GameTimePA reporters looked at issues of concern to parents and students-athletes heading into the fall high school sports season.
The issue: Practice is important. Exercise is vital. Studying plays, learning game plans, all of that is important.
But there’s an area of athletic performance tantamount to all of those areas, and one that can sometime get overlooked.
Athletic nutrition is something plenty of prospective athletes and families overlook until first confronted about it. Here’s a look at just how crucial nutrition is for young athletes.
What’s on the line: Coaches monitor almost every other aspect of athletic development, but in terms of nutrition, a proper diet falls squarely on the athlete and the parent.
A proper diet is everything for an athlete. It helps combat fatigue, prevent injury and illness, and can help increase recovery. It’s crucial for practice and games alike, making sure the body is ready for the stress of a simple weight lifting session or a big rivalry game.
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“If the body’s not fueled properly, it’s not going to perform properly,” said Michael Day, WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital sports medicine specialist.”It’s about maximizing potential and feeling the best. I think people are starting to pay more attention to it.”
Diets obviously vary depending on athletes, but Day boils it down to a simple suggestion of eating less processed foods, noting that eating doesn’t have to be extremely limited and stringent to achieve the desired boost.
“If you can eat things that you can name without reading a long ingredient list, like whole foods prepared at home, that would be the No. 1 thing that would go a long way for a lot of these kids.” — Day
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What about high school athletes making weight?
Chambersburg head wrestling coach Matt Mentzer bristles against the term “cutting weight” when it comes to his sport.
The practice was and in some cases is still a common practice in sports where falling into a specific range of weights to compete is necessary, like wrestling.
But Mentzer knows that a desire to simply cut weight to make that number on the scale never leads itself to peak performance.
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“Our kids really have to manage it properly,” Mentzer said. “If they’re doing a traditional weight cut, they’re not gonna be able to perform at all. We’ve got to keep track of them daily.”
Mentzer said his coaching staff helps wrestlers ensure they’re taking in calories, drinking enough water, and, essentially, not hurting themselves in the process of trying to make a weight class.
As for general nutrition of his athletes, Mentzer says he thinks parents learn on the fly of how to help their children fuel up for competition.
“I think they become knowledgeable quickly, as they get experience,” Mentzer said. “When you have a kid going through it for the first time that can be difficult. You can’t eat fried food, can’t eat hamburgers. For some families, that’s a big change… I think for the most part, it ends up being healthy for everyone.”
Poll: How much of a priority is nutrition for your student-athlete?
Check back each Sunday for the next story about issues high school athletes and their parents face:
COACH CONFLICT: How to navigate the coach-parent relationship
GOOD FANS GONE BAD: How to behave during games
BAD LOSS: How to talk to your athlete after a sub-par performance