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Monday, 27 January 2014

Working with High Performance Minor Athletes Part 1

Continuing with our what is an Athletic Therapist series we will discuss the different settings that we can work in.  This week will be focusing on dealing with high performance minor athletes.  Not all Athletic Therapists work with professional teams, in clinics or in high schools.  Some of us have choose to or worked our way up by working amateur sport with young athletes.  Depending on the sport we have worked with kids as young as five all the way up to those at eighteen.  It may seem simple and cut and dry as you are not dealing with high expectations of the professional spot light,  however the pressure and demands that occur in minor sports is high.

Sometimes I wished I was dealing with adults, it would make life so much easier.  When dealing with players under the age of eighteen so many legal issues come into play.  You become their guardian while on road trips, they can not make their own medical decisions, you at times are their mother, best friend, prison guard and teacher.  You are dealing with hormone changes and mood swings, school schedules, and the pressure of playing high level sports.

One of the major things I found when dealing with minor athletes who were competing at high levels was the amount of time expected of them to participate in sport or sport related activities.  Depending on the sport your athletes are going anywhere from five to seven days a week, with training, practice, film sessions, mental training, oh yeah and school.  At times we treat these athletes who are as young as eight like professionals.  I find it funny that they keep talking about the student athletes in post secondary, every athlete under the age of eighteen is a student athlete, and I will tell you not many junior high schools and high schools are as accommodating as post secondary ones for their athletes.  The number of times I have supervised homework sessions, relearned chemistry and math is beyond me.  I do know I do not want to go back to high school.

You help the athletes with their homework but also educate them on aspects of being an athlete, such as proper nutrition, physical training and injury management.  You become not only a teacher to the athletes but to the parents, coaches, officials and administrators.  Many of these people may be new to the high performance levels and needs that these young bodies require to perform at their best.  You learn how to explain things in about four to five different ways.  Athletes and coaches want to know how to achieve success, but need it explained a bit differently.  Parents generally want what is best for their child, and if they have more than one child you soon become knowledgeable about all of them.  Officials be quite young and just starting out or veterans to the sport who may not be up to date on the newest information on health and injury management.  I have found the best way to educate administrators is to put it in dollars and cents, and liability.  They need to worry about the sum of the whole not just the individual parts, you need to be the one who bridges that gap for them.  

When dealing with injuries and medical issues the most important thing that I always had to remember is that you are making the decision not about how does the injury effect their sport life, but their overall life.  This should be how we treat all athletes but unfortunately it is not.  A fourteen year old has so much life ahead of him and even the smallest decision you make can effect how that life will be.  Consultation with parents is always a must, and their decision is the one that counts on what treatment occurs.  You can recommend what you want, but they can say yes or no to it.  When travelling or if the parents are not present you get to make these decisions but you must do so in the best interest of the athlete.

When starting this topic I knew there was lots to explain, but did not realize how much.  Please check back on Thursday for Part 2 of Working with High Performance Minor Athletes.

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