How to Teach Sportsmanship to Your Kids

With summer sports in full swing, now is a great time to teach kids about the importance of good sportsmanship. It’s easy to get caught up in a game and become focused on winning. Remind children that there is much more to be gained from the sports experience than a winning record. When children and teens are involved in sports, they are able to learn and put into practice values that will stay with them long after they leave the field.

Good sportsmanship is one of the life lessons that children can learn from sports. You can help your children understand and value good sportsmanship while making sure they have a safe and fun sports experience. Here are some important principles to instill in your children:

• If you lose, don’t make up excuses.
• If you win, don’t rub it in.
• Learn from mistakes and get back in the game.
• Always do your best.
• If someone else makes a mistake, remain encouraging and avoid criticizing.

Parents are important role models, so let your children see you upholding these principles, whether you play a sport yourself or root for your child’s team from the sidelines.

Good sportsmanship also includes following certain guidelines for good behavior. Share these concepts with your children:

• Avoid arguing. Stay focused on the game instead of giving in to anger with teammates, coaches or referees. Always avoid using bad language and negative words.

 Everyone should have a chance to play. In youth sports, it’s important to encourage even those players who are the least skilled to have fun playing the game. Parents, coaches and even other players have an important role in allowing less talented teammates time to participate.

• Play fair. Good sportsmen want to win because they followed the rules and played the best game they could. Never support any effort to win that attempts to go around the rules. Cheating is not acceptable.

• Follow directions. Emphasize the importance of listening to coaches and referees and following their directions while on the field and involved in team activities.

• Respect the other team. Whether your team wins or loses, it’s important to show respect for the effort of the other team. If the other team wins, accept defeat, acknowledge their abilities, and move on. If your team wins, resist bragging—that’s what it means to be a gracious winner.

• Encourage teammates. Team sports work best when each individual supports the team. Praise teammates for what they do well and encourage them when they make mistakes. Avoid criticism and unkind actions. Parents should model this behavior for children by praising them for specific things they have done well, even if they made a mistake or may not have played as well as hoped.

• Respect the decisions of referees and other officials. These people are charged with making difficult decisions about plays in the game. Good sportsmanship requires that you accept a call, even if you disagree with it. Remember that it’s only one call in a long game—get back into play and focus on the game.

• End with a handshake. Good sportsmen enjoy sports and know how to end a game on a positive note, whether or not they won. Threats, anger, criticism, and other negative expressions are not acceptable.

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Advice to Jiu Jitsu Parents: How to Prevent Cauliflower Ear in Your Child

By Dr. Nguyen Pham, Pediatric Otolaryngologist

In recent times, many parents have turned to martial arts to empower their children against the threat of bullying.  Many of these parents view Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as the ideal self-defense method, as it teaches children to use leverage and guile to protect themselves from larger attackers without the need for excessive violence such as punching or kicking.

Unfortunately, like any martial arts activity that involves physical contact, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu increases the risk of a child developing a cosmetic deformity called cauliflower ear.  However, contrary to popular belief, cauliflower ear is completely preventable.

Cauliflower ear is caused by direct impact and shear force to the outer ear. This can happen when a child is accidentally struck in the ear by an opponent’s head or elbow. A common result of this injury is damage to the perichondrium on a child’s ear. The perichondrium is a thin layer of tissue that surrounds the cartilage on the outer part of the ear. It is important because it provides the cartilage with its necessary blood supply and nutrients. Injury to the perichondrium also damages the perichondrial blood vessels, resulting in blood filling the space between the perichondrium and the cartilage. This pool of blood creates a problematic condition called an Auricular Hematoma. If this hematoma is not urgently drained, permanent damage to the cartilage will occur. The cartilage will then become thickened and scarred and start to look like the cauliflower vegetable; hence the term cauliflower ear.

Fortunately, there are two effective ways to protect your child from developing cauliflower ear. The first way is through preventive techniques, and the second way is through recognizing the signs of an auricular hematoma.

In terms of preventing cauliflower ear, parents should require their children to wear ear protection at all times during any type of Jiu Jitsu or wrestling activity. Most sporting goods stores sell grappling or wrestling ear guards that provide children with solid protection against any type of ear trauma.

Parents and martial arts instructors should also learn how to immediately recognize signs of an auricular hematoma, which looks like a soft bulge of skin on the front surface of the ear. When pressed, this soft bulge feels like a moderately filled water balloon. The overlying skin on this bulge is often red or purple in color but can also be normally colored.

