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How Early is Too Early to Teach Children Basketball Skills?

November 24th, 2009

When is it time, as a basketball coach, to start becoming a stickler on technique with your youth basketball players?  While you can’t put a specific age on it, there are some generalities and indicators that will clue you to the right timing.

Kids Need to Learn Movement Without the Basketball First

Some suggest not teaching kids basketball skills prior to age 8.  Others wait to start basketball technique training until as late as age 10.
Regardless, there are basic skills a child needs to have mastered to some degree before they are ready to get too involved in learning proper basketball skill technique.

If your players are early in their basketball experience, focus on developing well-rounded athletes rather than basketball-specific athletes. It makes no sense to teach them to shoot a jump shot if they lack jumping coordination.  Likewise, teaching a child to change directions while dribbling is pointless if they have difficulty changing directions without the ball.

So, take some time to develop your players’ all-around basketball skills. Teach them to jump, run, weave, change directions, run backward, etc. while they are young.  Wait until they have mastered these skills to challenge them with proper basketball movement training.

A Couple Games That Get Kids Ready to Learn Basketball Skills

Prior to age 10, a good rule of thumb is to incorporate about 20 minutes of general movement training into your practice schedule. This time should be dedicated, not to making better basketball players, but to simply making better athletes.

Play fun basketball games that develop general skills of running, changing direction, jumping, etc.

Tag is a great game for developing multi-directional movement.  Gather your players in a confined area where they can just outrun whoever is it. This will force your players to do a lot of side-to-side movement to avoid the person who’s it.

Red-Light, Yellow-Light, Green-Light is another good game which nicely develops the ability rapidly change pace.  Have your players run in place, do lunges, or whatever. Green-Light is full speed, Yellow-Light is half speed, and Red-Light is stopped.  Mix up the lights and equip your team to change speeds quickly.

Reasons for Focusing on Movement in Young Athletes

Young children are much better at developing movement skills.  As we get older, our ability to learn new movement skills declines rapidly. Teach them a variety of movement skills early.  It will be easier for them to learn them.

As mentioned earlier, teaching movement skills young will make your players more well-rounded athletes.  The ability to quickly change directions is a skill that will help your players whether they are on your basketball court or tearing up the soccer field.  Giving them all around skills will encourage them to continue in other sports which will keep them in shape for the basketball season.

One of the more important reasons for movement training with young athletes, in my mind, is to prevent injury.  An athlete who has developed coordination in their movement skills is less likely to be injured.  And injury is something none of us wants to see in our players.

Prior to age 10, key on general movement skills training and save basketball-specific techniques for later. Your team will be better for it.

By: Tonya Krause

Pregnancy Rash Symptoms and Treatment

October 27th, 2009

PUPPP Rash (Pruitic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy)

You’re 35 weeks pregnant. You feel like you’re ready to pop. Then one morning you wake up to see a few little red, pimple like dots on your tummy. You don’t think anything of it and just go on with your day. Then the next day you see more dots on your tummy. It kind of makes you scratch your head and you think about it the rest of the day. But the next day you wake up and your stretch marks are red, your tummy is almost covered in the little dots. And what’s worse; it ITCHES!

When I discovered this rash on my tummy, my first thought was an allergic reaction to Palmer’s Cocoa Butter cream so I stopped using it. But the rash didn’t go away and it just kept spreading. And I just wanted to scratch! It was so uncomfortable. I would wake up in the middle of the night so itchy and uncomfortable that I couldn’t sleep. I was already tired from being 39 weeks pregnant. I told my sister-in-law about it and she talked to one of the OB-GYN doctors who told her that it could be one of two things. A gall bladder infection or the PUPPPS Rash. So I did what most people do when they have a medical problem and don’t want to go all the way to the doctor. I turned to the internet. I looked at pictures and my rash looked identical to the pictures. My doctor confirmed it when I went for my 40 week visit. She took one look at my stomach and said “Let’s get you induced.”

PUPPP, also known as polymorphic eruption of pregnancy, is the most common rash in pregnant women. It normally occurs in the first pregnancy during the third trimester usually at 35 weeks. Thankfully, PUPPP does not usually affect subsequent pregnancies.

This article is for your information only. Be sure to consult a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment.

What causes PUPPP?

The cause of PUPPP is unknown. It is not associated with preeclampsia, autoimmune disorders, hormonal abnormalities, or fetal abnormalities. Investigators suggest that the rapid abdominal wall distension damages connective tissue and causes an inflammatory response. One study found male fetal DNA in a skin biopsy of the rash. Since 70% of women with PUPPP give birth to boys, a new hypothesis has found that male fetal DNA can act as a skin irritant.

The Diagnosis

The diagnosis of PUPPP is solely based on the appearance of the rash. There are no lab tests that detect PUPPP. Skin biopsies are not performed unless there is a question about the diagnosis.


The treatment of PUPPP is symptomatic. High strength steroid creams or ointments, such as clobetasol (Temovate) or betamethasone (Diplrolene), used up to 5 to 6 times a day often relieve the itching and prevent the spread of the rash, see your doctor for the best treatment for you. Once the rash is under control, changing to a lower strength steroid used less frequently is advisable. For severe cases, daily oral steroids may be prescribed to control itching. Oral antihistamines such as atarax, benadryl, and zyrtec, are generally less effective for itching than steroids but can be useful at night to help with sleep.

The Appearance of PUPPP

puppp rash2 233x300 Pregnancy Rash Symptoms and Treatment

The rash almost always begins in the stretch marks (striae) of the abdomen. It does not involve the belly button distinguishing it from other common rashes of pregnancy. The rash itself consists of small, red wheals (a firm elevated swelling of the skin) in the stretch marks that grow together to form larger wheals on the abdomen. Sometimes the rash can include small vesicles (a bubble of liquid within a cell). Over the next several days, the rash can spread over the thighs, bum, breasts, and arms.

