One of the most fantastic aspects of having our girls involved in sports is the fact that they are out on the field getting exercise. Today’s youth don’t spend nearly as much time playing outdoors, burning calories and exercising as the generation before them did, so its wonderful to see them doing so on the softball field.
The problem is that if you spend the day at a local fast-pitch tournament walking around you will quickly see that the exercise and healthy activities are often being trumped by the notion that the girls need tons of (junk) food and drinks to get through the day.
Don’t get us wrong. Packing snacks and cooler for an entire day is not always easy. And feeding your kids at the ballpark for an entire day is also not easy. But what we have noticed, actually being at tournaments is that there is a tremendous amount of empty calorie, empty nutrition foods and drinks being consumed in droves.
At any given time at any given ballpark, you will see MANY (notice we didn’t say all) young girls drinking 20 ounce sodas, eating bags of chips and snickers bars, and munching on sugary candies to give satisfy hunger or give them what they may refer to as ‘energy.’
And you don’t have to be a nutritional expert to understand that these foods pretty much go against all aspects of health of fitness. And as far as energy, while the sugar may help them to perk up momentarily, it is also the number one reason that so many girls tend to crash in the afternoon.
We get fan questions all the time from folks asking how they can keep their teams stamina and excitement strong during long breaks at a tournament. What are some ways that parents and coaches can ensure their daughters last till the end of the day. And quite frankly, the answer is pretty simple.
Make sure they get enough sleep BEFORE the tournament, start hydrating a few days BEFORE the tournament with WATER, and eat high protein, carb healthy snacks packed with nutrition as well as hydrate (WITH WATER) during the tournament.
Basically, it comes down to this. Garbage in. Garbage out.
Your child or team will only perform well if the quality of the FUEL put into their bodies is high. In other words, if you give the kids junk all day, don’t expect them to perform their best.
Last weekend, at a 31 team tournament that ranged from 10U up to high school division we teamed up with the concession stand to do some research. And what we found is particularly disheartening.
During a one day tournament, they sold 697 sodas as opposed to 241 waters (probably because most parents have plenty of water in their coolers). They also sold 357 candy bars, 411 Pixie sticks and get this…..573 icees laden with sugar and ice. Obviously, we did not keep track of whether the sodas were sold to the kids or the adults, but nearly everywhere we looked there were kids drinking sodas and eating junk, before during and after their softball games.
Softball tournaments are definitely grueling. But the reality is that the kids (with the exception of a pitcher and catcher) are not burning nearly as many calories as one might think. Live strong estimates that during an average one hour fast-pitch game, most kids only burn around 200 calories per hour. Comparing this to other sports and activities such as basketball or soccer or running, the reality is that our softball girls are not expending quite as much energy as we might expect. So their caloric needs are not quite as high as you might expect.
This is NOT to say that their nutritional or hydration needs are not high.
They need water, and Gatorade is recommended when the kids are sweating at a rate of one Gatorade to every 2-3 bottles of water. And they also need a combination of high protein snacks and natural sugars that will in truth, help maintain their energy throughout the day without a major crash afterwards.
Considering one soda has 240 calories and a snickers bar has 240 calories, eating those as a pregame snacks is essentially 500 calories of malnutrition nothingness that will leave them hungry and craving nutrtion, which will require more food and calories to satisfy.
The point here is not to judge or critical. It’s difficult to talk about nutrition and exercise without upsetting or offending parents, who after all are the ones who provide the food. But like it or not, it and the sedentary world that kids today live in are things we have to consider as responsible parents.
But at the same time, it seems counter intuitive and counter productive to expect our children to perform at their athletic best, when they are being filled with garbage during tournaments. And promoting exercise and wellness is in actuality a life lesson that will greatly benefit our children as they become adults.
And yes, tournaments are supposed to be fun, and there is nothing wrong with snacks and sodas and icees and pixie sticks being consumed by kids in moderation. That being said, junk food seems to quickly be becoming a staple for many (notice we did not say all) kids on tournament days and if you are filling up your cooler or snack bag – or overpaying at the concession stands for numerous sweet and sugary pick me ups, you are doing your child a disservice.
And this makes no mention of how unhealthy ENERGY drinks are for young kids, which is also quickly becoming a fad among youth athletes.
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