If an auricular hematoma is recognized, the next step is to have it drained by a surgeon. After drainage occurs, it is important to closely monitor the ear for the re-accumulation of blood, which can happen if the perichondrium does not heal properly after the injury. It is important for the perichondrium to heal so that it can reattach to the cartilage and resume providing the cartilage with its necessary blood supply and nutrients.

To ensure that the perichondrium heals completely, a compression dressing should be applied to the injured ear for one week following the drainage of the hematoma. In addition, the child should avoid engaging in Jiu Jitsu training for at least two weeks. These steps will allow the ear to completely heal.

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Improving an Athlete’s Mental Game

With the school year and spring sports season winding down, now’s the time when young athletes mighImprove_Mental_Game_2t need an extra edge over their competition. Additional drills and practices can help, but so does increased mental motivation.

“Competition can cause some athletes to react both physically and mentally in a way that can affect their performance negatively,” says Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton, a CHOC Children’s psychologist. “Certain techniques can help young athletes overcome these barriers and continue to improve.”

Check out six ways to increase motivation and enhance overall athletic performance:

Tolerate failure

To become a good athlete or improve at a favorite sport, children must tolerate failure and accept it as part of the process of succeeding. Without failure, no one learns, and without learning, no one improves.

Dig for motivation

An athlete must have an emotionally compelling reason to stick with an exercise program. For serious athletes who train for four to eight years at a time, the motivation might be an Olympic gold medal. Here’s a trick: On the days your child doesn’t feel like practicing or exercising, talk about how good he’ll feel afterward.

Compete against yourself

Another important component of motivation is not comparing oneself with others. For example, if a teen works out regularly at a gym, she should channel her competitiveness into the progress she’s making, not against the highly fit person on the next treadmill. The same is true when competing: A runner should tune out the other athletes in the race.

Hold mental rehearsals

An athlete trying to master a particular physical feat, such as diving off the high board or perfecting a tennis serve, should imagine himself doing it.

Stay in the present

In the midst of an activity, it’s easy to fall into the trap of concentrating on the uncontrollable factors, such as the weather, an opponent or past performance. Instead, stay in the present. While running a long race, for instance, an athlete should concentrate on his breathing rhythm or arm swing, not on the length of the race or the other runners.

Plunge through a plateau

Reaching a stagnant level of fitness or performance – a plateau – is a natural part of training. However, it can dampen enthusiasm and motivation. Talking to others who have achieved a similar goal will help an athlete improve exercise performance after reaching a plateau.

An athlete can stay positive by creating a daily victory log. It might read, “I ran five miles today, and at the four-mile mark, I pushed myself when I wanted to stop.”

Learn more about psychology at CHOC, and schedule an appointment by calling 714-509-8481.

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FAQ: Hydration for Young Athletes

By Shonda Brown, RD, CNSC, CSP, CHOC Children’s sports dietitian

Water is the most essential nutrient for athletes, yet it’s often forgotten when discussing adequate nutrition for physical activity and improving sports performance.

Adequate fluid intake provides multiple advantages to an athlete, including decreased perceived effort, decreased heart rate, decreased core temperature and increased performance.

Check out some answers to frequently asked questions about sports hydration:

Q: What should athletes drink to optimize hydration?

A: Water is an appropriate beverage choice for children and adolescents who participate in recreational activities or low intensity sports.  However, for young athletes who engage in prolonged and/or vigorous physical activity, a sports electrolyte drink is recommended.

Carbohydrate-containing beverages aid the absorption of water, and provide a fuel source for intense activity. The sodium content in these beverages helps replace what is lost in sweat. This becomes very important for those athletes exercising for more than two hours or for those who are heavy, salty sweaters.

Increased sodium loss without proper replacement may cause hyponatremia, or low sodium blood level, muscle cramps and increased risk of heat-related problems. Athletes may also consume solid food that contains carbohydrate and sodium with plain water during prolonged exercise if better tolerated than a spokids_hydration3rts electrolyte drink.

Q: What’s the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks?

A: Varying widely in their nutrient content, energy drinks may contain zero grams of carbohydrates or up to 160 percent of the recommended concentration of carbohydrates for proper rehydration. High concentration of carbohydrates can lead to slow gastric emptying and therefore impede hydration during exercise.

Energy drinks are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Also, the content and purity of energy drinks have no guarantee and the American Academy of Pediatrics, as well as the National Federation of State High School Association, discourage their use in youth.

