Posts Tagged ‘Kids at Play’

General Mills Applauded by ISPA

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

General Mills, a leading maker of breakfast cereal, has announced that it is cutting the amount of sugar in 10 of its cereals geared toward children. They will strive for single digit grams of sugar per serving. This is fantastic news for families. The children’s obesity crises is out of control in the United States and now families have an added champion—-General MIlls. Congratulations General Mills! For other ways to help your family eat better and lead a healthy lifestyle, see my new book, FAMILY FIT. It is available now through the ISPA bookstore or at In January, 2010 it hits the bookstores.

Please support General Mills and buy their products to keep them moving in the right direction.

Dr. John E. Mayer, President, ISPA

APHA – Teens, Football & Risk

Monday, November 9th, 2009

At the annual meetings of the American Public Health Association (APHA) in Philadelphia, PA this past weekend (see the APHA came out with the results of a survey of teens that stated that teenage boys who played football are more likely than their peers to engage in risky behaviors such as drugs, drinking and violence.

We at ISPA and I independently in my clinical practice (see  have been saying for some time that we must be concerned about the youth culture within sports and how it can be a delicate environment, one where young people can learn negative behaviors just as much as they can learn the positive behaviors that we traditionally think sports can foster.

In my experience the negatives traits and behaviors that can grow out of sports can be prevented and even reversed by those adults who are in leadership roles in sports. It is our passion at ISPA to reach sports professionals in all fields, coaches, trainers, and the media to make a difference in this very issue of the fragile balance in sports at all levels between good values and harmful ones.

We need your help to spread the word about the International Sports Professionals Association-ISPA and our mission to improve the world of sports.

Dr. John E. Mayer, President

Kids Triathlons

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

In article appeared in last Thursday’s New York Times on Kids Triathlons. I was glad to see some publicity about this great sport, however, was a little disappointed that the article focused primarily on the dangers of the sport and not more on the positives. As a former youth Triathlete I can attest to the benefits of Kids Triathlons. Triathlon taught me a lot about working towards goals and the pure joy of competition. Furthermore, it gave me a diverse athletic background that prevented overuse injuries that plague so many young athletes who specialize in one sport. Yes, Triathlon like many youth sports has dangers, however, when a child is guided correctly there is no reason for concern. When children are young they should only be worried about having fun and should be involved with a variety of athletic events. Triathlon is a great way for children to stay active and learn about themselves and their bodies.

“Suck it up” Bad & Dangerous Advice

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

“Suck it Up” is Bad and Dangerous

The traditional coaching axiom after what seems to be a minor injury is not only stupid, it is now being seen by experts as dangerous. We are heading into what some experts consider the ‘head trauma season’ in sports. Coaches, trainers, parents, it is wise to be prepared.

If a player receives an injury, even a minor one, what many coaches call a “dinger” or when the player sees stars or is briefly disorientated, they need to sit. These are mild concussions and not sitting can be dangerous. Last year the New York Times did a series of 15 articles on the results of repeated concussions in players from youth through pros. They found that the long term consequences of repeat concussions were: persistent headaches, fatigue, difficulty paying attention (ADD-like symptoms), memory problems, mood swings and personality changes. In a few cases even death resulted.

Don’t take even ‘minor’ hits lightly. “When in doubt, sit them out.” That is the strong advice of Dr. Robert C. Cantu, one of the leading experts on concussions. (As quoted in the New York Times Aug. 25, 2009) Dr. Cantu is a co-author of the National Athletic Trainers Association position paper on sports-related concussions.

These ‘dings’ to the head do not only come from sports. Parents know that young children bang their heads frequently as they learn how to navigate their world. Take the same advice, make them rest and not exert themselves after a hit to the head, even minor.

Dr. John E. Mayer, President-ISPA

Summer Hydration= Increased Activity and Increased Heat

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I thought it may be useful to pass along hydration guidelines as we approach the summer months when many of us are more active and those we coach, train or advise are looking for the best information on fluid intake and the body’s needs.

The following is an excerpt from the soon to be released book: Family Fit (ISPA/NP2 Publishing, 2009) by Dr. John Mayer. With permission from the author and publisher.

Visit Dr. Mayor’s web site for purchase information.

