Are Your Kids Ready for Fall Sports Camps?
Fall sports camps are just around the corner. Whether your athlete is a grade schooler or a more experienced high school athlete, parents need to give some thought—but maybe not too much—to preparation.
Before we get into the specifics, here’s what we mean by “not too much.”
“When it comes to established athletes, we walk a fine line between overspecialization and overtraining at a young age,” says Einstein Healthcare Network sports medicine specialist Daniel Morrissy, DO, who is board-certified in emergency medicine with a special interest in sports medicine, and board-certified in primary care sports medicine. He has served as assistant team physician for many professional and college-level sports teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles and Philadelphia Flyers.
The goal of sports camps generally is to help athletes hone their skills and improve their conditioning, explains Dr. Morrissy, but some kids work themselves too hard physically and mentally and run the risk of overuse injuries.
Sports Camps Goal
“You have to think about what the goal is for camp,” says Dr. Morrissy. “Part of it is improving on their current level of play. You want them to be able to reach that goal. If they go in poorly conditioned, it will be hard for them to play the sport if they’re out of breath. They can’t focus on those goals if they’re out of shape. You have to use your head. You don’t want to go into camp ice-cold, and you don’t want to be frazzled. You just want to avoid a prolonged period of inactivity as you prepare for sports camp.”
In what other ways should young athletes prepare for their various sports camps? Here’s advice from Dr. Morrissy.
Purchase the appropriate footwear for your sport, and begin to break it in. The worst thing you can do, says Dr. Morrissy, is wait to the beginning of camp before you begin to break in your shoes. Blisters could sideline you for the rest of camp.
In spite of your preparations, though, blisters are still possible. “It’s pretty common in soccer camps,” says Dr. Morrissy. “You’re on your feet a lot more hours.” Buy a brand of shoes you have worn before. Prepare some basic bandages and first aid supplies that you can pack in your bag. Make sure you’ve packed proper socks.
Get some shut-eye. Even the most dedicated student athlete can get into bad sleep habits over the summer. “Certainly with teenagers, the biggest problem is that, if left to their own devices, they’ll stay up all night enjoying the freedom of summer,” says. Dr. Morrissy. As camp arrives, he adds, “it can be a bit of a shock to the system having to get up at 6:30 in the morning.”
Sound sleep hygiene preparatory to camp is vital for all athletes, younger and older. “Starting even a week in advance, get them into a routine,” Dr. Morrissy advises parents. “Getting them onto that schedule is important so they aren’t flagging the first few days of camp.”
Keep them hydrated. As athletes begin to get physically ready for the rigors of sports camps, make sure they’re drinking enough water. How to know how much is enough? Don’t wait until they’re thirsty. “If they’re thirsty, they’re already a little bit behind the curve.”
Allergies and Medications
Get physicals, and update vaccinations and medical records. Not all of these preparations are necessary for every sports camp, says Dr. Morrissy. It often depends on the age of the athlete and the particular demands of the camp.
On the other hand, it’s a good idea to make sure camp staff know if a child has allergies or has required medications. In the case of medications, make sure they’re properly labeled and staff know where to access them. If an athlete has a bee sting allergy, access to an EpiPen is critical.
Make sure kids know how to identify potential hazards like bug bites, ticks and poison ivy. And to avoid lice, make sure they know not to share hats and helmets.