OUTSIDE THE GYM – STRATEGIES TO ATTAIN OPTIMUM PERFORMANCE
We all know the importance of the gym and skill work to improve our performance in our sport of choice. What we sometimes forget are the other variables that can have a huge impact on the performance of youth athletes – sleep, nutrition and stress. Here are some strategies you can put in place to keep your youth athlete on top of their game:
Sleep – the hidden game changer.
How many times have we heard that we need to get a good night’s sleep? Now, how many nights a week do you think your kid is getting enough sleep?
Research has found that the majority of kids aged between 12-18 years get less than the recommended 9 hours sleep per night. This can be due to a whole host of reasons – too much time spent on screens, high sugar and high caffeine elements in the diet, stress and many other reasons.
Lack of sleep can have a major impact on the performance of a junior athlete. Lack of sleep leads to (obviously) tiredness, which can have a major impact on decision making and technical resilience/repeatability. Simply put, lack of sleep is a game killer.
So what can we do to ensure good quality sleep? Ensuring a high quality diet of fresh foods with minimal processed sugar and low caffeine is a good idea, making sure bedrooms are cool (below 22 degrees) and as dark as possible, plus no screen time (tv, phone, iPad, etc.) for an hour before sleep is recommended.
Nutrition for a youth athlete – make it smart but make it fun.
Like sleep, good quality food intake is also one of those things that we hear about every day. Low quality food (fast food, too much sugar, etc.) can have a big impact on both the performance and the health of all children. Along with chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease; poor nutrition can also have major impacts on concentration levels and resilience to injury – 2 absolute game killers.
So here are Drive360’s recommendations for ensuring your junior athlete is eating well:
- Make sure that 80% of foods are grown and not made. Lean meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, rice and potatoes are all winners.
- Ensure a diverse range of foods are eaten – make sure that there’s plenty of each macronutrient in each meal – protein, carbohydrates and fats. Also, ensure that you put as many colours as possible into the meal (lots of red, green, yellow, white, etc)
- Don’t relate good performance to low quality food. While a burger and chips after a game can be okay, try not to make it a reward. Fast food should be a sometimes food, not a reward food.
Stress – the silent performance inhibitor.
While we may all joke that there’s nothing for a kid to stress about, that’s not entirely true. Stress is a very relative thing – while sport, homework and school yard politics may seem like a minor thing to us adults, to a kid this is their entire life. Stress can impact every aspect of their game, leading to concentration issues and technical breakdown, to loss of enjoyment which can lead to more stress.
There are three ways we recommend dealing with stress:
- Communicate. Talk to the junior. Ask them how they are travelling. Let them know you are here to help and listen, not dismiss or judge. This can be a fear, that their concerns will be laughed at or scorned.
- Eat and sleep well. Two major factors that impact on stress and mental health levels.
- Give them ‘get away’ strategies. Let them do something that they don’t feel any need to excel at – whether it’s mucking around with friends, going for a swim at the beach, reading Harry Potter. Just let them de-stress.
Thank you for taking the time to read this information. As always, these are general recommendations. If you have any specific queries or concerns, please contact a member of staff and they will be able to point you towards the appropriate health professional.
Yours in health and performance.