Summer is a time to be outside, go to camp, swim, play sports, sleep in, and shake off nine months of tough academic and sports schedules. For young athletes, this is some well-earned relaxation and fun. Heading back to school can be an exhausting return to alarm clocks, homework, sports schedules, co-curricular activities, and other responsibilities.
Here are some ways parents and coaches can help student-athletes find the balance that works best for them.
The school year is not a slow wind up, but rather a shot out of the gate. Schedule fewer co-curriculars at the start of a school year to ease the transition into back-to-back commitments.
Kids sometimes want to do everything all at once, but you can help them by adding activities as they go instead of letting them get overloaded right from the start. Make sure to schedule downtime so student-athletes can recover and re-energize between activities.
Student-athletes need energy for class and sports, and on top of that, they are often still growing! Make sure young athletes are properly fueled in the morning before school and have access to nutrient-dense snacks so they’ll eat less junk food when they get hungry during the day.
Sleep is how young athletes restore their minds and recover their bodies as they adapt to training. Ideally, kids should be off personal electronics 75-90 minutes before bedtime. Encourage them to relax with a shower or bath, get in bed with a book, or take a walk with the dog. Higher quality sleep – not just more hours – leads to more productive days, increased focus, and improved mood.
A week or two into the school year, parents and kids have a good picture of how much time is needed for different activities, how long it takes to get from place to place, and how kids’ and parents’ schedules fit together. With that information, sit down and create a schedule everyone can agree on. When kids have a voice in decisions that affect their lives, they are more accountable and likely to follow through on those decisions.
During this process of finding school-sport-life balance at the beginning of the school year, remember your student is entering a new grade. Routines that worked last year may not work this year. It’s important for parents and coaches to listen to and observe how kids handle the changes, and offer guidance and support to encourage athletes to make good decisions. Similarly, adults can model a healthy work-fitness-family balance to provide kids with good examples to follow.