The Summer Break
If your young athlete is involved in school sport, then inevitably there is a forced break when school is out for the summer. And many club sports also have a break for at least some of the summer, albeit often after a major competition. Is this a good thing? Or should your young athlete get ahead of the pack for the next season and keep training through?
Here are our key pieces of advice to use the summer wisely and start the new term/season in good shape.
Sport, especially at a high level, comes with a lot of physical and mental pressure. Once the season is over completely relaxing and taking a total break is really important. 1-2 weeks of complete vegging is perfectly acceptable.
If the break is longer than a couple of weeks, staying active is probably a good idea. It is well documented that young athletes that specialise in a sport exclusively at a young age are more prone to injury and burn out than those that mix it up. So, mix it up, don't do more of the same sport that has been the priority all year, get out and do something different – much better for body and soul.
In my experience as a coach, I often worked with athletes who had trained through their break to get ahead. They came back in better shape and faster than everyone else in September, by December / January they had plateaued and by May / June they had slipped behind their peers with under-recovery and over-training related problems – don't be tempted, it rarely works.
If you are going abroad with your young athlete, use it as an opportunity to learn about a different culture and try lots of different foods. Young athletes who compete internationally attend competitions in all sorts of places. Feeling comfortable and confident in a different culture can really help make the process of competition abroad easier, and being able to eat a wide range of different foods happily can really help with pre-competition nutrition when abroad.
Use the summer break to do some of the information gathering you never have time for in term time. Try our parents' learning documents on Nutrition for Athletes and Developing Mental Strength and hit the ground running in September.
Take the period of down-time to talk to your young athlete about their goals and ambitions in their sport. Find out the goal for next year, the things that are likely to be the most scary or challenging and the ways that your young athlete needs your help. Lack of communication between young athletes and their parents is the biggest factor in conflict developing. Create a team ethos between parent and child - communicate, support, empathise, motivate.
Have a wonderful summer, whatever you get up to. And I look forward to seeing lots of you at workshops and seminars in the Autumn term.