Water, Water Everywhere

One food mentioned on the preceding chart deserves special attention in our families—water. Water is often neglected in households. It has been consistently shown to be as good a thirst quencher as any sports drink or other beverage. We just do not drink enough water in our diet even though it is vital to our physical well-being. Make sure your family drinks plenty. The average healthy adult should drink the equivalent of about 5-6 glasses of water per day. It is a widely held myth that we should be consuming water according to the 8×8 rule. That is, eight 8 oz glasses of water per day. We don’t require that much water for a variety of reasons. Dr. Heinz Valtin, Professor Emeritus at Dartmouth Medical School and author of many of the most esteemed textbooks on kidney function and water balance has studied the body’s need for water all of his career. His research gives me great confidence to talk about the proper needs for water in the body. (more…)

Kids Don’t Know How to Play

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Young People Don’t Know How to Play!

Dr. John Mayer


Socrates said, “Play is the work of the child.” One of the dilemmas of today’s young people is that they often don’t know how to play. Yes, that’s right, kids don’t know how to play! And this condition is getting worse as kids are buried into technological devices as their definition of play. So, when they are among other kids, they behave awkward, fumble around and it becomes not fun. So, we witness a revolving door as they retreat back into their technological abyss.

Professionals who work in the field of sports know that today’s youth do not get enough physical activity and physical interaction with other young people. The sad condition that our schools are eliminating PE and Health classes certainly doesn’t help this problem.

A recent article in the New York Times Magazine by Peggy Orenstein titled, Kindergarten Cram. (NYT, May 3, 2009) reminded me of an article I wrote approximately four years ago on youth and play. That article of mine had a similar title to the one I am presenting here. In that article, as I am reporting here, kids just don’t know how to play. Orenstein would attribute this to the fact that they simply don’t get the chance to play like they used to. Her NYT article of May 3rd points out that Kindergarteners spend an average of 19 minutes per day in free play in comparison to 89 minutes learning literacy, 47 minutes in math, and 21 minutes in test preparation skills. Orenstein further points out that all this concern over cramming knowledge into the heads of young people in place of play is actually in vain because most experts and studies show that any advantage gained by this over-emphasis on learning is lost by middle school. She also points out that by not encouraging play valuable social and emotional skills are lost so much so that by age 15 academic achievement plummets and youth are more likely to exhibit emotional problems. She cites that authorities such as Daniel Pink have proposed that the viability of the United States in the global economy rests on the accentuation of qualities such as versatility, imagination, creativity, vision and playfulness.

But, I am probably preaching to the choir here. As fellow professionals serving sports, we all agree that kids need more activity and need to be engaged through sports participation in moving their bodies. So, let’s take a look at how this impacts us as sports professionals and think about ways to change this negative equation.

What implication does this have for us?

The areas we most see the effects of this play deficit are:

Team participation– youth have a harder time being a team player

Motivation– it is harder than ever to motivate young people

Competition– young people do not know how to handle competition

Sportsmanship– young people lack the social skills of being sportsmanlike when participating

Coachability– so much of this results in young athletes that are harder and harder to coach

Quitting– for the young person, all this translates into a youth who will not stay with athletics or become easily distracted by other diversions in life and not stay with their sport

How This Can Change:

Leadership- Adults, and certainly all of us, need to demonstrate strong leadership. Let’s get young people active and out into the playing fields, the courts and gyms…..and let’s not accept NO for an answer. Physical activity should be a part of every family’s lifestyle. But, we adults must make it such.

There is nothing wrong with insisting that young people get away from the electronics and be active with other family members. They may grunt and groan at first, but a strong leader can make the unpopular decision for the good of the family. This is true leadership.

Modeling- Not complicated to explain, we adults need to be more physically active and lead our youth into a new lifestyle. Show them the joy of moving around and playing.

Teaching– When you see negative behaviors during play, call it out to the young person and show them a better way immediately. Everyone, coaches, mom’s and dad’s, professionals helping teams/schools, should call out poor social skills when you see it and use it as a learning moment. Encourage moms and dad’s to stay and watch practices, not jut drop kids off and speed away. Then parents can given feedback to young people after the practice or game. But, don’t be the negative, mean-spirited, “Vince Lombardi” coach or parent. That type of adult style just doesn’t work with today’s youth. In fact, it will turn them off to sports and physical activity altogether. They will retreat back into the hibernation of electronics land.

Lobbying- Let’s get more physical activity back into our schools.

Research- Let’s build a strong case to prove the value of play and sports. Peggy Orenstein’s article mentioned an organization called the Alliance for Childhood. Use ISPA, with our publishing division and CEU program to educate on the value of play and sports. Send us your research and ideas for publication, from newsletter articles to CEU courses to books.

So, I end by going back to Socrates. He would say that young people are not doing their jobs. (Playing) Now, let’s do our job and get young people more active.