We all have dreams that our children will do great things on game days, and parents can play a key role in their player’s performance. Some parents think that their role on game days is to yell encouragement from the sideline, but the most important contributions parents of young athletes can make must occur well before the game kicks off.
Research has shown that sleep is critical for overall physical and mental well-being, as well as athletic performance. During the season, get your player into a regular sleep schedule — with a consistent bedtime each night. The night before every game, make sure your player is in bed on time. Screen-time before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep.
- How Much Sleep Do Kids Need?
- Bedtime with the iPad: Total Mom Fail
- Sleep and the Elite Athlete
- 5 Areas Sleep has the Greatest Impact on Athletic Performance
DIET & NUTRITION
Soccer is a game of endurance, and even parents of our youngest players should think about every game as if their child is preparing for a long-distance race. What’s more, the sport requires extreme concentration to perform well, as decisions often need to be made in a split-second under pressure — pressure from the other team and also pressure from performing in front of an audience of adults. To reach their full potential on game day, all our players need to be bursting with energy that they can devote to muscle and brain power.
Every player’s pre-game diet is a critical part of her on-field success, and it’s the role of our parents to help NSC players make smart pre-game food choices. An upset stomach or sugar rush will not help our players show their true capabilities. There are many articles online about game day meals, and most talk about feeding your player simple foods prior to games. Consider a large glass of water, fresh fruit, a small amount of chicken or other lean meat, and bread for your young player’s pre-game meal. Easy-to-digest foods like lightly-buttered toast and scrambled eggs, or even a bit of pasta, could also work well.
Try to serve your child a meal two hours before the game. If the game is early in the morning, aim to feed your young athlete a meal or snack at least 60 minutes before arriving at the field. Remind your player to chew the meal or snack well and to hydrate thoroughly. Avoid foods with added sugar like sugary cereals, as your player’s energy will tend to collapse late in the game, when its needed most. Also, have your player use the bathroom before arriving at the field. A full stomach will slow your player down.
- What Young Athletes Should Eat to Perform Their Best
- Sports Nutrition for Young Athletes
- Feeding Your Child Athlete
- What Should Athletes Eat Before a Game?
- Perfect Pre-Game Meals for Young Athletes
- 8 Game Day Nutrition Tips for Young Athletes
It can be confusing for parents to see their child energetic and aggressive one game, then timid the next. A lot of the game-to-game difference your player exhibits may look like a difference in focus, like the player is not fully concentrating on the game. More likely, however, the difference is the outcome of his/her energy level, which is largely the result of sleep and pre-game diet. Sleep and diet are hidden but critical contributors to every player’s game day performance. It’s your role to help your child wisely prepare, so he/she can give a great effort at every opportunity, which will make playing much more fun.