Helping Your Athlete Reach Peak Performance

Your child has gone through everything to prepare up to this point: the hours of practice; the keen concentration the night before; the preseason sports physical. You’re likely to be just as anxious about his or her performance. Although many sports parents feel a little helpless cheering from the stands, there is a lot you can do you make sure you child performs at his or her peak.

Eat Right

It stands to reason that junk food leads to junk performances, but many athletes – particularly high-school ones – don’t pay much attention to nutrition the day before a game. Help your child get proper nutrition with high-carbohydrate meals such as pasta the evening before the big game, and pack enough healthy snacks to keep them away from concessions stands between events or at halftime.

A pregame prep meal isn’t the time to experiment in the kitchen. Stick to tried-and-true menus: Nobody wants to discover a breakfast doesn’t settle well with them while they’re on the sidelines.

Reduce Pregame Stress

Even veteran athletes can get nervous before a big game, so reduce any issues at the event caused by distracted packing by helping your athlete get ready the night before. Make sure everything necessary gets packed – which can mean dragging along extra cleats for different conditions or packing an extra set of goggles – so they won’t be derailed due to equipment issues. Done correctly, you can help incorporate this into a successful pregame ritual.

Develop a Pregame

A pregame ritual is a great way for your athlete’s body to know that an event is coming up. For some, it involves a standard pregame breakfast and a ritual warm-up. For others, it involves visualization techniques or listening to music. (Yes, this can also involve packing  and checking their gear.)

Stay Hydrated

It seems pretty basic, but with the temptation of caffeinated drinks compounding water lost through sweat and exertion in practice, and it’s easy for your athlete to go into competition a little dehydrated. As a rule of thumb, everyone needs half an ounce of fluids per 10 pounds of bodyweight each day – and more if they’re exercising hard. An 80-pound athlete requires about 2.5 pints of liquid daily, while bigger kids’ demands skyrocket: 120-, 150- and 180-pound athletes need to drink about 3.75, 4.8 and 5.5 pints of fluid daily. Make it easy on your athlete by stocking up on hydrating drinks and keeping caffeinated ones in the fridge to a minimum.

Talk About Goals

Going into a competition without any personal goals usually doesn’t promote peak performance. Before the competition, talk with your athlete about setting goals: They can be as simple as setting a personal record in an individual sport, boxing out during rebounds better or not making risky passes. If your child heads into a game with reasonable, achievable goals, they’ll have perspective to better judge their performance as it happens. 

Youth sports can be an enriching activity for parents and children alike. And with your help, your child can perform at his or her best – and still leave you time to cheer.