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As coaches we can only do so much in terms of health and nutrition for our young players. In grassroots or youth environment we have limited time with our players and therefore every minute is used to focus on the technical/tactical aspects of the players. However, when the session is over how many of us know that several players leave and probably have fast food on the way home or drink sugary drinks all the time?
When you’re trying to produce elite players at youth level how do you compete against this? One must be careful not to patronise parents/guardians, but are we doing the players an injustice by allowing them to consume foods/drinks that will hinder their performance and/or recovery?
Information is key! Both to the parents/guardians and the players but I am keen to know how you all try and combat this within your own environments?
I have to say this is one of my pet hates!!!
I always preach to my young athletes to bring water to training sessions ... some don't even bother bringing drinks with them - but the majority I see drinking high sugar sports drinks (totally unnecessary for the training that they are doing) or carbonated sodas (not hydrating in the slightest).
Most of mine train after school at dinner time (4:30pm-6pm) and most are often found in the on site cafe havign chips mid-training.
The biggest obstacle is the parents - they buy these for thier kids. I have said water is just fine for them but there seems to a mass misconception that they "need the energy" (we are talking about 8/9/10 year olds). I think there is plenty of information out there about food and beverage choice (Change 4 Life has run a massive campaign) but still multi-million pound advertising still wins!
I just keep teling them to bring water in a bottle, have a banana as a mid-training snack (and lead by example as I always have these to hand!) and hope that the message eventually gets across!
Sara, I'd like to re-assure you that it's normally a 'challenge' even into representative age group squads. Across both U16 and U18 squads we dedicate a fair amount of time to ensure the correct messages are embedded with the players about nutrition and hydration. This includes formal information sessions ... education for the players and then constant checking through training days and camps. The amount of times we have to remind players about water bottles ... on and off the pitch ... sometimes it drives you mad!
It is definitely a learning curve and one that takes some time. An example would be when we have one day training sessions at Lilleshall. Some players may have a very early start to arrive in time for a 9.30 start. Getting them (and their parents) to understand how they need to plan before and during their journey to arrive prepared effectively for a morning 2 hour session is normally a work in progress through our programme. Some get it much quicker than others but as you rightly point out it is getting the parents fully engaged that is also key.
As players get older through our programmes it is really encouraging to see the range of good quality pasta salads and fruit consumed at lunch but this is after a lot of pro-active prompting.
Getting the players (and others) to understand just how important their diet and their rest/recovery patterns are to their training and match performances is key ... and helping the players understand that it is their responsibility to look after their bodies!
A bit late to the party here Sara, but great post.
This topic certainly seperates the 'those that can' and 'those that will' athletes. Through my experience in gymnastics, I have found that is mostly due to a lack of education (for both parent and athlete) that poor food choices are chosen.
We have run frequent nutrition seminars for our parents, plus we distribute a monthtly email newsletter specific to nutrition with great ideas and content for the parents to follow.
Many parents just do not understand the staggering impact excellent nutrition will have on all areas of their childrens life, not just their sporting performance.
We've run competitions also through social media to encourage the athletes to bake and cook at home and then show off their great food choices.
Just a few thoughts! You can reach me at email@example.com if you want to discuss further!
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