Q. I’m the coach of both a youth football team and a youth baseball team. in the summer, I’ve have noticed that the kids ask for water breaks during baseball more often than in the fall. Since the weather is typically cooler in the fall, should I schedule fewer water breaks or should I give the football players the same drinking opportunities as the kids in the summer?
Yes, you should indeed schedule as many water breaks! For youth football players, the weather can become tropical inside their uniforms. They can sweat a lot, even if the weather feels cool for the coaches and parents. Yet, because the weather is cool, the kids may not think to drink as often.
If the kids become dehydrated, they will be cranky, tired, and have less fun. One goal of youth sports is to have FUN! So please do offer your team frequent drinking opportunities. You can use the breaks as a time to educate the kids about the importance of staying well hydrated so they feel better and prevent needless fatigue.
As for what to drink, water is generally fine for youth sports. As long as they have had a pre-practice snack, they will have the energy they need to perform well and will not need sugar-based sports drinks.They will not be sweating enough to require the little bit of sodium (electrolyte) that is in a sports drink. Sports drinks are designed to be takenduring endurance exercise that lasts for more than 1.5 hours, such as marathons; sports drinks generally are not essential for youth sports.
While many kids enjoy sports drinks before, during and after practices and games, I’d encourage wholesome foods before exercise (banana,bagel, orange, graham crackers), water during (or water fruit such as watermelon chunks or orange slices if they seem low on energy), and chocolate milk afterwards (if the kids will not be eating a meal soon thereafter). Chocolate milk for recovery contains both carbs to refuel the muscles, as well as protein to build and repair muscles – as well as calcium for growing bones. While the kids should not be training to the point of becoming depleted at which point they would really need a recovery drink, teaching them about optimal sports nutrition practices will invest in their future athletic career when sports becomes more intense.
With best wishes for a rewarding season,
Nancy Clark MS RD
Boston-area Sports Nutritionist
Author, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook