If your kid is an athlete, 4 things you need to know.

If your kid is an athlete, 4 things you need to know.

If your kid is an athlete and loves playing sports, do not discourage them from athletics.  Your kid’s love of sports and willingness to complete their homework weekly while still attending workouts, team practices and games is a display of great discipline.  If you notice your child smiling during all of this – accept that it makes them happy.  If your child wants to take their athletics seriously (i.e. serious for a 9 year-old), let them.  Proper athletic training can open the doors to a healthy lifestyle and academic opportunities.  Organizations like the NCSA Athletic Recruiting (National Collegiate Scouting Association), can connect your young athlete with 35,000 active coaches who are offering academic scholarships and opportunities at the college level.  NCSA Athletic Recruiting is worth learning about even if your kids are in elementary school.

1.  Athletics can make kids happy.

Truth be told, there is a fair amount of disagreement about the impact playing competitive sports all-year round has on a kid. We often hear child psychologists express concern about intense, all-year round youth athletes experiencing burnout and mental anguish. For the purpose of the position I am presenting today, I admit that I am side stepping addressing some of the child psychologists’ points of view.

I already know that kids that play sports and exercise smoke less and do fewer drugs than their peers.  In addition, ESPN The Magazine conducted a study allowing the voices of 1250 child athletes to be heard.  These kids were asked to express how sports made them feel.   According to this University of Florida study that was commissioned by ESPN The Magazine, 96.7 % of 1250 athletes between 10 and 15 years old reported loving their sport, and 93.2 % of the 16 to 18 year old kids reported the same.

Let’s assume it is true that most child athletes feel happy from participating in sports.  Parents you should also know that consistent athletic development and training can positively impact a kid’s physical and mental wellness, as well as their academics.  Although I believe kids should be encouraged to experience different sports at a young age and avoid specialization too early, continuous athletic development is valuable for your child in the long run.

2. Athletics can have a positive impact on academics

According to Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind and a Developmental Psychologist, regular exercise can lead to a more robust capacity to learn.  He refers to this as ‘bodily-kinesthetics or body-smart intelligence’.  The clear message here is that well-rounded youth athletic and fitness programs have the potential to accomplish more than simply burning calories.  An active life-style is a great way to live! Gardner’s findings prove this form of intelligence also helps with development of the brain’s motor skills.

Fact is, that kids that are not getting enough physical education because it is not available in elementary or high school.  Their P.E. experience has been collectively dwindled down to twice a week.  This is not enough to promote an active lifestyle and develop body-smart intelligence for our kids.  Athletics and exercise outside of school make up for this absence.  Playing sports on a regular basis or training in various forms of exercise as an addition to a sport offer an active lifestyle all-year round.

Gardner’s Frames of Mind discusses the presence of 8 different types of intelligences – kinesthetic intellect is just one.  Every child possesses all of these intelligences to some degree, but like a continuum, they relate to each child differently with strengths and weaknesses in different areas.   Dynamic and well-rounded athletic programs can enhance every child’s body-smart intelligence.  Even the most ‘uncoordinated or awkward’ child will learn to understand their body and feel more comfortable in their skin with a thoughtful and purposefully athletic/fitness program.

 3.  The NCSA Athletic Recruiting can help your kid go to college.

There are more kids playing sports in America today than at any other time in our history.  According to Izell Reese, Executive Vice-President of the NCSA Athletic Recruiting, “any young person that aspires to go to college and play sports should build a profile and take part in standardized athletic testing.”  Izell, who played 8 years for the NFL wants parents and kids to know that the NCSA is a free resource that has connected more than 100,000 student-athletes with college coaches.  If your kid is a good student and has great athletic skills you can cultivate both their academics and athletics simultaneously.  Even if in your heart-of-hearts, you know your kid will never play for the NBA, MBL, NWSL or Wimbledon – they could play for a Division 2 school on a partial scholarship.  The NCSA Athletic Recruiting connects kids with coaches in 29 sports.  Rebecca Schoonover recaps her college application process, “basically, being 4’11” and trying to enter college volleyball is almost impossible unless you have some connections, “ so she used the NCSA to help her get a commitment from Brevard College in North Carolina.

As a mom with younger kids, I believe it is not too early for me to encourage their athletic efforts and instill a training etiquette and discipline. In fact, my childhood athletic discipline and year-round training totally paid off – it lead to my current career.  I love the fact that my 9 year wants to go to Texas A & M or Notre Dame.  It does not matter to me why he picked these schools.   I love that in his mind, he already wants to go to college to be an engineer and play football or basketball or anything with a ball.  I think these are great dreams.  So I will continue to prepare him to become a better athlete overall.

Izell, NCSA’s V.P. reminded me that the process of college applications could be very overwhelming. NCSA Athletic Recruiting takes student athletes with consistent athletic records and scores and explains the recruiting guidelines and requirements.  The best part is that it isn’t just about football, they do it currently for 29 different sports (both men and women) where college admission is available, “our staff is trained by the NCAA and NAIA, which are the governing bodies for colleges,” says Izell.


4.  Athletic testing is a great training experience for youth athletes.

Standardized athletic testing is the latest method to accurately measure athletic ability.  Think of it as an athletic IQ score.  It is no different than NWEA, PERC, SAT or ACT scores.  It provides a measure of a young person’s athletic abilities overall.  According to Brennan Cox, Director of the Chicago Parisi Speed School, “combines are the best way for kids to get practice on the standardized tests used to measure athletic ability.”  Cox who played baseball for a Division II school wishes he had the opportunity as a young kid to part-take in youth combines before reaching college.  Cox is hosting one of Chicago’s first youth all-sport combines this Saturday, July 9 at Sheriden Park (open to the public) sponsored by Zybek Sports.  Izell, who played for the Dallas Cowboys encourages combines because they are the best form of standardized testing for athletes and the events will not change whether you are 10 or 17 years old, “every athlete wants to be better, with combines and testing you will now know your kid’s weaknesses, have accurate times for events like the vertical jump, 5-10-5 or 40 yard dash.  These are critical metrics for advancing your athletic skills and they give your current coaches a true assessment of areas of improvement which ultimately make you a better athlete.”

Youth combines offer youth athletes a certain amount of ownership over their abilities and training.  For example, if your child has great linear speed and their time on the 20 / 40 yard dash is fast, but their 5-10-5 is relatively slow, it reveals that your child needs to improve change of direction abilities.  Change of direction and lateral strength skills are critical for sports.  Often this revelation reflects lack of strength and joint stability.   One basic training enhancement for this kid would be to work on the strength of the legs moving laterally and proper mechanics for an explosive push-off when changing directions.

5 Simple takeaways for parents and youth athletes.

  1. Build a profile on the NCSA Athletic Recruiting or at least read about the process if your child is under 10 years old.  If they are in high school start viewing the various college coaches that are recruiting for the sports they love.
  2. Sign them up for regular youth combines and use that information to improve their training and make them healthier and more well-rounded athletes.  Click Here for this week’s Zybek Combine.
  3. Make sure your child athlete is taking classes in strength, conditioning and flexibility – not just spending more hours on the court.
  4. Always impress how academics and athletes are tied and they feed-off each other in a positive way eventually leading to great opportunities for higher learning.
  5. Validate the happiness your child expresses over their sport.



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