News & Events

The Challenges of Parenting a High School Athlete

Manchester, CT, November 6, 2019 - If you’re the parent of a high school athlete, you play a critical role in their success. High school athletics give kids a chance to experience the highs and lows of competition and the joys of being team members. At the same time, both the athlete and their parents face the challenges of balancing the demands of both sports and academics. The parents’ role can make all the difference, according to Jon Dahlquist, dean of wellness and athletics at East Catholic High School.

“Parental support is essential for these students to manage the competing responsibilities of sports and academics,” he says. He suggests that parents get an overall picture what their child’s responsibilities are, on and off the field. “We suggest creating a family calendar that includes dates and times of practices, training, and games,” he says. “Take it one week at a time. Before the week begins, sit down as a family and look at what’s ahead for your student athlete, in school and sports. If you understand what’s coming in both these areas, it helps you make more informed decisions as a family. What homework assignments, tests, and events does your child have in the coming week? What games and practices do they have and how will these impact academic responsibilities? What night does your son need to stay late for practice? Do you have a meeting that night? Who can you call in to help make that happen? The goal here keeping the athlete on track without putting excessive stress on the family.” He also advises using the resources of the school to create this calendar. “Don’t just rely on your kids to get you all this information,” he cautions. “Take advantage of the resources your school has to offer like parent portals, coaches, teachers, and school counselors. All of them can help families get a better handle on all that their kids need to manage.”

He suggests three important areas where parents can help support their high school athletes:

  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Workouts

Nutrition - “It’s on the parents to emphasize the role of good nutrition,” says Dahlquist. “Parents can help by planning meals and snacks based on the demands of the coming week. For example, if you know the athlete will have a late game, maybe prepare a few meals ahead of time so it’s just a matter of heating them up when he or she comes home late that night.”

Dahlquist also suggests that parents stock up on healthy snacks so their athletes can fuel themselves throughout the day and in advance of a game or workouts. “If a student has an early lunch and goes to a game at 3:45 p.m., they have no gas in the tank to perform,” he says. “They should be having a healthy snack 30 to 60 minutes before a competition. Things like trail mix, granola bars, fig newtons, graham crackers, and peanut butter. These have good carbohydrates and protein to keep them going.”

East Catholic also educates their athletes on nutritious eating through a program called The Colorful Plate. Parents can support the ideas by presenting meals that balance protein, grains, vegetables, and healthy carbohydrates. “We can look at these students like sports cars and they need to know when and what to put in their tanks to keep them going,” he said.

Sleep - “Quality sleep is the best recovery a human can have,” points out Dahlquist. “For ages 12 to 18 you want them to get as close as possible to nine hours of sleep a night. We know most of them are only getting seven hours or less. That’s not good for any student, whether or not they are an athlete.” He offers these tips to parents who want to help their kids get as much quality sleep as possible:

  • Reinforce the need for a set bedtime and help them understand the critical role of sticking to a sleep routine. 
  • Have a standard wake-up time for weekdays and try not to deviate too much on the weekends.
  • Keep bedrooms dark.
  • Eliminate screen time one hour before bed. This includes phones, computers and TVs.
  • Limit caffeine.
  • Encourage 30-minute power naps if they need to recharge during the day but stay away from the two-hour ones. These interfere the sleep cycle.
  • Give your child one day off from practice; not to play another sport but to really rest.

Workouts - “While workouts are a critical part of training for athletes, we do have concerns about year-round training,” says Dahlquist. “For athletes who participate in multiple sports, we worry about overuse.” He encourages parents to promote a variety of activities for their athletes and to promote multiple sport participation to prevent and strengthen muscles, and balance different parts of the body. “Athletes gain benefits from participating in a variety of activities. You don’t get those if you’re just involved in one sport,” he says. He adds that an overemphasis on getting really good at one sport can also lead to burn-out.

As the Dean of Wellness and Athletics at East Catholic, Dahlquist is committed to the life-long benefits of physical activity. He urges all parents to support their children's participation in all forms of exercise, whether they want to participate in organized sports or not.

Interested in learning more about ways to support your student athlete? Listen to Jon Dahlquist’s advice.

About East Catholic High School

East Catholic High School is a regional college-preparatory school of the Archdiocese of Hartford in Manchester, CT. Students come from more than 35 towns in the Greater Hartford area and eastern Connecticut. East Catholic is a place where students discover who they are meant to be. The school has been awarded the Blue-Ribbon School of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education and is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the state of Connecticut. East Catholic students are challenged to build their own strong moral character while pursuing academic excellence, responsible citizenship, active participation in community service, sportsmanship, and an appreciation for the fine arts. An overwhelming number of East Catholic students (97 percent) go on to attend four- and two-year colleges. For more information, please visit the East Catholic High School Website.

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