As the summer winds down, young athletes from coast to coast begin to train for the fall season. Everyone agrees that team sports are terrific for children. They teach sportsmanship, cooperation amid competition, and how to have fun on the playing field.
Your child may be a beginning soccer player or a seasoned high school athlete. Regardless of where he or she falls on the youth sports continuum, there are things all parents should do to keep their youngster safe and happy.
The Right Equipment
Don't skimp on equipment. While there is no reason not to buy second-hand sports equipment, make sure it meets current safety standards.
All sports equipment should fit correctly. Have your child try it on before you buy it and ask the salesman to make sure it fits and is properly fastened. Encourage your child to take it off and put it back on in the store so that he knows exactly how to do it.
Don't buy second-hand athletic shoes. These should be well cushioned and custom fitted to the child's feet. Make sure you get the right type of shoe for the sport.
Be vigilant about insisting your child wear his equipment. All of it!
Your child may follow a training regimen designed by a coach, or he may design his own. Either way, he should follow it sensibly.
If the coach has outlined a training schedule, make sure the young athlete adheres to it. Don't let him overdo -- Coach knows best.
Parents should review training plans to make sure that the coach follows safety procedures. If you have questions, speak to the coach.
Stretching is important before and after a workout. Children and teenagers feel invulnerable and often skip this crucial step.
Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and sports drinks before, during, and after training and practices. This is particularly important during hot weather but should not be ignored when the weather cools down.
Late summer dog days can be brutal, so suggest your child runs or otherwise trains in the cool of the morning or evening. She should always avoid running after dark, but if she finds herself running before dawn or into dusk, she should wear reflective gear.
Most sports injuries among young athletes are sprains and strains. Fractures account for only about five percent of injuries, experts report.
Regardless of this, any injury should be treated seriously. Consult a doctor and do not let your child "play through" an injury. Make sure it is completely healed before he heads back to the playing field.
Before your child begins playing, check with the doctor. Your pediatrician will advise you if there is anything in particular to watch for when your child takes up a team sport. He might suggest a complete physical or just a quick checkup.
Team sports, whether they are organized by the school, your town's recreation department, or a parents' co-op, are great fun for all children from about age six on. With a little help from their parents, kids can have a safe and successful fall season!