The rash is very itchy, or pruitic, hence the name!  This condition is thought to be harmless to mother and baby, but can be very annoying. It can last an average of 6 weeks and resolves spontaneously 1 to 2 weeks after delivery. The most severe itching can last for more than 1 week.

By: EA Walker

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Baby Proof Your Home in 7 Steps

September 27th, 2009

By:  Destiny

Do you have a new baby and are you wondering how to baby proof your home in the very safest way?  Take a look at the seven steps listed below to find out how to do this so your baby is safe from hazards in your home.

It can be challenging to keep your baby safe but it is a good thing to do—even before bringing the baby home.  Check out these seven steps to making sure your baby is as safe as possible and read as much as possible about baby safety so that you can begin to keep your home safe.

Seven Steps to Baby Proofing

Step 1: Make a checklist of items to do.

Go through each room on your hands and knees with a notebook—writing down those things you think a baby can get into.  Pay special attention to cabinets, drawers, staircases, electrical cords and electrical outlets.

Step 2: Keeping the crib safe.

Keep all fluffy items out of the crib, including fluffy blankets, comforters, stuffed animals and pillows.  Make sure you remove bacteria from the crib by spraying it down with disinfectant.

Step 3: Keep poisons and toxins out of baby’s reach.

Make sure all toxic chemicals and medicines are out of the reach of baby.  Put them up or store them in the garage or in locked cabinets.  Keep over-the-counter and prescription medication in a locked and secure place.

Step 4: Keep disposable diapers and trash away from the baby.

Garbage, including diapers, can cause disease so they should go in a locked cabinet or out in the garage where baby cannot get to them.  Use a special diaper disposal unit that seals each diaper away from baby’s fingers.

Step 5: Use child safety gates.

Use new child safety gates on the top and bottom of all stairs and in front of rooms and areas you don’t want the baby to get into.  This can avoid many potential accidents.

Step 6: Keep Emergency Numbers Handy.

Keep all emergency numbers, including that for Poison Control, in an area where you have access to them at all times.  Don’t forget to include the hospital and doctor’s numbers.

Step 7: Be vigilant about keeping track of baby.

Even the best baby proofing doesn’t prevent all injuries.  Keep an eye out on baby at all times and be prepared to act swiftly if he or she is getting into something they shouldn’t.

What you really need to remember is that keeping baby safe is a matter of baby proofing your home, watching baby at all times and educating the baby to make sure he or she learns what is acceptable or unacceptable to do in the home.  Don’t forget to do your baby proofing from a baby’s level and think like a curious baby when you do this.

More on child proofing your home.

All About Pregnancy Massage

June 24th, 2009

Pregnancy is perhaps the most delicate stage any woman’s life. Pregnancy is very stressful to the body as it undergoes changes to nurture the new life growing inside. Stress is also present on the emotional level as the woman anticipates the added responsibility of motherhood while having to cope with the physiological demands of the pregnancy. With all the worries, aches and pains associated with signs of pregnancy, the mother-to-be can gain much from massage therapy. Benefits include improved blood circulation, lowered heart rate, and a relaxed body and mind.

Benefits of massage during pregnancy

A good massage can also provide relief from many discomforts brought on by pregnancy symptoms like muscle cramps and spasms; myofascial pains felt on neck, shoulders, lower back, hips and legs; stressed knees and ankles; swelling of the hands, arms, legs, and feet due to fluid retention; difficulties in sleeping; and, psychological cares like anxiety and restlessness. And according to a number of studies, the fetus also benefits from the massage treatment the mother receives. A massage therapy also makes the mother’s body more pliant resulting into a less painful labor and easier delivery.

Pregnancy requires specially trained massage therapists

The techniques used in pregnancy massage differ from those used in other types of massage because the health and safety of the fetus is given utmost consideration. For this reason, massage therapists who work on pregnant women receive special training and must be duly certified.

Things to remember when it comes to pregnancy massage:

•    Pregnancy massage should be performed only on women who are past their third month of pregnancy. The reason is massage therapy increases blood circulation but this may cause dizziness and aggravate the morning sickness symptoms.

•    The pregnant woman must be carefully positioned during the massage to ensure her safety and that of her unborn child.

•    If a massage table must be used, it should be semi-reclining. Consider using extra pillows to wedge the body and provide extra padding to increase patient comfort.

•    As a precautionary measure, the pregnant woman should never be made to lie prone with her belly beneath her. Also, it is ill-advised to use a flat table with a hole provision for the bulging abdomen as this will stress her lower back unnecessarily.

•    The therapist should not massage or press the pregnant woman’s specific body parts, such as the left and right sides of the ankles and the webbing between the thumbs and index fingers. These critical points can cause premature labor if subjected to constant pressure.

Under normal circumstances, any pregnant woman can enjoy a good body massage without fear for her safety. However, if she has a special condition, she will need clearance from her obstetrician or health care provider before going in for a pregnancy massage. Women who ought to think twice about pregnancy massage are those who have pre-term labor risk and those suffering from blood clots and other related disorders.

