It’s Football Season! Parents and teenagers are all excited about the possibilities!
I watched the game on Sunday between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants and enjoyed myself immensely. I realized though how intensely physical football is. As much as we the spectators enjoy it, I know it takes a toll on the players. College football is no less intense. The games are very exciting to watch and it is always very sad when a player gets injured and has to be sidelined. The pressures of being a football player or a student athlete can be overwhelming. How can parents protect their teens during football season?
1. Take Injuries Seriously
As a pediatrician I’ve seen teens brought in for various sports related injuries. I’ve seen families’ emotions range from anxious or hopeful to angry, especially when you take the child off sports when they are injured. What they don’t realize is that if you don’t allow injuries to heal properly the child is more prone to further injuries, and likely permanent damage. Parents and teens alike have to take injuries seriously. I know teens often feel like their letting their teammates down, but ultimately, it is safer for both the injured person and the rest of the team if they return to the game in good health. One of the big injuries associated with football is concussions. These must not be taken lightly. If your pediatrician or sports medicine doctor takes you off the team, take it seriously and allow complete healing before returning to sports. There are guidelines that have to be followed and it is in everyone’s best interest to do so to prevent recurring or permanent brain damage.
2. Avoid drugs
Ever so often, one comes across an athlete who either wants to lose weight really fast or gain weight equally fast to be able to make the team. Parents should teach their teens to avoid drugs, no matter who gives it to them. Nothing beats the old fashioned way of eating healthy and exercising including strength training and aerobics, to achieve your ultimate weight goal. And then of course there are recreational drugs. Apparently, some schools actually test their teens to make sure they are following the no drug policy. Doing drugs at this crucial period of growth and development of the brain is definitely not a good idea. Drugs are never harmless and can potentially impact brain development. I’ve known teens who did drugs and turned out seemingly okay, and those who did drugs and developed serious psychosis and dependency. Since you do not know which side you’ll fall on, it’s best not to experiment with drugs. This can completely derail your athletic ambitions and ultimately your future.
3. Make Wise Choices
Football players and other athletes in school are held in awe and admired by their classmates and parents. Their lives are very visible to the public and though it comes with a lot of adoration, the flip side of that is their lives are dissected and criticized when they make wrong choices. I agree that it is not fair to criticize teens and young adults for what most consider the normal mistakes teens make but unfortunately all that visibility comes with a lot of responsibility, which cannot be taken lightly. Some teen athletes have been known to make poor choices like date rape, public intoxication or even violence and abuse towards others. These choices not only harm others but can have far reaching consequences for the athletes themselves. People’s careers have been wrecked because they chose to make the wrong decision. It all begins with discipline. Young teens should be taught to respect themselves and others and make right choices whether their parents are with them or not. Parents must also allow teens to face the consequences of their actions, instead of always coming up behind them and mopping up and covering up their mistakes. If teens are not taught to face the consequences of their actions at an early age, they grow up believing they can get away with everything and its sad when they realize they are not above the law when they have made a tragic and often avoidable decision whigh can land them in jail.
4. Enjoy the Journey
Generally we all need to enjoy the journey along the way. Parents should not put so much pressure on their teens they feel they have failed when they lose a game. They should be taught to always practice and work hard to become the best they can be. On game day, they should put in their best effort and enjoy the game whether they win or lose. I will not deny it, some losses really hurt and it is okay to get upset and feel the pain. The great athletes learn from their mistakes and rise up to fight another day. That is life. We can either choose to be stuck in the coulda, woulda, shoulda of the past or learn from the past and move on to the next day, enjoying each new day we are given.
Before our athletes take the field, let’s make sure they have been prepared adequately for the demands of the game. Ensure your teens are well conditioned and have exercised and practiced to become the best they can be. If injuries occur, allow them to heal. They will return to the sport in good shape ready to wow you again, rather than risking another injury if they are not properly healed. Talk to them about the importance of discipline and making wise choices, even if their friends make fun of them. Teach them drugs are never and option and give them room to enjoy the journey along the way.
The game of football and the life of athletes in general teach so many great life lessons which if learned will serve them well both on and off the field, for years to come.