Prep Sports

Screen time can be wasted time for athletes

Justis column: Put down the games and video, focus on getting better


My son-in-law got up one morning, went downstairs, deleted the video game Fortnite, came back upstairs and told the family over breakfast.

Surprisingly, my 10- and 8-year-old grandsons seemed to react with only puzzlement.

No tantrums, no pouting.

I asked my daughter why the game was deleted.

“Because we have too much going on in the family, school has started, along with competitive sports seasons,” she said. “And a new baby in the house.”

The 10-year-old particularly was addicted to the game. I had begun to worry about how much time he was spending playing and how close he was sitting to the TV when he played. I wasn’t concerned about either boy getting enough exercise since both are heavily involved in sports.

The game could be a problem when the weather was bad or maybe in the evenings.

Still, it was a good decision made by the adults in the household. There are so many more beneficial things kids can be doing — spending more time on academics or with the family, or getting more sleep, and as athletes, doing what needs to be done to get better.

Tyler Johnson, a former University of Northern Iowa football captain, wrote in an article for that “... what we don’t do can often have a greater impact on our success than what we do. In striving to become a better athlete and the best version of yourself, what things can you eliminate from your life that would help you accelerate toward your goals?”

Johnson, a Positive Coaching Alliance trainer and educator and founder of Elevate Educate Rejuvenate, also notes all your competitors have the same 24-hour day and seven-day week. The question is who is the most efficient with their 24/7.

“To create more time to get better, you have to eliminate something ... You should leave yourself time to unwind and relax ... but we do not want the most important activities (leading) to our success to feel like a ‘to-do’ list ... When you eliminate the things that won’t serve you as a person and as an athlete striving to be your best your focus will be more drawn to doing what you need to do, and doing it not just to say you did it but to actually reap the full benefits that activity has to offer,” wrote Johnson, who will be speaking in Cedar Falls Oct. 4.


An article by Gordon MacLelland in notes two surveys showed children under the age of 8 spend more than two hours each day in front of a screen while those between the ages of 8 and 16 can average as much as six-and-a-half hours daily across multiple platforms.

The Pew Research Center released results of a survey of 743 teens, reporting “roughly nine-in-10 teens view spending too much time online as a problem facing people their age, including 60 percent who say it is a major problem,” according to TECH TALK TUESDAYS.

Fifty-two percent of the respondents reported they have tried to cut back on the time they spend on their cellphones. TECH TALK listed a few solutions to reducing screen time that teens and youth have shared with the author.

— Set the YouTube app on the phone so that it automatically shuts off after 15 minutes. The boy said, “I really like it particularly for moments like right now when I really do want to get to sleep.”

— Teens have decided on their own to keep cellphones out of the bedrooms at night when they sleep.

— Some have taken the video console out of their bedrooms.

— Tell mom to hold on to the cellphone until homework is finished.

— Playing an instrument can be calming.

— Volunteer.

— Read more than just homework.

MacLelland notes “... the computer game meets the needs of the child and they are the focus of the whole experience unlike many sporting environments where the needs of the adult can often be seen to be met first.

“(Video games) allow the child to participate the whole time, play with friends and be part of the whole experience ... no waiting in line for a go or spending time on the bench waiting to get on the field ... They allow the child to be in control of a situation, make their own decisions, take educated risks without ramifications and dust themselves down and start again without criticism from a third party.

“... children get to live in their own reality, learn by doing without fear, problem solve on their own terms and at their own speed ... Coaches, do you put as much hard work and thought into your sessions as the video game makers do to make the experience one worth participating in for the children?”


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Johnson notes good habits can and should begin young. He tells a story about when Tom Brady was in high school and made a habit of inviting his receivers to his home for lunch every Sunday. While eating, Brady showed the team’s most recent game film, talking about what he and the receivers could do better in the future. My bet is they all had a blast while also focusing on their game.

Johnson also said you can better your routine by evaluating time spent by “STOP, START & CONTINUE.”

“Reflect on your previous week,” he said. “What is it that you need to stop doing? What is it that you think you should start doing? Lastly, what should you continue doing that’s helping you?”

l Nancy Justis is a former competitive swimmer and college sports information director. She is a partner with Outlier Creative Communications. Let her know what you think at

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