young athletes become aware of how they make assumptions and the conflict it can create.

Especially when coaching teenagers, it's important to remind them that not every perceived slight is actually about them. "Even as adults, rarely are these situations about us," Kyba says. "But we all have years of assumptions and beliefs that make us feel as though a simple action is much more meaningful than it actually is." Even if our assumptions do turn out to be correct, it’s better to gather the facts, engage in discussion, and then make a conclusion.

Ultimately, as you read through this example, you probably realized that Joe could have avoided leaving the team if he had simply paused, looked at the objective facts—Andy passed to Tim and not to Joe—and then had a conversation with Andy about it. Joe likely would have realized that Andy simply didn't see or hear him during the game. "Once you get clear on the facts and your own assumptions, it's much easier to have a conversation and come to a more informed conclusion," Kyba adds.


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.