The healing power of massage

Still, pregnancy massage is just like the other types of massage in that it uses the healing power of the human touch. Humans need physical connection from other human beings. This physical connection through the touch promotes comfort, love, caring, and security. It increases awareness and raises the sensory levels. For this reason, many people, pregnant or not, seek massage

 All About Pregnancy Massage

Make Your Baby’s Bedtime Routine a Bonding Time

June 17th, 2009

Make your baby’s bedtime routine a bonding time with soft music and rocking.  Try practicing your singing skills with a soft, gentle lullaby.  Many online companies actually make a sound machine that re-creates the same sounds that are present in the mother’s womb.  These machines make a swish, swish “white noise” sound that has been proven to help soothe newborns to sleep. Try swaddling your baby to help them feel safe and comfortable.  Many young babies enjoy a swaddle as it re-creates the safe, close-comfortable feeling they had in the womb.

For the fussy baby that will just not go to sleep, consider the reasons why. Check your baby’s diaper again to make sure it is still clean and dry. Clean diaper conditions can change drastically in just a matter of minutes. Hold your baby upright and pat their back to see if any more burps need to come up.  Uncomfortable gas will cause your baby to pull their legs up over and over again in a painful gesture.

If your baby cries and cries for hours on end, they could be over stimulated or have colic.  Over stimulation is when they have been overloaded with too much noise and sound.  Try swaddling, cuddling and rocking to get your baby to quietly settle down.  If you suspect colic, talk to your doctor about over the counter baby gas drops or other pediatric recommendations.  Remember it may take a few hours of cry time, but eventually your baby will wear out and go to sleep.

Once your baby is asleep, be careful of the transition period when you lay them down.  A slight movement could stimulate your baby to jerk awake with a “startle reflex.”  This is where baby will move an arm and/or leg suddenly to jerk themselves awake.   Swaddling has been known to help babies sleep longer and prevent the startle reflex.  *The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends laying a sleeping baby on their back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, also known as SIDS.

Some babies will prefer the crib while others will want a snuggly place to snooze.   If your baby can’t stand the crib, try one of these sleep space alternatives; a comfortable car seat, bassinet, cradle or a smaller sized crib.  However, never, ever leave a baby alone in a sitting car.  Garage fumes can build up and cause irritation to a baby’s sensitive lungs.  Heat could cause the baby to die of heat exposure and cold can cause death from hypothermia.  It is always better to take your baby in the house and let them sleep in a safe, climate comfortable, stimulus free room.  Never justify leaving a baby in the car just so you can avoid the risk of having them wake up when you take them out of the car.

For the first eight weeks to three months, your baby will wake up at night for one to three feedings based on how much they ate and slept during the day.   Before a growth spurt, babies will eat more and then finally get to a stage where they eat less and sleep more.  Prior to a growth spurt, your baby may wake up at night for an extra feeding.  After you feed a baby at night, you may be so tired that you just want to go back to sleep, but baby may have different ideas.

Baby may stay awake to digest all of the food and then have a bowl movement. Baby may also want to play.  It is important during these early months that you gradually adjust your baby to their new environment. If you are so exhausted that you can’t think straight, try getting some relief by night shift trading with a spouse, aunt, sister, grandmother, mother or mother-in-law.  Chances are they will jump at the chance to get some hands-on-experience with your new little bundle of joy.

Train Your Newborn to Develop a Healthy Sleep Pattern

June 17th, 2009

Water Balloon Baby Training

My nephew and his wife were expecting their first baby.  As I shared with them some of my “old foggy” memories of having my first child, I vividly recalled my parenting shock when I realized that my baby daughter had a mind of her own.  She wanted to sleep and eat when she wanted to, and it certainly had nothing to do with my perfectly planned pre-arranged schedule. It was an eye-opening experience and it took me several post-partum weeks to make the necessary mental adjustments.

To prepare my nephew and his wife for their own remarkable parenting experience, I recommended that they fill up a water balloon and practice carrying it up and down the living room floor every three to four hours during the night.  I also told him to be sure and change the pretend baby by replacing the water every two to three hours.    We laughed together and enjoyed this joke about the water balloon baby training method.  Even though this is a funny way to psych yourself up for some sleepless nights, the sleep deprivation that most parents experience is no laughing matter. Fortunately, there are many sleepy time techniques that will help your newborn to develop a healthy sleep pattern

Develop a Healthy Sleep Pattern:  Newborn to Three Months

Do not be alarmed when your newborn baby sleeps around the clock.  When you think about it, being born into a new environment is a big deal and it takes a tremendous amount of energy out of both you and your baby.   You will feel exhausted after the birthing experience and so will your newborn.   For the first eight weeks, your newborn will sleep between *sixteen to eighteen hours a day.  Newborns usually have their days and nights mixed up and, for the first few weeks, you may pull more than a few all nighters trying to get baby straightened out.  Use your baby’s wakeful periods to observe their developing personality.  Observe what sounds and signs your baby gives you when they are hungry, messy, sleepy or just fussy.   After the initial eight weeks, you can start incorporating some basic sleep training techniques so that your growing baby will eventually sleep through the night.

Your baby will grow a great deal in the first three months.   Growing takes a tremendous amount of time and energy.   Your baby will need a balanced schedule of sleep, food and stimulating wakeful periods. *As your baby grows, so will their capability to sleep for longer periods.  Gently directing your baby into a balanced schedule will enable your baby to develop a healthy sleep pattern.

Gently Build a Healthy Sleep Schedule

Gently direct your baby into a healthy schedule by keeping them more awake when you want them awake so that they will sleep when you want them to sleep.  From eight weeks to three months, your baby will start to develop a general sleeping, feeding and changing pattern. Try to keep your baby more awake during the day so that they will eventually learn to sleep through the night.  After eight weeks, if your baby is still sleeping a great deal during the day, try waking s/he up by washing their face with a soft, warm cloth.  Put them in an upright position in their car seat and give them a chance to look around while you do the dishes or dust the piano.  You baby will start to learn that day time is for waking and night time is for sleeping.

