On-Field Performance

How To Give Your Athlete An Edge On The Field

Every parent who has a child in sports wants their athlete to get playing time. Some leagues (like National Flag Football) have rules that ensure every athlete gets a chance to play regardless of skill level. Some are more along the lines of what you see in professional sports where only the best players play. Both philosophies work for different reasons, but they have one thing in common - If your child has an advanced skill, they will see the field.

Some kids are naturally faster, stronger, taller, etc. There are ways outside of genetics that parents can help their children maximize their athletic potential.

At-home Practice

This is not advocating for your child to be running wind sprints or back-and-forths at the closest football field on their off days, but there are a lot of minor techniques that you can work on at home with your child to keep them ahead of the curve.

  • Footwork – In any sport footwork is one of the things that separate the truly elite athletes from simply the good ones. Working with cones, chopping their feet, or having your child practice route running or route coverage will go a long way in improving their footwork.
  • Watch the game with them – Studying the pros and having your child identify a favorite player is a blessing if you want to keep them in sports. Now that there’s a role model or target your child wants to get to, the path to playing time becomes much clearer. After watching the game and seeing a player pull off a new move, a kid can be more motivated to go outside and practice the spin move or between-the-legs dribble they just saw. Professional athletes are not always the best examples of how to live life, but they do serve as great motivators to kids who love sports.

Outside coaching

If you are not the world’s greatest basketball player and therefore don’t think you can teach your child anything about the game, don’t fret, you have literally hundreds of options. ***Disclaimer: These are certainly more expensive than working with your child in the backyard. If you do go this route, do your research and choose the option that makes the most sense for you.

  • Camps – There is an ample amount of youth sports camps that help children on multiple aspects for whichever sport they’re in to. Usually, the teachers and coaches at these camps are pretty high level as well, with many being former or current professional athletes or star athletes at the nearest major university.
  • Private coaching – A quick Google search of “Private (insert sport here) trainer” will yield hundreds of results. There will be websites where you can check out the facilities, the past results, and the price points that will allow you to make the right decision for your child.

Keep your child playing

The best way for a child to improve their athletic skills is to simply keep playing sports. There are sports leagues year-round and if a kid is interested, and the practice and game schedules are manageable for the family, let the kid keep playing. Even if it’s not specialization (completely devoted to one sport) a child will sharpen their skills the more they do something. Outside of the obvious conditioning aspect, there’s an immense overlap between the skills you would learn on a court, field, or diamond. The sports themselves might be different but the skills necessary to perform at a high level are largely the same and giving a child different experiences with coaches, teammates, drills, focuses, etc. only helps them grow as athletes.

I want to make it clear this only works if the child is genuinely interested in being the best player they can be. If they get pushed too hard to do something they don’t really want to do, it will kill any of the love they have for sports. In that same vein, it also must be fun. One key reason the home and camps work so well is the environment they’re in. Mom and dad catching passes from the kid who wants more than anything to be a quarterback is a comfortable and fun experience, and it’s in that experience that sparks the desire to continue to get better.


Football & School

Is Physical Fitness Raising Grades?

In life, there is generally a sense of doing the fun thing vs. the right thing – going out with friends vs. getting an extra hour of sleep, opting for soda instead of water, playing a game instead of studying. Usually there is a devil-angel effect where choosing one activity directly blocks another. That’s not the case with our last example. Let me explain.

According to a comparative study conducted in 2016, kids who played sports and engaged in physical activity got better grades than kids who did not. That’s not to say that studying isn’t important, because of course it is, but it is much easier to study material that you already remember and were more attentive for to begin with. That’s exactly where sports and physical activity comes in to play.

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health state that increased physical activity in children lead to increased cognitive function in their brain. If the importance of cognitive function is lost on you, you’re not alone. Luckily, the good people at ScienceDirect have us covered. They highlight the main abilities of cognitive function that would help children at school. Among those are learning ability, thinking, reasoning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, and attention. All of which are crucial to how a child takes in and processes information.

It’s easy to see how a more engaged and focused child whose mind is working harder would be able to translate their newfound brain power into grades, but physical activity helps in ways that go beyond brain function.

The same 2016 study also indicates that physically active children have less emotional and behavioral problems, are less hyperactive, experience fewer peer problems, and are less antisocial. Besides from a more active mind, children who exercise regularly and get involved in team sports have an easier time building friendships. To kids, the best part of school is getting to see your friends every day. There’s nothing like getting off the bus, or of your parents’ car to see your best friend before the school bell rings to start the day.

Naturally, friends make experiences better, and school is no different. If a child is enjoying school and the people around them, they will be happier and more confident which will show on their progress reports and report cards.

Even in crisis times like we’re dealing with in the midst of COVID-19, and some students being taught from home by their parents or through video messages with their teachers, regular activity and exercise at home can substitute for a traditional recess, but serve the same effect. They get the mind and body moving and allow a child to take that much needed break from staring at a textbook or chalkboard or computer screen all day.