Sport drinks are formulated to replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise. They often contain carbohydrate, sodium and other electrolytes. Sports electrolyte drinks should contain 14 to 19 grams of carbohydrates and 110 to 165 milligrams of sodium per 8 fluid ounces.

Q: How much fluid is recommended for young athletes?

A: Athletes have varying sweat rates and therefore require different fluid and electrolyte intakes to optimize hydration and sports performance. Environmental factors, clothing and equipment, training adaptations and age all affect an athlete’s sweat rate.

Athletes should not rely on thirst as an indicator of when to drink fluids, as thirst is not stimulated until dehydration has already occurred.

Some general recommendations are to consume

  • 16 to 20 fluid ounces of fluid two to three hours before exercise
  • An additional 5 to 10 fluid ounces of water or a sports drink 10 to 20 minutes prior to exercise
  • 5 to 10 fluid ounces of water or sports drink every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise
  • 16 to 24 fluid ounces of a sports drink or water (with a salty snack) for each pound of weight lost during exercise

Q: How does an athlete know if they are appropriately hydrated?

A: Check the color of urine during an athlete’s first morning void. If the color looks like lemonade, then the athlete is appropriately hydrated. If it appears more like apple juice, the athlete is not consuming adequate amounts of fluid during the day. Also, try weighing the athlete right before and after exercise. The change in weight is due to fluid loss. More than 1 percent weight loss can negatively affect sports performance.

Q: Can an athlete consume too much fluid?

A: An athlete can over-hydrate or consume high amounts of water without proper sodium replacement, which puts the body at risk for hyponatremia. If an athlete weighs more after exercise than before, then the athlete is consuming too much fluid.

Hydration Tips

  •  Pack a water bottle to school
  • Consume fluids throughout the day to produce a light-colored (lemonade color) urine prior to exercise
  • One gulp equals approximately 1 ounce of fluid. Train children to take five gulps during a water break
  • Consume a salty snack after a workout. This not only helps retain fluid consumed but also promotes thirst and drives athletes to drink more fluid
  • Infuse water with lemon, herbs or fruit to make drinking water throughout the day fun and enjoyable
  • Weigh a child before and after exercise to see if she is consuming adequate fluid
  • Parents should provide sports electrolyte drinks for young children who are exercising outside on a very hot day or are engaged in prolonged activity

Meet with a CHOC sports dietitian to develop an individualized hydration regimen. Call 714-509-4572 or email sportsnutrition@choc.org to schedule an appointment.

Learn more about CHOC’s Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services.

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When Illness Sidelines a Young Athlete

baseball_athlete_illnessBeing sidelined by illness can be difficult for dedicated young athletes, as well as their parents who question when to keep their child off the field and when to send them back.

Depending on symptoms and energy levels, children can often still participate in sports when under the weather, says Dr. Jacqueline Winkelmann, a CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital pediatrician who works to provide health tips and guidance for young athletes.

If a child’s symptoms are “above the neck,” he or she can usually participate in athletic activities so long as energy levels are appropriate. “Above the neck” symptoms include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and minor sore throat, she says.

“If you have a mild cold and no fever, and have enough energy, you can still play,” Dr. Winkelmann says.

But even if a young athlete feels well enough to exercise while in the final throes of a cold, he or she must plan on scaling back the intensity of play, she cautions.

“You need to understand that you won’t be able to practice at the same level,” Dr. Winkelmann says. “You need to speak up and tell your coach that you’re not 100 percent.”

However, a child with symptoms “below the neck” – chest congestion, respiratory ailments, gastrointestinal concerns, fatigue, fever or muscle aches – should stay off the field until well, Dr. Winkelmann says.

And though being sidelined by illness might be frustrating for committed athletes, taking a few days – even weeks – off from practice will not result in a significant setback in performance.

“It may take you a while to get back to where you were, but it’s much more prudent to take the time to rest your body when you’re sick,” Dr, Winkelmann says.

Young athletes can do some things to help speed the recovery process and get back on the field faster: Focus on rest by going to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual, Dr. Winkelmann advises. Also, limit dairy, sugar and processed foods, and increase fruits and vegetable intake.

When comes to returning to play, a child, especially one who suffered a respiratory illness, should first feel normal for one to two days after recovery, she says.

And above all, a child needs to trust her body, and mom and dad should listen to their parental instincts.

“I tell kids to listen to your body, not your coach or trainer or parents,” Dr. Winkelmann says. “Parents should trust their gut. They know their kid and their personality.”

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