At three months, your baby will have developed the natural habit of waking up early to eat.  Often, after they have gained weight at three months, they usually will wake up at the more reasonable time of 5:00 or 6:00 a.m.  After feeding, wash your baby’s face and get him or her changed and dressed for the day.  Plan to keep your baby up for one to two hours of stimulating wakeful time.

During wakeful times, play with your baby and lay them on a soft blanket on their back with some baby-safe toys to look at.  Your baby may not enjoy this at first, but eventually they will learn the difference between day and night activities.  Do not be too alarmed if your baby gets fussy about being on the blanket. s/he may feel scared, miss mommy and get a little fussy about such a big open space, but a five to ten minute fuss without being picked up is actually good for your baby.  Crying allows them to expand, exercise and develop their lungs.  Kicking their legs is good exercise to keep all the food and gas moving.  At about forty- five minutes to a half-hour before their scheduled nap-time, feed, change and burp them thoroughly.

A Three Month Old Daily Schedule

A three month old infant’s daily schedule will gradually evolve into a general schedule of two morning feedings, a morning nap, two afternoon feedings, an afternoon nap, one evening and one late night feeding and then a general bed time, usually between 8:00 and 10:00 p.m.  They key word in this schedule is general.  Just like you, babies have appetites that fluctuate based on their growing needs.  One day they may eat a whole bunch, and on other days, they just want to sleep or stay awake and play.  Keep an open general schedule of anticipated wake and sleepy times.  Do not plan too many outside activities. You may get cabin fever, but keeping up with your baby’s schedule is very important in establishing a regular routine.

The “Sleepy Time” Routine

One of the most important things you can do is to establish a regular sleepy time routine.  Sleepy time routines will help your baby understand that it is time to go to sleep.  Start by creating a soft environment with a twilight room, rocking-chair and some soft sounds.  Make sure that the crib/nursery area is safe, soft and comfortable, free from any unnecessary noise and distraction.  Never try putting a baby to bed while watching T.V.  The loud noise, flashing light and distraction can over stimulate, causing baby to associate both naptime and bedtime with noise time.  Loud music is also not a great way to help your baby find the path to sleepy time land.

Before naptime or bedtime, feed your baby, burp them thoroughly and make sure their diaper is clean and dry.  Before bed time you will want to give them a warm bath, about every other night.  Bathing daily can be hard on baby’s skin and you will need to spend extra money on expensive lotions. Bathing every other day will protect your baby’s skin and put more money in your wallet.

Dress your baby to climate temperature, making sure they are neither too hot nor too cold. *An eight week to three month old baby will have difficulty regulating their body temperature so that they conserve heat.   Making sure your little one is warm with a beanie on the head will help your baby sleep better.  As your baby grows, s/he will be better able to regulate their body temperature and feel hot or cold to the climate as you feel hot or cold. Make sure to dress your baby appropriately so that they are neither too hot, nor too cold.  Being too hot or cold will cause any baby to wake up with a fuss.

Let Brother and Sister Help

Brothers and sisters can help put the baby to bed by getting the baby’s blankets and nursery ready.  After that, let them know that it is quiet time so that you can put the baby to bed.  Have brothers and sisters go into a separate room to play and/or read books while you put the baby to bed.  If they are overly eager to help, turn it into a bonding experience by having them sit on your lap, hold the baby and
help rock-a-bye the baby to sleep. Put a sign on your door to discourage callers from ringing the door-bell and/or knocking too loudly.  Take the phone off the hook and let the world go on its merry way while you do the most important mothering job of getting your baby to bed.

Proven Techniques to Train Your Infant to Sleep Through the Night

June 17th, 2009

By:  Debby Hoffer

A baby may start sleeping through the night as young as three months.  If your baby is still waking up during the night, don’t panic, especially if they are younger than six months.  Younger babies that are growing and developing may still need a nightly feeding.  If your infant of six months or older is regularly waking up during the night, try one of these proven sleep training techniques :

The Ferber Method

Developed by Dr. Richard Ferber, Director of the Pediatric Sleep Disorder Center at Children’s Hospital in Boston, this technique known as “Feberizing” teaches  an infant to soothe themselves to sleep.

Better Infant Sleep Through Ferberizing Follows These Important Steps:

  1. Set a regular time for your infant’s bedtime.  Most babies will fall asleep between 7:30 and 10:00 p.m.  After a soothing bed time routine, put your infant in bed and leave the room.  Stay in close proximity to the room to listen for your child’s cry.  If he or she is crying wait five minutes and then go in the room and comfort them with the sound of your voice and some gentle pats.  Do not pick your infant up!
  2. Leave the room again and wait ten minutes before going in to comfort your child.  Keep extending the time in five minutes increments until your infant child falls asleep.
  3. On the second night repeat the soothing bed time routine and put your child to bed at the set time.  Let your child cry five minutes longer than the beginning interval of the first night starting with ten minutes and increasing the time again in five minute increments.
  4. Repeat the method every night, extending the beginning cry time in five minute increments for a week.  By then, hopefully, your child will be sleeping through the night.

The Ferber Method stands on the concept that your infant will eventually learn how to comfort themselves to sleep.  The child will learn coping skills to help them get to sleep with the secure understanding that you are there for periodic comfort.

In May 2006, Dr. Ferber released an update of his book, “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.”  The book contains more information about children’s sleep schedules, common sleep problems and the Ferber method.

