Competitive sports have taken on a new level. Call it AAU, Travel or Elite, more and more children find themselves loving the game at the town level and committing the developing body at additional instructional levels.
Take my nine year old son. He loves hockey and he loves baseball. Playing baseball obsessively from about 3 years old (rain or shine) he eagerly joined his older brother in the back yard and quickly on the playing field. This affection blossomed into a desire to try out for and enroll in Elite baseball- a 2x per week practice with out of town double headers every weekend. We absolutely respect the developmental approach of his program, Evolution Baseball, but we also recognize that this commitment, when added to hockey and town ball demands 6 days out of the week that he train. His seventh day is reserved for rest or private instruction in his favorite position- pitcher.
He caught the bug for the ice when he started skating around at 5 or 6 years old and played in his first tournaments, where he really fell for it at 8. When his health was complicated, we asked him to take a break for a year- but- now that he's in good health, he begged to return to the ice while already in the throws of his new baseball programs.
His story isn't that unusual. Ask any number of parents around our area and many of their children are equally committed to their sport.
But, we have to teach our children to also attend to their bodies and minds when they are so busy. As a teacher, mindfulness practitioner and wellness coach, I know that my kids deserve to nurture as much as they push. They won't do this, however, (aside from video gaming and that doesn't count in my book) unless we teach them some steps to self care.
First, we have to give them voice to the aches and pains but also the concerns, the fears, the accomplishments and the inner workings. We have to ask them (how are your shoulders, how is your belly feeling. your head?). We have to help them identify did they eat or hydrate properly before and after? Did they get enough rest? How did the rest affect them? Did they stretch?
When the complaints are of the body:
It is tempting to say, "You're ok, shake it off" to teach our kids to "toughen up". However, at this level of demand, we need to praise their observation of pain or discomfort and then show them how to remedy that discomfort. Teach them to discriminate between the two- as often discomfort and pain are confused.
If my boys are aching, I mix them up a simple relaxation muscle soak. I mix about 1/4cup Epsom salts with Doterra Marjoram, Lavender and lemongrass or Frankincense. Doterra is the most trustworthy of oils as its purity is tested by third party researchers and the Sourcetoyou.com website highlights ingredient facts and sourcing information. I wouldn't trust any other brand with my children, which is why I decided to become an advocate for Doterra in the first place.
We rub on Deep Blue Lotion to aching muscles before and after a game with some Copaiba for inflammation underneath as needed. s. We stretch when warm. We ice before bed. Teaching our children to vocalize the location and nature of their pain or discomfort might help us head off serious injuries and overuse. I often worry that my oldest has a fair amount of pain in his thumb and knee pain that comes and goes from catching. I wish I'd treated them sooner. Coaches and parents could benefit greatly from these same practice.
Tummy Troubles: For the athlete who gets an upset stomach before the game. DigestZen can be rubbed onto the belly thirty minutes prior to calm nervous digestive systems. It can be reapplied anytime or taken in water.
Germ Concerns: On guard is an essential oil with the power to support the body's natural immune response and to fight off germs. It comes as an oil, a sanitizing spray and a beadlet or gel cap.
When the complaints are in the mind and heart:
For a long time, my oldest was a brave warrior who appeared unshakeable on the mound and at bat. There is nothing more frustrating than seeing a few bad at bats or a challenging game shake them. YET, 90% of the reason we want our children to engage in organized sports is to learn sportsmanship, grit and mindset. So, how do we deal when the unshakeable child wants to quit?
We were able to coach my oldest to maintain his commitment to teams and the sports he loved by regularly training his mind to do a few things. 1. Visualize. Visualization is a trick used by Olympic athletes and therapists during rehabilitation. The brain will receive some benefit from visualizing as if it is already in action. Have your child picture things going well and how it will feel, look and sound. Predict success and what the learning will be that is not based on outcomes, but on progress toward the outcome. We used to describe the way the eye would focus on the ball hitting the bat and how smooth the swing would feel on contact. 2. Breathe. Practice in quiet times intentional focus on an entry point for the breath. In mindfulness and meditation, we become more present when we focus on that inhale and exhale. We take our minds out of flight, fight and freeze by doing so as well. This breathing comes in handy at bat, on the mound, or as a player anxiously awaits fielding the ball. 3. Move. Jump. Release. Coaches often proclaim the famous words, "There's no crying in baseball!" They bemoan the child who takes attention away from other players because the waterworks have engaged. However, crying is most often not a selfish act, but a way to deal with that flight, fight, freeze. The brain needs a way to release the stress. If parents and coaches were to encourage kids to notice the triggers and body cues, then jump up and down in place of crying, it will have a very similar neurological release without the stigma. 4. Affirmations. Allow your child to create a series of steps to achieve their goal and turn them into affirmations. My youngest now taps on his fingers prior to batting (a movement no one will detect, I'm sure). His index and thumb taps and he thinks, "I'm brave." His thumb and middle tap and he thinks, "I'm strong." His ring finger and thumb, "I deserve to hit the ball." His pinky, "I am Petey." His goal- to stay in the box and make contact. He identified not just the skills but the mindsets necessary for success and now if he doesn't hit the ball, but he stays in the box, there is success because he was brave and strong. If he swings but misses, there is success because he knows he's worthy brave and strong.
Talk often about the way the game feels in order to remind ourselves that despite the competition, it is still really about the love we feel for the game- our team and our coaches.
For more ideas on specific solutions for your athletes or your needs as a coach, feel free to message me. I'd be happy to offer a free consult and samples to try as well as to run some mindfulness exercises with your coaching staff or your teams.
As a woman navigating two chronic pain conditions and the mother of two boys (one with asthma and allergies) I have been incorporating healing practices and natural solutions into our lives for a long time. When we discovered the impact of reducing our toxic load through essential oils, the benefits of 100%pure, therapeutic grade oils and the beauty of no side effect remedies, DoTerra oils became a lifestyle for us. To get the most from our oils, we make cleaners, body washes, treatments for ailments, energetic and emotional rollers and just about anything you can imagine. We are here to help you navigate the overwhelming options and start taking your natural healing path one step at a time. Love, LeeAnn