7 Ways To Turn Your Kid’s Isolation Into Motivation

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By Jill Schenk | March 22, 2020
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7 Ways To Turn Your Kid’s Isolation Into Motivation

1- Embrace the Break. 

The pressure to specialize in a sport at an early age and to play year-round is now an accepted part of American culture. According to Active Kids, for those who do participate in sports, 60% of boys and 47% of girls are playing on a team by 6 years of age, and there are no more built-in breaks. Dr. David Geier, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist cautions, “For competitive athletes in team or individual sports, long periods of rest are critical. All of the major professional sports – all of them – have off-seasons for their players’ bodies to rest and recover. Young athletes need that same recovery period.” 

Take this time without organized sports as that recovery period without worrying that you are falling behind. This does not mean you have to just sit around the house. Work different muscles and parts of the body than you typically would for your sport. If you are a pitcher, give your elbow and shoulder a break. If you play soccer, let your feet and ankles rest. 

Active Kids also reports that, according to Open Access Journalism of Sports Medicine, 80 percent of youth athletes quit their sport after age 15. Player burn-out is real; a mental break from the pressure of the sport itself is a healthy thing, and it may make you love the sport all the more when it is time to return. 

2- Do Chores.

The schedules today’s youth keep when it comes to athletics, school, and other activities do not seem to allow time for chores, but the Washington Times reports how critical learning and doing chores is on successful outcomes in adulthood, using a study by Marty Rossmann of the University of Mississippi. The findings show, “Those who had done chores as young children were more likely to be well-adjusted, have better relationships with friends and family and be more successful in their careers.” Chores teach children the importance of contributing to something greater than themselves, empathy, and the value of hard work, which are all qualities found in successful athletes and teams.

Take this mandated time at home to learn some chores and to create a regular rotation that works for your family. Here are some helpful ideas.

3- Become a Better Athlete.

Use this downtime to enhance your overall athleticism. Work on strength, cardio, speed, and agility training that is often overlooked in a season. No gym access due to isolation requirements? No problem. There are countless web resources offering in-home training for athletes of all ages using bodyweight only or common items from your house. This website has some ideas for multiple sports. Get creative!

4- Work on Your Skills.

What gives many top athletes an edge is their skill level. True skills training may be often overlooked in today’s youth sports world that focuses on playing and winning games. Athletes do not spend as much time drilling skills as they should. Take the time to perfect the form on your basketball shot, to practice ball control and footwork drills in soccer, to complete passing and setting skills in volleyball, or to improve your running form. Whatever your sport is, find creative ways to work on the skills at home. Here are some ideas for skill work for different sports. 

5- Go Old School.

Play outside if you can. Play frisbee or hide and seek. Play knockout in your driveway, or swing at the park. Go for a walk or jog around the block as a family. An article from Harvard Health explains 6 important reasons children need to play outside including the benefits of Vitamin D for overall health and wellness, improvement in executive function, the advantage of risk-taking, and socialization. In a typical schedule that does not often allow for much free play, take advantage of time without structured sports to play outside, and see how this benefits your sport later.

6- Become a Student of the Game.

Most focus on improving the physical aspect of their sport, but working on the mental aspect is just as important. One way to do that is to study athletes and teams who are mentally strong. Next Level Performance explains what it is that makes the greatest athletes different. Read a biography of an athlete you admire. Do some online research on a team you respect. Watch old games, matches, or meets of some of your favorite teams or athletes. Study what it is that sets them apart. Apply those concepts to your game; they could be a difference-maker.

7- Improve Gratitude.

This may be surprising, but research shows important benefits directly related to gratitude including stronger relationships, improved physical and psychological health, enhanced empathy, reduced aggression, better sleep, greater self-esteem, and mental strength. Many pro-athletics teams and programs are embracing this budding research with the help of sports psychologists. Kathy A. Feinstein, a licensed mental health counselor and sports performance consultant, outlines 4 tips to enhance an athlete’s ability to practice gratitude. Try some of these simple ideas while you are home, and see the edge you have when organized sports return!

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Jill Schenk is a coaches wife of nearly 18 years, a teacher, a coach, and mom of four. She values the intrinsic qualities sports develops in athletes of all ages and levels and has a passion for communicating these values and their life-long benefits.

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