Crying Options from Dr. Marc Weissbluth

Dr. Marc Weissbluth, pediatrician and the author of “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” suggests in his book that a baby as young as four months is ready for some type of sleep training.  Dr. Weisbluth points out that being overtired can cause significant sleep issues for infants.  He gives parents crying options to help them decide when and if they should let their baby cry. You can learn more about Dr. Weissbluth’s sleep training methods and his book.

Day to day, it is important to remember to slow down and be mindful of your infant child’s sleep schedule.  Taking naps on the run, in the car and in the stroller may not be restful in the long run.  Irregular bed times can cause confusion and lead to bed time battles.  Making sure that your child gets adequate time to sleep will help you get some sleep too.

Prepare Your Child to Play Youth Football

June 15th, 2009

Preparing your child to play youth football (see reference) can pay big dividends in the long run. Youth football is a rough and tumble sport in which children, if not properly supervised, trained, and equipped, can sustain serious injury. Youth football team participation can help your child develope mental and physical skills and learn teamwork and discipline. Youth football includes pee wee football, mity might football and junior football. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons has classified football as one of the four top activities among children most likely to cause injury. Because it is a contact sport, youth football, (not including flag football) is not recommended for very young children. Older children between the ages of 8 and 14 who express an interest in the sport will more likely enjoy a football experience. A smart parent can begin at home by physically preparing a child to play youth football.

Training Begins at Home

In every sport, training begins at home. Sufficient rest, good nutrition, and daily activity with some structured training will prepare your child to be a strong team player. Make sure your child gets at least eight hours of rest every night and eats a well-balanced diet that includes proteins, fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates. Encourage them to avoid junk foods, caffeinated drinks and super sugary snacks like candy. If your child is playing football or involved in a football camp or program, be sure that they eat two to three hours prior to physical activity. You may also want to increase their carbohydrate and fluid intake. Carbohydrates help a child have more energy while fluids keep them hydrated between games. Football often involves “bulking up” or developing more of a muscular build. Be sure to consult your pediatrician before making any radical changes in your child’s diet. If a dietary change is recommended by your pediatrician, continue to monitor your child to determine if the change is helping them stay strong in the game.

Daily activity is very important to any aspiring athlete. Small children prepare for organized sports like youth football through daily chores and activities. Dancing, tag, and helping Dad wash the car are all experiences that stretch muscles and develop coordination as well as muscular strength. This type of activity helps small children stay fit and ready for play. Older children interested in youth football can add more structured training to their daily activities. More structured training can help an older child develop specialized skills which will enable them to become a better football player.

Football: Strength, Speed and Grip Training

The art of football involves strength, speed and grip. Professional coaches and trainers throughout the years have developed specialized exercises to help aspiring athletes achieve their physical goals. Please be sure to consult a pediatrician before implementing strength, speed or grip training into your child’s daily routine.

Strength Training involves exercises designed to improve bone and muscular strength which can protect a child from injury. Strong muscles and bones also give a child the ability to exert or resist a tackle strategy. Strength Training involves simple daily exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, and leg curls. Many Health Organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believe that a strength training program can be very beneficial for a child and now “support children’s participation in appropriately designed and competently supervised strength training programs.”

A child between the ages of 7 to 8 who is interested in participating in an organized sporting program is ready for a basic strength training program. Help your child set aside some time each day for appropriate strength training. Warm muscles work better, so before strength training have your child do five to fifteen minutes of warm up stretching and cardiovascular movement such as jogging, bike riding or jumping jacks. Exercise time should be based on a child’s age, ability, and interest level. Teach by example and do the warm-up with them and demonstrate 3-6 strength training exercises. Below are two simple strength training exercises recommended by Coach Arthur Erickson, head football coach at Copper Hills High School, Utah.

Youth strength training

Bear Crawl: Have your child crawl on hands and feet with arms extended as if they were a bear running. This will work the muscles and joints of the upper body from the wrist to the shoulder.

Crabwalk: The player from a sitting position rises up on their hands and feet “walking backwards.” This exercise also works the upper body and focuses building the triceps of the upper arm.

Explain how each push-up or curl-up is strengthening a specific set of muscles. Help your child to understand that with each exercise their muscles are working and as they exercise regularly, the muscles will get stronger and help them be a better football player. Start off by doing just a few exercises and gradually build to 10-15 repetitions of each strength training exercise. Encourage your child to do more as they build muscular strength. Weight lifting can be added gradually as the child grows older and stronger. Monitor your child carefully so that they do not over train. Coach Erickson recommends that “participation and fun should be the goal” of any training program and that “specialized training should be reserved for a more mature body and interest level.” Twenty to thirty minutes of strength, speed and grip exercise for young children and thirty to sixty minutes for pre-teens and teens should be enough to help improve their game.

Youth Speed Training

Integrate speed training after strength training to help a child develop more agility and speed. In football the average play lasts about 5 seconds and ends in some type of collision. During these five seconds, players need to be able to move fast within short and long distances. Sprinting and jumping drills otherwise known as light polymeric exercises can help a child develop this ability to move fast. Start with short sprints of about five to fifteen yards and time your child to determine their starting speed. Train your child to understand explosive movement which involves being still and then exploding quickly into accelerated movement. Teach your child by example how to run fast by lifting the legs med-high and quick. Show them how to breathe properly by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Run repetitious drills gradually increasing yardage distance as your child’s speed and endurance increases. Coach Karl D. Cloward, head football coach at Bingham High School, Utah , recommends basic speed training exercises of running up and down stairs, short 10 yard sprints and cone drills where cones are set up for the child to sprint and run around and back. As a child grows and masters each skill, more complicated speed drills such as the ones below can be introduced.

High Knees: Stand upright in good running posture and run a set amount of yardage while lifting the knees high. Raise the knees parallel to the ground and repeat 3 times with 30 seconds of rest between repetitions.

