Published August 14, 2014
Major Point: Seemingly healthy behaviors such as careful monitoring of food intake and regular exercise may actually be signs of body image disturbance, disordered eating, or an eating disorder in teens.
With the rise of sedentary behavior and obesity in American youth, most parents are pleased when their son or daughter takes an interest in being physically active. Indeed, regular participation in sport, recreation, or exercise can lead to a variety of positive social, psychological, and physical outcomes for youth. Unfortunately, societal pressures to achieve the "perfect" body and attain optimal performance may have unhealthy consequences for adolescents. These consequences include body image disturbances, disordered eating, eating disorders, and substance abuse. It is thus important to be aware that some seemingly healthy behaviors exhibited by your physically active teen may actually lead to harmful outcomes. Here are five warning signs that your teen's efforts to get in shape or improve performance may be detrimental to his/her health. It is important to note that the presence of one of these signs does not necessarily indicate that your son or daughter has an eating disorder or is abusing substances.
1. Preoccupation with Bodily Appearance
It is certainly not out of the ordinary for adolescents to be concerned with their appearance. However, frequent comments regarding their weight or shape, comparisons to athletes on TV or models in fitness magazines, and questions such as, "Do I look fat," or "Do I look any bigger?" may be indications of an unhealthy preoccupation with the size and shape of their body. Spending an excessive amount of time in front of the mirror, and daily use of the scale to check body weight are further signs that your teen is at-risk for a body image or eating disorder.
2. Strange Eating Behaviors
Extreme changes in food consumption may indicate that your teen is making an effort to gain or lose an unhealthy amount of weight. Failure to eat, eating an excessive amount, sticking to a rigid diet (e.g., only eating carrot sticks and crackers), or meticulous tracking of calories and nutrients may be attempts to drastically alter body weight and/or composition. Physically active adolescents who are concerned with appearance and performance may also use supplements such as Creatine, protein powder, weight gain shakes, or "fat burning" pills and liquids in attempts to gain weight, gain muscle mass, or lose fat. Teens may even choose to substitute supplements for regular meals. It is important to understand that although many supplements are advertised as being healthy, the long-term health consequences of usage for many dietary supplements are unknown.
3. Drastic Changes in Appearance
Changes in food consumption and/or the use of supplements and other performance enhancing substances may result in changes in the appearance of your child. Teens who restrict their diet will likely lose a large amount of weight in a short period of time. Hair loss and pale skin may be apparent in teens suffering from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa. Alternatively, teens who eat in excess and/or use supplements in an attempt to gain weight, strength, and muscle mass will likely exhibit drastic gains in weight and muscle mass. Boys who turn to anabolic steroids in an effort to gain muscle mass may develop acne, as well as breast tissue. Girls who use steroids may develop facial hair and experience a reduction in breast size.
4. Drastic Changes in Personality
Along with changes in appearance, personality changes may also occur as your son or daughter attempts to gain or lose weight. Uncharacteristic moodiness, aggravation, or fatigue, are signs that your teen's dietary changes are having a negative influence on his/her well being. Teens who use anabolic steroids to gain muscle mass and improve performance may become overly combative, a side effect known as "roid rage." Further, the cessation of steroid use may lead to depression.
5. New Priorities
A key sign that your teen has an unhealthy interest in sport or exercise is when people and activities that were once highly valued become secondary to the goal of improving appearance or performance. For example, teens who wish to gain muscle mass may consistently choose strength training over social gatherings with friends and family. Invitations to go out to eat, even to their favorite restaurant, may be rejected by teens adhering to a strict diet. School performance may also suffer among teens who prioritize workouts over homework or studying.
Although the epidemic of obesity in youth and adolescents highlights the need for increased physical activity in this population, societal demands for the "ideal" physique and a "win-at-all-cost" mentality may influence physically active adolescents to adopt unhealthy beliefs and behaviors. Several warning signs that your teen's efforts to achieve societal standards may be detrimental to their health are offered. Extreme changes in your teen's behavior, coupled with the presence of multiple warning signs, are cause for concern. In this case, you should approach your teen in a non-confrontational manner and inform him/her of your concerns. Avoid threats and accusations, and emphasize the fact that you are concerned about her/his health. Depending on the result of this conversation, you may wish to consult your teen's doctor, school psychologist, or another licensed mental health professional for advice on how to proceed.
Beals, K.A. (2004). Disordered eating among athletes: A comprehensive guide for health professionals. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
Pope, H.G., Phillips, K.A., & Olivardia, R. (2000). The Adonis complex: How to identify, treat, and prevent body obsession in men and boys. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Published August 14, 2014
Major Point: Eight ways parents can communicate with their adolescent children after games to enhance their relationship.