When physical activity and youth sports enter the fold, the grades are better, and the kids are happier and healthier. It’s up to each individual parent to assess the risks and rewards of youth sports, and ultimately decide if it’s right for their child. Hopefully looking at the data above makes that decision a little easier.

 

Source

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4856309/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5923842/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/psychology/cognitive-functioning

 

Health

Health Benefits To Youth Sports

Youth sports offer a lot of benefits for children. Chief among them is current and future health. Physical activity and exercise directly correlate to better overall health. What does that mean, though? What benefits are youth athletes actually getting? According to health.gov, the physical benefits for physically active kids include:

Lower obesity rate

- The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that childhood obesity affected 13.7 million kids in the United States alone. The constant exercise involved in youth sports can help lower that number. The more active kids are the less likely they are to be overweight, much less obese. Maintaining a healthy, recommended weight is the most obvious health benefit to kids playing sports.

Lower rate of diabetes and high blood pressure

- This one may surprise you. The CDC states physical activity can actually decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. This is because the body decreases insulin resistance and uses insulin better. For this one, a healthy diet is also important, but getting your kids involved in youth sports is a great stepping-stone to get them moving and prevent future problems.

Improved heart and lung health

- The heart and lungs are some of the biggest benefactors of physical activity and taking care of those two body parts will go a long way in living a healthy life. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, physical activity strengthens your heart muscle and increases lung capacity. Essentially this means that your child will have more energy and will get less out of breath when running because their heart and lungs will be operating more efficiently. A healthy heart and healthy lungs will pay dividends for a child’s overall health, and youth sports can help you lay that foundation. 

At the end of the day, there are a million and one ways for your child to exercise and be physically active. Youth sports offers a way to blend that physical activity with fun (family, friends, competition) and life lessons (leadership development, teamwork, adversity, success). The kid gets to enjoy themselves, the parents get peace of mind, and healthy habits get formed that hopefully get carried with them the rest of their lives.

If you are looking for different ways to get your child moving while they are not in season, our social media pages are posting daily at-home practice drills, exercise plans, and calendars encouraging flag football involvement from home. An example can be seen below.

Skills and Life Lessons

Flag Football Helps Set the Blueprint for Football and Life

Football is a weird game. Scores are worth six points instead of one or two. Players usually only play offense or defense, not both. The ball isn’t even really a ball. Technically it is, but it’s not spherical like every other ball in existence. Instead, it’s shaped like a souvenir penny. The game itself for all the intricacies that go into it, is sort of dangerous. Given all of that, the question becomes: how do you learn the basics of such a weird game without exposing yourself to the danger of it? The answer is simple – flag football.

Flag football offers the incredible opportunity to learn America’s favorite game from the ground up. Players will learn rules, technique, teamwork, discipline, and anything else that they might need if they want to continue a career in football.

On offense, kids learn the positions and what the responsibility is of each one. The quarterback learns how to take a clean snap, read the field, throw a pass, and make and fake a handoff to the running back.

The running back learns how to take the handoffs, how to tuck the ball away to make sure it’s secure, and how to be patient and wait for the holes the linemen create to open up.

Those same linemen learn proper blocking technique, where to stay on the field, and where to line up.

The receivers learn how to catch a pass, look a ball in, run their routes, and avoid defenders.

The defense learns their disciplines as well. While they are not learning tackling technique, obviously, they are learning how to take proper angles on the ball carrier, and if they ever graduate into tackle football players, they will know exactly where to be on the field.

Much like their counterparts on offense, the defensive linemen learn how to get past the offensive linemen to get the quarterback or running back down in the backfield. Swims, spins, and hand techniques are developed in flag football so that when a player puts on pads for the first time there’s a seamless transition.

Linebackers are learning different blitzes, what the gaps are, and how to be involved in every play.

Defensive backs, much like receivers, are learning how to play different coverages, move their feet quickly, and get to the ball before the receiver does.

Aside from their individual and positional assignments, the team will learn how to work together. Communication and problem identifying and solving skills will help on the field and in life.

Speaking of life skills, flag football also teaches leadership and accountability.  Winning and losing lets kids experience success and adversity on a small scale and forces them to respond to it. Football and life have a unique parallel in their recipe for success. There’s no better way to introduce your child to that recipe than flag football.


Time

Productive Ways to Occupy Your Time During Practice

A new study published in Taylor & Francis journal Sport, Education and Society reveals that 88% of children took part in organized activities on four to five days per week, with 58% doing more than one in an evening. It is no wonder, then, that most parents are clocking a significant number of hours sitting by the sidelines of their kids’ extra curricular activities. Here are five ways to stay productive while practice is going on:

1.     Go for a walk or a run! Many parents sacrifice their own fitness activities in order to take their children to their games and practices. It doesn’t have to be “either/or”. Bring your sneakers and take advantage of the track, trail or field where your child has his/her practices (Just don’t get in the way of the players!).

