Jeff Farris
A player's stomach can be a big factor going into a game or practice. What players put in their stomachs hours before a game can make a big difference in game time energy and performance. If, during a game, players find themselves:
  • Feeling sluggish
  • Experiencing muscle cramps
  • Getting nauseous
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Running out of energy
  • Playing at a lower level than previous games
Then, eating the right types of foods and at the right times may be factors. It takes time for the human body to convert food into energy, so a quick snack just before a game will have little impact. However, a healthy meal, eaten several hours before, may have a large impact on performance. Players should:
  • Eat a healthy meal 3-6 hours before a game.
  • Eat a light snack 1-2 hours before a game.
  • Drink plenty of water.
Players should avoid:
  • Foods or drinks with high sugar or caffeine content to avoid the energy highs and lows that follow.
  • Greasy or starchy foods (most fast food).
  • Foods or drinks that can make you nauseous such as citrus drinks or milk.
A little "stomach planning" before a game can have a big impact at the game. When a player is in the car on the way to a competition, it is just too late to prepare the body with the energy it will require.
Jeff Farris
For coaches, practice time is a precious opportunity to get players ready for the next game.  For players, practice is an opportunity to spend time with friends and doing what they like doing.  These are not the same goals. To get the most out of their players, coaches have to structure a practice that reaches a compromise between these different goals.  A little fun at the beginning and end of a practice can help kids perform their best when working on stamina or quickness drills in the middle.  Coaches should consider turning some drills into quick competitions among groups of players to help build team chemistry and fun, such as relay races instead of simply running or skating. Dave Tippett, head coach for the Dallas Stars, believes that the best practice from a child's point of view is a scrimmage.  "Kids want to play.  I do the same thing with the Dallas Stars.  At the end of a practice, I'll drop two pucks in the middle of the ice and just let them play." Fun is important at all ages and getting the most from players involves using their personal motivations to accomplish the team goals.  Practice fun goes a long way to building a winning team and makes participation more enjoyable for everyone.
Jeff Farris
Parents are comfortable giving instructions to their child and this comfort naturally spills over into athletic competitions. However, when it comes to game time instruction, coaches, league staff, officials and sports psychologists all have one word of advice - DON'T! 

Although it seems like a good idea to yell "pass" or "hustle" from the sidelines, studies show that these instructions cause more distraction than help. These instructions interfere with coach-to-player and player-to-player communications and, more importantly, interfere with children's ability to learn to think for themselves. 

Kids are going to make mistakes while playing sports. But professional athletes do too. Michael Jordan missed three times as many game winning shots as he made and Joe Montana completed only about half of his pass attempts. Kids still learning their sport aren't going to perform any better and there are many more games ahead in which to improve. 

So what can parents do along the sidelines? The answer is cheering and not much else. Parents must let their kids play the game for themselves and develop their own experiences working with peers and coaches. If children make mistakes, learning to deal with those mistakes with their teammates and coaches is just part of the process of growing into an better adult.