Youth and high school sport has the opportunity to be a tremendous experience for adolescents and for their parents. The bonding that occurs in sport can last a lifetime. Many of you can probably think back to a time where your parents were involved in your sporting activities. I would hope these are wonderful memories of spending time together, of learning life lessons, and of having fun.
Unfortunately, many parents unintentionally make the sport experience less than fulfilling for their children. These parents may have an inappropriate perspective of what sport is all about, but often it is the well meaning parent that says the wrong thing at the wrong time (and does not learn from it) that gets into trouble. It does not take much for a child to feel pressure to appease his or her parents. And, you can create pressure just by being at a competition, let alone acting negatively.
After the game is a critical time when adolescent athletes are still recovering from the intensity of the game. They may be elated, upset, indifferent, or angry. Their emotions will run the gamut just as yours would. Knowing what to say, and how to say it, will facilitate positive parent-child relations. Therefore, you should think through what you are going to say before approaching your child. Next, are eight tips for communicating in a positive manner following a tough loss or an exciting win.
Ultimately, you want to have a plan of attack for post-game. Get your emotions under control and check your body language. Remind yourself of what matters – being a good sport and giving your best effort. And, if you are in a tough situation you can always just give them a hug or a pat on the back and wait until emotions subside.
Best of luck in the emotional world of sport!
Published in: Parents & Youth Sport
Published August 14, 2014
One of the most important jobs as a coach is to develop and foster a team culture. This culture, or identity, is really the foundation of all effective teams. As a coach this culture is your vision or philosophy put into action. As you think back to teams on which you have coached or played, the team culture probably was a main ingredient in your success or failure. So, what are some ideas for developing an effective team culture?
Creating an effective team culture is vital to your leadership as a coach. Here are some questions to ask yourself when preparing for the season:
Martens, R. (2004). Successful coaching (3rd ed). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishing.
Published in: Coaches
Published August 14, 2014
It is the last match of your regular season. If your team wins, they will advance to the championship game. All season the team has been improving steadily and the last few games the team has played remarkably well. In the locker room before the game, the players keep reminding each other how important this game is and that they have to win it. They seem very excited to play, and win, this game. Unfortunately, once on the court, the players make a lot of fundamental mistakes and do not play at all to their potential.
The above example can be very frustrating for coaches. While most athletes will experience some, too much anxiety will interfere with their performances.
Coaches can reduce the chances of their team suffering from excessive anxiety by implementing several relatively simple strategies:
Observe Team Members
These activities may help athletes avoid a "flat" beginning of the match.
Adapted from: Krane, V. (1992, August/September). Minimizing anxiety in the competitive environment. Coaching Volleyball, 28-29.
Published in: Coaches
Published August 13, 2014
Parents often enroll their child in a sport program to build the child’s character. Sport participation by itself, however, does not develop character in athletes. Just like any physical skill, athletes need to be taught positive behaviors. Coaches play a vital role in developing positive attitudes and behaviors in their athletes. Two major ways that coaches can develop good sport conduct is via positive role modeling and actively teaching good sport conduct.
What is Good Sport Conduct?
Good sport conduct or sportspersonship is the behaviors appropriate of a sport participant. Sportspersonship occurs when athletes show respect and concern to opponents, teammates, coaches, and officials. In other words, coaches should teach their athletes to “treat others, as you would like to be treated.” Sportspersonship is an important issue facing all people involved in athletics. Episodes of coaches, parents, and athletes behaving poorly at sporting events are often reported in newspapers and on television.
Examples of good sport conduct include:
Examples of poor sport conduct include:
Model Good Sport Conduct
There are many ways that you can teach sportspersonship to your players, but the most important way is for you to model good sport conduct.
Knute Rockne, former football coach of Notre Dame, said “One man practicing good sportsmanship is far better than 50 others preaching it.”
Young players look to their coaches as role models and are likely to observe their coaches’ behaviors. It is unlikely that athletes will be able to control their behaviors, if their coaches are unable to control their own behavior. Coaches who show respect to officials and opponents before, during, and after games can truly expect their players to do the same.
Examples of showing respect to officials
Examples of showing respect to opponents
During practices and games, it is imperative that coaches remain under control during interactions with players, assistant coaches, officials, and opposing coaches. Parents observing the good sportspersonship attitude of their children’s coach will soon understand the responsibility they have to engage in good sport conduct as spectators.
Actively Teach Sportspersonship
Institute for International Sport: National Sportsmanship Day
Michigan High School Athletic Association: Sportsmanship
Minnesota State High School League: Sportsmanship
Ohio High School Athletic Association: Sportsmanship
Published in: Coaches