By Matthew Myrvik, PhD
Clinical Sport Psychologist, Pediatric and Adolescent Sports Medicine, Children’s Wisconsin
Associate Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin
For many kids and teens, getting out and playing sports is one of the most rewarding and integral parts of their day. The benefits of playing sports are numerous. Aside from the physical health benefits, sports can build a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence. For some, being part of a team helps them feel connected and part of a community that works together. Here are a few tips to help them continue being active and playing their sport.
Encourage kids to continue to exercise
If they are able to get outside in your yard to kick a soccer ball, play catch or practice their dance routine, they should do so. They also can go for a run or walk as long as they know and understand the importance of maintaining a minimum six feet of social distancing from others at all times. On days when the weather doesn’t cooperate and they have to stay indoors, they can still strength train, stretch or practice yoga.
Set and achieve daily goals
During this time, we all are feeling a loss of control. Athletes are used to setting goals to stay on track and stay focused. They can set daily goals surrounding their nutrition, sleep, number of steps or overall fitness. If there are specific process skills related to their sports interest that they can work on, have them concentrate on those. Following are some examples:
• Soccer: Foot speed and dribbling drills such as toe taps, side touches, roll overs and inside-out dribbling.
• Basketball: Dribbling and ball-handling skills such as straight-arm finger taps, wraps around head/ankles/waist/legs, crossover dribble and double ball dribbling.
• Dance: Stretching and maintaining skills such as pre-practice stretches, floor barre exercises, or watching online dance classes.
By helping your kids set daily health and fitness goals that are reasonable and attainable, they can end their day feeling a sense of accomplishment and a little more in control.
Exercising doesn’t have to be a formal activity with weights and sports equipment either. Walking or running up and down the stairs or doing a wall sit while brushing teeth for two minutes can also help kids and teens stay active at home. Have them try doing some arm curls using canned foods as weights. Put on some high-energy music and have a dance party. Throughout the day, encourage brain breaks that get them to stand up and take a lap around the house in between working on homework assignments.
Stay connected with coaches and teammates
Relationships that seem to end abruptly can cause distress. Keep your kids connected with their coaches and teammates as much as possible. Many team leaders are scheduling Zoom meetings between coaches, parents and athletes as an opportunity to see one another and socialize, share ideas and just stay connected. It can even be as simple as having your child call their coach to say hello, hear their voice and asking them how they are coping.
During this time, it’s easy to focus on what we are missing out on and what we cannot do. Even though we need to take this virus very seriously, and keeping our family members safe is top priority, this also can be a time to perhaps learn a new skill, spend more quality time together and take care of our physical and emotional health. Finding ways for athletes — and all of us — to stay active and engaged is an important part of that equation.
There is understandable confusion and questions on the impact of resuming participation in youth sports. As a result, a team of sports medicine and infection prevention experts at Children’s Wisconsin and UW Health have come up with some guidelines and considerations to help navigate the return to youth sports in Wisconsin. You can find more information about those guidelines at childrenswi.org/newshub.
If you have questions about your child’s health, please contact your child’s doctor. If they don’t have a doctor, call 2-1-1 and an operator can director you to the nearest community health clinic or other needed resources.