2.     Many parents have to leave work earlier in order to make it on time to their children’s organized sports activities. You may find it useful to bring your laptop and catch up on work-related projects or email for part of the practice. If the field does not have wi-fi, you can use the hot spot of your phone and stay productive.

3.     Volunteer as an assistant coach, snack coordinator, or whatever else may be needed. As long as you don’t become “that parent” on the bleachers, staying involved during games and practices is another way of showing interest in your child’s pursuits. You may even pick up new skills or meet other parents!

4.      Practice times can be used to set up some special one-on-one with your other children. Depending on their ages you can bring small toys, games, drawing notepads, or anything else that can engage the sibling. If they are old enough, they could even join you on the above-mentioned walk or jog!

5.     If there’s a relaxing activity that you enjoy taking part in, like reading, knitting, or something else, game time could become a bit of “me time”. This is specially true if the other parent is able to stay home with your other children.

Source

 Taylor & Francis Group. "Are your children overdoing it? Too many extracurricular activities can do more harm than good." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 May 2018. .

Money

How to Save Money on Team Sports

Most American families (63%) spend anywhere from $100 to $499 per child each month on youth sports, TD Ameritrade[i] found.

When it comes to youth sports, then, every bit helps. The following are tips that may help you minimize part of the costs of your child’s participation in sports.

  • Look for sibling discounts: Many sports leagues and programs offer sibling discounts. Consider signing more than one child and not only will you save money but it will minimize travel and time spent shuffling each kid around to its own sport. National Flag Football offers sibling discounts as well as military discounts!
  • Take advantage of early registration: many sports organizations offer early bird registration that is less expensive. If you commit earlier in the season you will save on late fees down the road.
  • Do some legwork: Scour the Internet for Groupon deals or visit the program’s website or social media pages to see if they are offering any discounts or coupons.
  • Buy gender-neutral merchandise and gear: This not only would increase re-sell value but  you can more easily re-use it on a sibling of a different gender.
  • If appropriate, buy used sport accessories, equipment, or clothes: Sometimes children use sports apparel or gear for a season or less. Buying brand new everything for a sport your child is just trying out may not be worth it. Save the money for once she/he commits!
  • Ask for experiences instead of material gifts: Grandparents, relatives, and friends are always asking parents for suggestions on what to buy the kids for Christmas, birthdays, and other occasions. Rather than recommending one more toy or electronic, ask them to give you a registration for a league or program your child may be interested in.

Flag

Flag Football: All The Advantages, None of the Disadvantages
As tackle football deals with the concussion effect and grapples with how to make the sport safer, flag football has emerged as one of the fastest growing youth sports in the country.  Already nearly 100,000 more 6 -12 year olds play the sport compared to tackle football, according to a study by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, which has analyzed youth athletic trends for 40 years (2018).

Enrollment in flag football youth leagues has been driven by Millennials and Gen X parents. These two generations are considered one of the most competent parenting generations in terms of the importance they place on both the safety and enrichment of their children’s lives. It only follows that these parents would seek safer alternatives to traditional tackle football. Why risk it with tackle when flag football can nurture many of the same skills that are acquired by playing traditional football? The fact that star players like Tom Brady didn’t play organized tackle football until high school lends a lot of credibility to the argument that children are not missing out by playing flag football earlier in life.

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Tom Brady Sr. describes his preference for flag football at younger ages:

“I think that flag football is terrific. Everything you need to know about the game and about playing with teammates you can learn there. You can be as well-prepared for high school as if you started playing [tackle football] at seven years of age.”

In addition to safety, flag football offers other advantages as well: co-ed and all-girls teams can be more easily assembled.  As of right now, only 10% of tackle football players are female. Flag football is a more conducive avenue to increasing female participation in the sport; especially given the psychological benefits that playing football has on girls. For instance, a study conducted by the University of Alabama found that teenage girls who play football have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem than those who play other sports that are more popular among females.

Flag football is also less expensive to play, which decreases cost barriers for schools and parents. This is specially truth in areas of low socio-economic development, where participation in organized sports can benefit low-income students the most.

A few organizations have capitalized on flag football’s rising popularity. National Flag Football, based of West Bloomfield, Michigan, is one of those specializing solely on flag football. NFF organizes leagues in 12 states and tournaments and championships across the country.

Although football has been and will always be a huge influence on American sports culture, flag football has emerged as a safer alternative for young players while still allowing them to cultivate a love for the game. 

Sources

The Aspen Institute – The Benefits of Switching from Tackle to Flag Football for Youth (2018)

The New York Times – The Future of Football Has Flags (2018)

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