6 Science Backed Hacks To Improve Your Child’s Sports Performance
#1 Clench Your Left Fist To Calm Your Nerves in High-Pressure Moments
You want your kids on the line in those all or nothing moments of a game and they need to experience the emotional highs and lows in order to learn how to handle them. Performing well in high pressure situations can be a tremendous asset, not just in sports.
Dr. Juergen Beckmann, chair of sport psychology at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, recommends that athletes clench their left fist, before and during the tense time, to help 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 Eat Chocolate 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.
I’m not saying feed your kid chocolate ALL DAY and it will help them play better. Nothing can replace a nutritious snack or meal as your long term plan, but in a pinch, you might want to give it a try!
#3 Smell Jasmine During Your Game To Improve Play
For years researchers have known about the positive effects of certain smells and aromas. They have 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 discoveredthe 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.
#4 Chew Gum Or Sip Juice To Help Your 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.
#5 Sing While You Play To Avoid Choking
The term “choking” in sports, is loosely defined as messing up when you shouldn’t. 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 over active. 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 Cheer loudly when your team does something good
The more convincingly someone celebrates their success with their teammates, the greater the chances that team will win,” according to according to Dr. Gert-Jan Pepping, Sport Scientist and lecturer in Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen.
Pepping studied the way soccer players react during shootouts and then the outcome. He surmised that emotions are often understood and explained in the context of what has just happened. However, emotions can also influence the future.
So from now on, encourage your child to celebrate the victories on the field, without being too obnoxious of course!