Several young Sunshine Coast athletes along with their fellow teammates from the BC Outlaws Spring Hockey Club perform pregame dynamic stretches before the Valley Cup competition in Langley, BC under the guidance of Head Coach Mike Fischer of PowerCore Sports. Photo Jim Dorey
As valuable and exciting as participating in team sports can be, they can just as easily prove dangerous for athletes who aren’t prepared for the rigors of physical activity.
The summer holidays are a great time for young athletes to enjoy a bit of down time from their team sports. Many will spend it bicycling, hiking, and generally having fun participating in all the great water sports available to us here on the Sunshine Coast.
Keen amateur players will keep up some form of training over the summer holidays so they are in tip-top shape when they come back in the early fall.
Without this mid-summer training, young athletes may end up with pulled muscles or other injuries when returning to their heavy regimen of athletic competition in the fall. Such injuries are largely preventable, and the following tips can help these young athletes ensure their return to competition is as painless as possible.
1. Condition muscles in the weeks heading into tryouts. Many sports feature tryouts near the end of summer or at the very beginning of the school year. That means athletes must start conditioning their muscles early. Discuss with parents and coaches which muscles the body will be working when playing a particular sport. A local physiotherapist or personal trainer could also help develop a conditioning program for the rigours of a particular sport. Offseason physical conditioning should begin slowly and gradually grow throughout the summer to a more challenging level.
2. Be sure to use dynamic stretches to loosen muscles before any strenuous activities, whether it’s an offseason conditioning program or an in-season competition. Dynamic stretching includes lunges, jumping and light jogs. Dynamic stretching significantly reduces the risk of injury and can improve performance on the playing field.
3. The right gear is essential in order to avoid injury. Though summer might seem tailor-made for flip-flops, such footwear should not be worn when seriously exercising and preparing for the coming sports season. Athletic shoes specific to the sport are made to provide support needed as you train. The same goes for all equipment worn when playing or practicing a sport. For example, with all the studies done on concussions, it is essential to research and purchase the right helmet. Each child’s head is a different size and the right fit is very important to avoid injury.
There are several great shops on the Coast offering just about anything you would ever need in terms of athletic equipment. Don’t be afraid to ask your coach or the staff at one of these stores, if you have any questions.
4. Only weight train in the presence of a coach or another supervisor. Weight training can be beneficial, but athletes should never lift weights unsupervised. Parents, trainers and coaches can explain the equipment to young athletes while ensuring they don’t overdo it in the weight room. Lifting too much weight or having bad form when weightlifting can cause serious injury that can sideline youngsters for the coming season, if not longer. So young athletes should always weight train in the presence of an adult and always work with a spotter to help them should they struggle to finish a repetition. Most athletes should only begin weight training once they are in high school.
5. The human body develops differently for everyone and young athletes must recognize that teammates may develop more quickly. If a young athlete feels substantial pain when performing a given exercise, their body is saying it simply isn’t ready for that exercise.
6. Take a break every once in a while. Relaxing for at least one day per week allows the body time to recover, recharge and heal itself from any previous injuries.
The Sunshine Coast has become a breeding ground for strong athletes in many disciplines including biking, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, basketball and fencing. All these amateur athletes look forward to the start of their new season but should be careful as they go ahead and train throughout the summer.
Jim Dorey, editor