Sport participation for children at any age is a great way to stay healthy. Children learn how to be a team-player, build a positive body image with an emphasis on self-esteem. With all the benefits to playing sports; what if you notice that your child is exercising excessively. Could it be that they are just putting in more effort to make the team. How can you tell as a parent what is unhealthy exercising?
“Sport participation can be very helpful to a young athlete in terms of developing self-esteem, self-efficacy, and sportsmanship. Unfortunately, it can also be a mechanism for the development of an eating disorder. Although unhealthy eating behaviors can sometimes be difficult to identify in the sport environment, recognizing unhealthy exercise can be even more complicated. In part, the difficulty results from the emphasis on rigorous training. Most coaches at the collegiate and elite levels believe that training is the single most important factor in enhancing athletic performance, and many believe that “more is better” regarding the frequency, duration, and intensity of training. Right or wrong, many of the current trends in sport, including those related to training, tend to filter down from the collegiate and elite levels to high school, middle school, and even younger levels of competition.
Sports at higher levels (i.e., collegiate and elite) usually have the most knowledgeable and well-trained medical and training personnel looking out for the athletes’ welfare. Unfortunately, sports at lower levels tend not only to have less experienced and less informed coaches, but also tend to have minimal medical and training staffs. Thus, young athletes could be at significant risk.
In this article, I will provide suggestions regarding not only how to identify possible exercise or training problems with your young athlete, but also how you might take a more active role in making sport participation safer and more enjoyable for him or her.
Detecting Possible Problems
Part of the difficulty in identifying “excessive” exercise in athletes is that exercise or, more specifically, training, is so valued in the sport environment. Often people who train harder and/or more intensely are viewed as being “good” athletes. One way to detect a possible problem is to look at your child or adolescent’s training compared to her teammates. Is she doing significantly more? If so, this may be indicative of a problem. Additionally, is she exercising more than the coach is requiring or recommending? If so, it may be suggestive of a problem.
However, this approach to identification is not always straightforward. Coaches are often looking for the athlete who will train harder than her teammates. It is difficult for a coach (and sometimes a parent) to view an athlete who works harder and longer than the others as having a problem. On the contrary, these athletes are more often valued because of their “work ethic.” Their extra training may be rewarded and reinforced. It is difficult to know if the athlete is simply a good, hard-working competitor, or a person with a problem. Nonetheless, this is a good place to start the identification process.”
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If you think that your child may be at risk, ABC Nutrition can help. Barbara Cox, R.D. at ABC Nutrition Services provides you with personalized nutrition therapy and counseling. Click here to contact abcnutritionservices.com and get started on your path to a healthier lifestyle.