Power Slides: Stand upright with feet together. With the left foot, step to the left stretching the leg out. Slide the right foot to the left, keeping it lightly on the ground. Repeat the drill starting this time with the right foot. Repeat 4 times with a short rest between repetitions.

Jumping: Stand upright and jump up and try to touch your chest with your knees. Repeat 3 times.

As with strength training, be sure to monitor your child closely so that they do not over exert them sel
ves. Speed training is an important part of an effective football training program. Properly implemented speed training can enable your child to move fast, catch the ball, and avoid the tackler just behind them.

Youth Grip Training

Grip training involves exercises are designed to strengthen the hand and arms helping your child to catch and hold the football. Grip training often involves weights and enables a child to develop more specialized skills. This type of training is largely reserved for pre-teens and teens while more basic exercises can help a younger child develop stronger arms and hands. Below are some basic grip training exercises that will help your child catch that slippery ball.

Fingertip pushups: Place your hand flat on a surface and push up with your fingertips. Repeat ten times on each hand with a short rest between repetitions.

Crushing: Grab some pliers or a nutcracker and squeeze or crush it 10 times with a short rest between repetitions.

Wrist Curls: Hold your hand out flat and make a fist. Curl your hand up using the muscles of your wrist. Repeat 10 times with short rests between repetitions as needed.

In all training situations remember to watch your child carefully for signs of over exertion and strain. Organized sports should be a fun experience for each child and unfortunately overtraining can result in a bad experience. Coach Erickson says that “overtraining is a real situation and can be avoided through proper planning and prudent use of allotted training time.” Regarding overexertion, Coach Erickson “would look for lack of energy, lack of desire and injuries that increase and do not heal in a timely manner.”

Look for Signs of a Great Youth Football Program

If your child is ready to play ball, then it’s time to enroll them in a football program or camp. Summer Sport Camps keep children busy and help them learn new skills. Flag Football is very popular for both younger and older children. Flag Football allows children to become acquainted with the rules and basic fundamentals of the game without the full on-tackle experience. It also gives them the opportunity to have fun and is ideal for younger children whose bodies are not ready for constant collisions. Flag Football is also a good alternative for children with disabilities who need a less physical football experience.

For older children ready for the real thing, a national or state football program can offer more of the real football experience. The Chicago Bears and the Seattle Seahawks, members of the NFL, offer week-long summer football camps for youth. These camps are taught by professional educators with coaching experience. Camp trainees can learn how to block, pass, form tackle, run, throw, and catch. Youth can also learn more about explosive movement and how to go from frozen stance to quick winning movements.

Local and State football programs are also available though Parks and Recreation Departments as well as local High Schools. Of course what makes any program great is the leadership involved. When investigating a football program or camp for your child, ask about the coach interview process. Programs and camps that staff coaches with more professional experience will help ensure that your child has a positive football experience.

Coach Cloward’s School, the Bingham Miners, offers a Conference Football program which is one of the most successful programs in the state of Utah. It gives children the ages of 8 to 15 years the opportunity to train and learn how to play football. Cost for this camp is $200.00 per player and includes game jersey, mouth piece, socks, as well as the use of helmet, pads, practice pants and game pants. They also offer team and individual pictures and are scheduled for a minimum of 8 regular season games.

As your child grows, continue to support them in their athletic interest. Good health habits and lots of positive emotional support can help a child follow their focus into their pre-teen and teenage years. Most high schools offer Jr. Varsity and Varsity football programs that will enable your child to further their athletic goals and interests. In any athletic program, it is important that both child and parent put school first. The NFL has a “Play It Smart” coaching program which recommends that a second academic coach is assigned to help team players make good life and academic choices. Many high schools also have their own programs in place to help team players make positive and effective life decisions.
As your child develops physical and mental football skills, you can help them make the team by supporting them in developing these ten attributes recommended by Coach Erickson.

1. Hard Worker
2. Great Effort
3. Coachable
4. Team Oriented
5. Passion or love of the Game
6. Hand-eye coordination
7. Footwork
8. Balance
9. Speed
10. Strength

In any football program it is most important that both child and parents listen to coaching instructions. The coach is there to give direct instructions that will prevent injuries and enable a child or youth to play a good game. A positive coach with good communication skills can help a child to go the distance. Parents who support the coach set a good example of team work for their child.

Youth football equipment maintenance is also important to a child’s safety and parents should be aware of the school’s equipment policies and procedures. Parents should also be aware of equipment policies and procedures in any football program or camp. Coach Erickson states that “helmets should be re-certified every two years and pads should be replaced out of a program if the protective properties have broken down over time, through use.” In any football program, the equipment should be well maintained and the coach should train team members on the proper use of each piece of equipment.

In any organized sport, the most important factor is to have fun and enjoy playing the game. Have your child learn basic football concepts first and move on to more structured training as they develop. A child that is happy and safe in an organized sporting program is a winning goal for any parent.

These links have more help to prepare your child to play youth football.

Learn more about the importance of nutrition and plan your pre-game meal.

More on strength training for the very young.

Find a flag football or regular football camp or program near you!

Make a Big Splash this Summer with Swimming Lessons!

May 26th, 2009

Make a big splash with the kids this summer by enrolling them in swimming lessons through a National Swimming Program! The American Red Cross is a quality organization with a swimming program that is available at many local recreational centers throughout the country. This six level aquatic program is designed so that kids of all ages and abilities can participate, get fit and have fun learning how to swim.

