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3 Key Ways to Support Your Freshman as They Start Playing High School Sports

If you have an incoming freshman in high school who is active in sports, this will be an exciting year for them! High school sports are nothing like middle school sports. Your athlete will experience a much more rigorous schedule of training and high-level competitions. There will be stricter standards set for this level of play, which will push your kid to be disciplined and committed to following the guidelines necessary to be a part of the team.  

High school sports can be intense and stressful, demanding tons of time and energy, but your high schooler will learn a variety of skills and significant life lessons that will help them grow in so many ways. They will develop important character traits that will help prepare them to live a successful and productive life. High school sports have so many benefits; it’s worth all the loads of laundry you’ll be doing, the rides you’ll be giving, the volunteer jobs you’ll be working, and all the tickets you’ll be buying to watch them compete in whatever sport they love. 

Here are three main things you can expect with high school sports and how you can support your athlete.

Expect the sports program to include a rigorous training and competition schedule. 

It’s fantastic to have your kid involved in a sport because it keeps them active, motivated, and invested in something purposeful and productive. Your athlete will be at practice at least once a day, sometimes even twice a day, throughout their sports season. Their workouts will be hard and long, demanding much of their time and energy. Some sports have year-round training. Every sports program has several competitive events which will be exciting but time-consuming too.  

You can expect your athlete will have a very busy schedule that will require important organizational skills in order for them to keep up with their schoolwork and any other interests they might have in their lives. This will take a lot of discipline and time management for your athlete because they will often be exhausted and overwhelmed. They’ll need to learn how to balance all the areas of their life, which can be challenging to do.

What you can do to help your athlete with their demanding schedule. 

Your high schooler might need some guidance and support while they are adapting to high school academics at the same time they are involved in their sports. They may need help with establishing a productive routine that works best for them. Once your athlete gets their sports schedule, you can sit down together and come up with a good plan, including specific time frames they can focus on their schoolwork and any other activities they are involved in too. Make sure they have a way of organizing all their responsibilities with a calendar or assignment notebook. Writing down their schedule and specific tasks they need to get done will help them feel less overwhelmed with all they have to do. 

Expect your athlete to experience a rollercoaster ride of emotions. 

Your high schooler will be faced with a lot of pressure to develop their athletic skills to the best of their ability, along with the stress and excitement of competing in their sport. Sometimes they might feel disappointed in their progress or frustrated with their performance. Other times, they might feel ecstatic with their accomplishments and hard-fought victories. They can have conflicting feelings about their coach’s decisions or be disgruntled with other teammates. They might feel completely defeated and want to give up when they’re not doing well or feel empowered and confident when they are excelling. 

It’s a rollercoaster ride of emotions with any athlete as they work so hard to improve and stay invested in the program. Every sports season has its ups and downs, its wins and losses, and successes and setbacks. Your kid is growing and learning about their sport while also developing skills in perseverance, commitment, managing their strong emotions, and building self-confidence. 

What you can do to help your athlete with all the ups and downs of the season. 

All the highs of your athlete’s sports season will be full of celebration and joy, but there will also be lows that come with negative emotions for many different reasons throughout the season. When your kid needs to vent their feelings, it’s important for you to be an empathetic listener who can validate them and encourage them in the midst of their struggles. Your athlete may not want your input or advice, so hold off on interjecting with your opinion. Instead, simply allow your kid to express all their feelings and then ask if there’s anything you can do to help. If they want your advice, you can carefully guide them through whatever steps they can take to manage the difficult situation. 

It’s so easy for us to want to fix everything for our kids to help them feel better, but it’s more important to allow our kids to process their feelings, then work out the problem for themselves. We can offer our guidance and feedback, but our goal is for our kids to learn how to handle hard things on their own. Don’t do the hard work for them. They will build their communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and self-worth as they depend less on you to navigate through difficult situations. 

Your athlete might be vulnerable to physical or mental health issues. 

Being involved in any sport helps our kids grow as a person and an athlete, but some kids will be vulnerable to developing physical or mental health issues under the pressure of these programs.  Your athlete might become overly preoccupied with their workouts or their weight or their need to succeed, which can easily interfere with their physical health and well-being. They might train too hard, causing an overuse injury, or they can suffer from sheer exhaustion that is harmful to their growing bodies. They may restrict their diet to unhealthy levels causing malnourishment and sickness. Some athletes get so invested in their sport that they sacrifice other important areas of their life in order to excel. The stress and strain of competitive high school sports can also have a negative impact on their mental health, causing anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression, among other conditions. They might also come to depend on their sport as their sole identity, which can be damaging and lead to conditional expectations they place on their self-worth.  

What you can do to help your athlete maintain their health and well-being. 

Keep a close eye on your athlete and continually assess both their mental and physical health. Be watchful of signs he or she might be struggling with any emotional issues or physical ailments that need your attention. It’s so important that they keep a healthy perspective of their sports activities so they can continue to take care of their personal needs as well as develop other interests and strengths they have. Most high school athletes don’t go on to play professional sports, but your kid might feel like their sport is all they have. 

Help your kid understand that their sport is not the only aspect of who they are and it should not be the only priority in their life. That mentality puts them at risk for various physical or mental health issues. Of course, it will be a significant piece of their identity and a big part of their life, but make sure they are involved in other pursuits besides their sport. Encourage them to think about other traits and talents they have so they don’t solely depend on their sport for their self-worth. And if they are developing unhealthy physical habits or mental health issues, they may need to see a medical professional.   

Playing a high school sport has so many benefits for your kid. Being part of a team can give them a purpose and a peer group to belong to which boosts their self-esteem and teaches them a lot about community. Athletes learn how to be disciplined and committed, responsible and respectful. They develop skills in communication and time management, along with their athletic abilities. The athletic programs at high school are full of great opportunities for your kid to enjoy the excitement of experiencing the rewards of their hard work. They also learn how to adapt and persevere when things get tough, which is an important life skill all our kids need to learn. Most of all, they get to do something they love and have fun- which should be the most important part of high school sports. Just make sure that’s exactly what your athlete is doing. 

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