Candy-Coated Sports

Spring is in full swing here in Michigan and around the country. That means you can find young athletes playing soccer and baseball in any given park just about every night of the week. It also means that on game days our young players get rewarded with cookies, chips and super-processed-jumbo-sized-mega-sized-chocolate-sugar-pops after their hard fought battles.

When did it happen? When did our nation associate youth sports as another chance to dose our kids up with candy? Can’t we just play the game for the game itself?

Just this week yet another report came out with huge Red Flag warnings for us to ignore. This study found that between the years of 1997 and 2003 the rate of kids hospitalized for type II diabetes jumped 4-fold. That’s a 200% increase in hospitalization for type II diabetes in kids, with those between 9 and 12 years old showing the worst hospitalization rates. This is reaffirming the CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) prediction that 1 out of 3 of today’s kids will become diabetic.

I coach soccer in a small town where we have about 250 kids playing soccer this fall in our club. If we are an average town then the CDC’s prediction translates to more than 80 of those 250 young soccer players with diabetes in their future. Personally, I can’t believe we would let this actually happen – yet the data says it is happening.

But here’s the thing, the single biggest reason for this increase in diabetes rates is completely preventable. All we have to do is stop giving our kids all these sugary treats. We need to disassociate candy and treats from having fun.

It seems like almost every fun activity we have for our kids couples with a bag full of crap: youth sports, birthday parties, Easter baskets, 4th of July parades, Halloween trick-or-treating, Christmas stockings, or just the every day trip to the local ice cream parlor.

Now I like a good scoop of Moose Tracks ice cream on a waffle cone as much as the next person. The whole point is moderation. The ballpark is one area where our kids should be able to have fun without the post-game sugar bombs. It’s one place where they can learn to have fun without the need for junk food.

Kids may complain a little the first season because they have come to expect those rings pops and juice box rewards. But they will quickly get over it. I didn’t have any players quit my team when I neglected to set a snack schedule at the beginning of the season last year.

As a little aside, those sports drinks that you see super athletes drinking on TV aren’t going to help your kids either. Those are great for replacing electrolytes in an older athlete who is really taxing his or her body and sweating buckets. But I can tell you that in my 20 years of coaching, I have never seen an elementary school age player with the need for those drinks. Have you ever looked at their labels for sugar and salt concentration? Water works just fine for our youngest players.

It may be an unpopular move in the beginning but please encourage your team coach or manager to forego the snack schedule this year – unless of course you think your kids would enjoy injecting themselves with insulin every day of their adult life.

Copyright (c) 2007 The Brain Code LLC