“Parents often feel that it’s so important to teach their kids skills like ballet, karate, baseball, and other stuff,” says Jessica Sims a local aquatic director that hosts the Red Cross Aquatics program, “that stuff is all well and good, but swimming is a skill that could potentially save their child’s life.” Sims goes on to say “Swimming is not a skill that can be learned in just one summer, it’s a skill that has to consistently be worked on.” Consistency is a big part of the American Red Cross Program as each level builds upon the next. Kids learn and practice until they advance to the next level where previously learned skills are reviewed and new skills are introduced.

Water safety is also a main focus in each level so that children can learn how to be safe in and around a pool. This program designed by a panel of aquatic experts is structured to help each child become a better and safer swimmer. Below is an in-depth overview of the six level American Red Cross Aquatics Program. This information was provided to courtesy of the American Red Cross National Headquarters and Jessica Sims, an aquatic director at a local facility which is an authorized provider of the American Red Cross Aquatics Program.

Parent and Child

Purpose: To help children develop Swimming Readiness The minimum age requirement for this class is six months. Instructors lead parents in water exploration activities designed to be fun and educational. Pre-school songs are used to help the child feel more comfortable blowing bubbles, floating in a semi-back float position, performing front arm motions and kicks. Spending quality time with a child in a Parent and Child Aquatic class is sure to be a memorable and fun experience.

There are no recommended pre-requisites to enter level 1 of the American Red Cross Swimming Program. Authorized providers of the American Red Cross Swimming Program will place the child based on their individual swimming skills. Basic Water Safety Rules are emphasized and taught at each skill level.

Level 1: Introduction to Water Skills Purpose: To help the children feel comfortable in the water. The child is very supported in this level by the instructor as they learn basic water safety and swimming skills. Children are taught the basic swimming arm stroke and leg kick motions and how to use them together. Children are also instructed on how to “blow bubbles” how to front and back float and how to safely enter the water without assistance. Children can have fun in this level by learning how to open their eyes and pick up a submerged object underwater. Water safety skills that are taught include how to use a life jacket, how to recognize a swimmer in distress and basic water safety rules.

Level 2: Fundamental Aquatic Skills Purpose: Give children success with fundamental skills. Level 2 enables the student to become more independent in the water, as Level 1 swimming and safety skills are reinforced and advanced. Students are taught how to tread water. Students are also taught and encouraged to practice submerging the entire head while practicing breath control as learned in level 1. Children are also taught bobbing in the water, the jellyfish float, front and back glide and how to swim using combined strokes on front and back. Water safety skills are advanced as students become familiar with wearing a life jacket in the water. Students will also learn how to recognize a swimmer in distress, and how to get help.

Level 3: Stroke Development Purpose: Build on the skills in level 2 by providing additional guided practice. This level is more advanced as the child is much more independent in the water and ready to learn a combination of more technical aquatic skills. Students are taught how to do the butterfly-kick and as well as a front and back glide. Students are also instructed in the front and back crawl. Rotary breathing is introduced and students continue to learn how to pick up submerged objects underwater. A kneeling or standing dive is introduced. Water Safety skills are further advanced with the instruction of the reach assist method and a 30 second survival float.

Level 4: Stroke Improvement Purpose: Develop confidence in the strokes learned and improve other aquatic skills. This level is designed to help the student become more proficient in the strokes they have learned so far and introduces the student to some new skills. Elementary backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly are taught and refined. The front and back crawl is also practiced. The student is exposed to safe diving rules and instructed how dive from a stride position and how to execute a shallow dive. A feet first surface dive is also taught and students are instructed in the throwing assist method.

Level 5: Stroke Refinement Purpose: Provide further coordination and refinement of strokes. This level allows the student to practice and develop endurance in strokes learned. Water safety skills are further advanced with water survival skills and rescue breathing. The standing dive is taught along with a tuck and pike surface dive. Students are instructed in open turns on front and back as well as the front and backstroke flip turn. Students continue to refine and practice the front and back crawl, elementary backstroke, butterfly, breaststroke and side stroke.

Level 6 Fitness Swimmer: Swimming and Skill Proficiency Purpose: Refines the strokes so students swim with ease, efficiency, power and smoothness over greater distances.

Level 6 is designed with “menu” options. Each of these options focus on preparing students to participate on swim teams and in more advanced courses, such as Water Safety Instructor and Lifeguard Training. These options include:

Personal Water Safety

Lifeguard Readiness

Fundamentals of Diving

Fitness Swimmer

The American Red Cross also offers a program called Guard Start which is a life guarding course designed for 11 to 14 year olds. The content of the program includes multiple units in five categories: prevention, fitness, response, leadership and professionalism. The entire program totals 50 lessons and is designed to prepare students to pass the American Red Cross Lifeguarding Program. To participate in Guard Start, the student must be able to:

Swim the front crawl for 25 yards continuously while breathing to the front or side.

Tread water for one minute using arms and legs

Submerge and swim a distance of 10 feet underwater.

The American Red Cross is a quality organization that offers a quality aquatics program. There are different national swimming programs available through out the country so be sure to verify before registration that is it the American Red Cross Aquatics Program. You can clink on the link below to enter your zip code and find the American Red Cross Chapter nearest you. Your local American Red Cross chapter can give you information on aquatic facilities who are authorized Red Cross providers in your area. You can also view information on other swimming programs that may be available in your area by checking out the links below.

Remember a prepared parent is a good parent. So, when those summer boredom blahs hit your house, pack up the kids, take them to the local rec and sign them up for the American Red Cross Six Level Aquatic Program. It will give your kids something fun to do, and you can have peace of mind knowing that
your kids are learning how to be safer around the water.

