Prep Sports

Staying engaged with young athletes important these days

Justis column: Daily routines will help during shutdown

Athletes, like Cedar Rapids Kennedy senior Ella Popenhagen, need to stay active and coaches and parents engaged during t
Athletes, like Cedar Rapids Kennedy senior Ella Popenhagen, need to stay active and coaches and parents engaged during this break. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

My years of being an athlete are long gone.

As an older out-of-shape adult, I do remember, however, missing even one day of training could set me back two days. In this time of closed gymnasiums and postponed or canceled competitive events, it’s important for young athletes to continue to work on skills and developing strength.

Not just for when the games resume, but for mental health, as well.

Just as teachers are staying in contact with their students and providing lessons to be completed at home, coaches can and should continue to train their athletes by staying connected, helping to maintain that sense of “team.”

Athletes can perform mind-set techniques, including deep breathing exercises, to help them confront any stress or depression they may be feeling. They should stay connected through social media with teammates.

Parents can help their children stay focused by emphasizing staying fit for physical and mental benefits.

inCOURAGE lists several steps coaches, athletes and parents can take during this uncertain time.

— Coaches can establish group chats. Having digital team meetings once or twice a week helps to maintain team connections. Use the time to recognize strengths and areas that can be improved upon for the entire team and individual players.

— Coaches can encourage parents and players to set up daily training routines, including 10 to 30 minutes a day for technical work and another 15 minutes for sit ups, stretches, pushups and other exercises.

— Players can find time to run laps outside if possible (maintaining social distancing) or run in place indoors.

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— Athletes can find ways to practice as many of the sport moves as possible. They can keep notes of their sessions and send them to their coach each day.

— Coaches can provide clips from recorded games, or high school, college or professional games that athletes can watch to learn more about team and position processes.

— Coaches can give recommendations for physical and mental improvement, which keeps players engaged and helps diminish irritability or depression.

— Players and coaches can choose team-building activities they can perform individually and share at a future digital meeting. Anything from a physical challenge (i.e. a brief workout routine or new exercise), a volunteer service activity or to reading a specific sports related article or book, or watching a sports movie.

Ukcoaching.org noted five to-do tasks that should be on a coach’s “lockdown” list.

— Train with a purpose. Coaches should create a training plan that has “clear intent.” Give players a time when they should train (gives them a routine) and tell them what they should cover and why. Athletes can help design a plan.

— Set targets. Goals are needed within a certain time frame. Use the SMART acronym.

SPECIFIC to your team and needs.

MEASURABLE so players can show the goals have been met.

AGREED upon with the players so they buy in to the plan.

REALISTIC enough so the goals have a chance of being achieved.

TIMED, the first part of the process.

— Define training spaces that are safe. Parks, beaches, hills or the pavement (again, displaying social distancing).

— Create a stronger community, using the old community as a basis. The new community needs an identity and purpose. Involve the players and parents. Reach out to the community at large asking for support in designing training exercises, such as improving jumping ability or designing a running circuit. Everyone should have an identifiable role.

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— Expand your coaching by working on areas you didn’t have time for before, such as reading a coaching book, sharing it with colleagues, discuss it in a blog, etc. Set aside a daily specified time to work on your own coaching to develop a routine.

These are just a few suggestions to help make this a positive experience. Good luck.

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 njustis@cfu.net

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