Top 10 Youth Sports Hacks
#1 Clenching Your Left Fist Calms Nerves in High-Pressure Moments
Performing well in high-pressure situations can be a tremendous asset, not just in sports.
Here is a simple trick to give kids something tangible to help master these stressful times.
Dr. Juergen Beckmann, chair of sport psychology at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, recommend that an athlete clench their left fist, before and during the tense time, this will help to control nervous feelings. The motion of clenching the left fist is said to activate the right side of the brain — the side that controls automated behavior. This helps athletes from overthinking and allows their natural instincts to come into play.
#2 Be Prepared for Weather
The iPhone Weather app might be helpful for figuring out the current temperature, but if you need an accurate hour-by-hour forecast check out Weatherspark.com. One of our favorite Weatherspark.com features is called SparkRadar. It allows you to see how and where rain or precipitation is moving and what time it will reach you and your kid’s game or sports practice.
#3 Eat A Chocolate Bar Before a Game If You Don’t Have Time For A Healthy Snack
Scientists have discovered that eating bits of dark chocolate before physical exertion can help performance and stamina. Throughout the course of a game, athletes lose a lot of energy. Epicatechin, a chemical found in dark chocolate, helps to quickly restore this energy and allows an athlete to sustain it longer. It increases the number of capillaries, increases muscle mitochondria, and increases the capacity for muscle aerobic metabolism, thereby delaying the onset of fatigue.
We aren’t saying feed your kid chocolate ALL DAY and it will help them play better. Nothing can replace a nutritious snack or meal, but in a pinch, you might want to give it a try.
#4 The Trunk Organizer – This One Item Will Save You…Often!
Multiple kids in sports, racing all around town every day, from games to practices, to birthday parties, to dinners…your car is your home away from home. This one simple item is life-changing. Mostly because it will force you to think and organize ahead of time.
It is $9.97 on Amazon, trunk organizer
#5 Sing While You Play To Avoid Choking Under Pressure
The term “choking” in sports, loosely defined as messing up when you shouldn’t, is something your kids probably want to avoid at all costs. Basically, once you get the mechanics of a sport honed and perfected, it’s best to just let it happen. Choking occurs when people who know better start thinking too hard about what they need to do. The added pressure forces your brain into a state called “paralysis by analysis” where the “working memory” part of your brain literally stops working and the more talented you are the more working memory you have meaning the harder the failure. So here’s a trick: sing. That’s right, a player who chokes knows exactly what to do and how to do it, but nerves and over-thinking can get in the way. Teach your child to sing or hum a favorite song at these stressful times – It doesn’t have to be out loud, it can be in their heads. Research indicates that doing anything that your brain also controls (singing or humming) preoccupies your mind from the task at hand and will keep those pathways from becoming overactive. This in turn keeps your working memory from shutting down and prevents you from choking. It’s essentially just distracting your conscious mind long enough that your muscle memory can finish the job.
#6 Finally an App for parents with more than one kid playing sports!
The app Periscope. You can be on the soccer field and at the same time watching another child in the pool or gym.
#7 Chew gum or sip juice to make you more alert and help performance
Drinking sugary drinks like Gatorade or chewing gum is more than just good tasting, it helps you think better! Although we don’t recommend it as a substitute for healthy meals and snacks, in a pinch it can give you an extra boost on the field. And you don’t even have to swallow it, you can actually just swish around the liquids and get a taste – as long as there’s plenty of sugar in it. Your brain, in turn, becomes more active in the pleasure center, allowing you to enjoy feeling the burn far longer. It also stimulates the part of your brain in charge of movement control so it’s possible it can actually help you on the field or court.
#8 Find The Sweet Spot
When shooting a free throw, a lot of players concentrate on aiming just above the rim, or counting dribbles, maybe spinning the ball a certain amount of times. But there is one trick you may not know about.
On the hardwood floors, the sweet spot is literally nailed into the ground right behind the free-throw line. That’s right, a noticeable nail should be hammered into the floorboards behind the center of the stripe. By lining up your right foot (or left, depending on your dominant hand) over its center, you’ll be shooting as dead-on at the bucket as possible. I know. It was there the whole time and we had no idea.
#9 Smelling Jasmine During A Game Can Improve Play
For years researchers have known about the positive effects of certain smells and aromas. They have a healing power that can help with a multitude of things, such as lowering blood pressure, making you calmer, and helping you to focus.
In a study conducted at the Chicago Medical School – Rosalind Franklin, Major League baseball players put it to the test. Each player was given a wristband for every at-bat and asked to sniff it before stepping up to the plate. Sometimes they would get a band scented with jasmine and sometimes a placebo band with no scent. Researchers discovered that the athletes overwhelmingly performed better and hit a higher batting average when taking a sniff from the jasmine-infused band. They concluded that it improved their focus and hand-eye coordination.
So next time your kid is suiting up for a game, have them put on a wristband or tie pre-wrap around their wrist (something my kids now use for just about everything) then dab it with jasmine essential oil and have them give it an occasional sniff throughout the game. They will have the added bonus that it smells amazing, plus it’s also an antiseptic. So if they get a cut or scrape, they can rub it right on.
#10 Tell Your Child “I Love To Watch You Play” on the Ride Home.
The number one thing that kids want to hear is as simple as our website so clearly states:
I love to watch you play. That’s it. Stop right there. If your child wants to discuss and engage in more conversation about the game, then great. If not, wait until you are far removed – even days – from the game to discuss any ideas you might have to improve their performance. No child wants to play poorly or lose. So allow them to sit with their own internal voice and self-awareness about how they played before you add your own two cents.
The EDGE they will get from this hack… love, and joy for the game.
UPDATE TO ORIGINAL POST:
My daughter tried the fist-clenching in her volleyball game. She did it in-between the first game she played and the second. Right away she turned to me and said (I was standing close by trying to capture it on camera) “Mom, I feel more relaxed already”. And then went on to score four straight points on serves to help clinch the game. And another side note, check out Maria Sharapova when she plays tennis, constant fist clenching.