National American Red Cross Website. Contact your local chapter for the nearest authorized provider of the American Red Cross Aquatic Program.

Safety tips for your kids using backyard pools at Keep Kids Healthy .

Water safety tips for parents to help kids stay safe around water.

YMCA Basic information on the YMCA swimming program.

Starfish Basic information on the Starfish swimming program.

Get Your Child Ready to Take Off in Tee Ball!

May 25th, 2009

Spring is around the corner and its time to get your tee ball coaching skills sharpened and your child ready to take off in tee ball.  This fun and exciting sport is a year round favorite.  Developed and played in the early 1940s and 50s, tee ball is a game designed to teach young children cooperative teamwork skills while learning the fundamentals of baseball.

Rules of the Game

Tee ball is played by children between the ages of four and eight.  Tee ball rules are similar to baseball with each team consisting of six to eleven players.  Each team takes turns playing the infield and outfield positions. Infield players take a batting stance and bat the ball into the outfield.   The infield player runs the three bases with the goal to finish and score at home plate.

The outfield players use sporting strategy to catch the ball, guard bases and get three players out.  An infield player is out when they are tagged by a teammate carrying the ball or a baseman catches the ball before they can touch the base.  Scoring is measured by how many times an infield player can successfully reach home plate.

What is the Tee in T-Ball?

The major difference between tee ball and baseball is a batting tee.  The batting tee is placed on home plate and players take turns batting the ball off the tee.  The batting tee is ideal for small players, giving them batting experience without the fear of being hit by a fast pitch baseball.   The tee structures the batting experience, allowing small players more time to align and swing the bat with the proper batting stance.

Getting Your Child Ready to Play

A child can start preparing to play tee ball during winter and early spring by doing simple exercise drills at home.  Robynn Peterson, Program Coordinator of a local t-ball organization, recommends beginning with the soft sock ball method.

Roll up a sock into a soft ball and practice catching grounders.  Have your child stand several feet away and roll the soft sock ball in a straight line toward the child.  Have your child practice using the mitt by scooping up the sock ball in a clutch.  Point out that the clutched mitt is like an alligator with a mouth that opens and closes.  Practice of the alligator clutch will encourage the habit of squeezing the mitt whenever the ball is in it.Early spring is also a good time to practice the batting stance indoors.  Put the tee without the ball in front of the child.  Have your child hold the bat in the proper batting stance with elbows bent and clutch the batting grip with one hand above another.  Practice swinging the bat with a gliding motion, following through the top of the tee where the ball will actually sit.  This batting practice drill encourages the child to swing straighter without coming down on or under the ball.

You can use this video to teach the Squash the Bug batting method.

As the weather gets warmer, take your child outside to practice grounders, batting and running the bases.  Oftentimes small children get confused about which way to run and which base is first, second, third and home plate.  Peterson recommends having a child run the bases while yelling out which base they are on as they pass it.  This helps small children develop a directional map so they can be confident about which way to run during an actual game.

When batting off the tee outside, use a soft baseball. A hard baseball could hit a child and have a negative impact on their enthusiasm for the game.  Have your child practice batting using a real ball with a proper batting stance.  Practice swinging the bat through the tee in a smooth, gliding motion.

Practice catching by positioning the arm in an L shape with the elbow bent and the mitt held upward.  Encourage your child to squeeze the mitt with the alligator clutch every time they catch the ball. Practic outside drills throwing, catching and batting to be ready for future spring training.

The Scoop, Load and Fire fielding method on easy to learn video.

Look For Quality Equipment Tee Ball Equipment

The basic equipment for playing tee ball is:  a light weight bat, mitt, cleats, helmet and a batting tee for at home practice.  Uniforms are usually supplied by your local community organization.

Small players in tee ball need smaller equipment.  Shop selectively for a light weight, quality bat. Peterson agrees, “A big problem that I see is that often parents will buy too big of a bat and too heavy of a bat.  They need to find the lightest bat available.”

How to Find the Right Bat Size

Try this test to see if a bat is the right size for your child.  Have your child hold the bat and swing for five minutes in a proper batting stance.  Does the bat seem too heavy?  Does your child struggle to swing the bat after the second or third time?  If your answers are yes, then the bat is too heavy for your child.

Peterson recommends this method to size a bat: have your child lie down and place the bat next to them with the base of the bat at the child’s feet.  The bat should not come up past the thigh area.  If it does, then the bat is too long – not the right size for your child.

Keep in mind that quality equipment does not have to be new or expensive.  Discount sporting goods stores offer gently used equipment at a much lower price. Buying at low cost gives your child the opportunity to try the sport to see if they like it.  If your child does not enjoy the sport, gently used equipment can be resold, making it a better bargain than buying new.

Keep It Fun!

As with any sport, parents should keep realistic expectations.  Peterson agrees: “Sometimes you see too much parent involvement where they expect too much of what the kid is actually able to produce.  Every parent wants to have a kid that excels, but these young kids are going to excel at different levels.  Parents need to enumerate how fun it is and keep it fun for the kids.  Let the child make the decision of what to play and what position they would like to play.”

Playing tee ball is a fun, exciting experience.  Real world skills are developed as a child works with teammates to accomplish a common goal.  Sporting drills, fresh air and fun friend memories will make tee ball a positive experience for your child.

For Parenting Tips on Youth Soccer , Pee Wee Football and safe summer fun swimming , lessons and safety use our articles at Childn’ Parent.

Here are links to more information on tee ball:

The official site of little league t-ball , baseball and softball.  Find out more about little league in your local area.

Skills and drills plus fun free stuff for anyone learning to play t-ball.

The official site of t-ball USA.
More information on rules of the game and how to get your child involved.

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