Strong Families, Strong Daughters Blog

Five Tips to Help Your Daughter Become a Stronger Athlete

Jennifer Pruskowski

As a parent, you want your daughter to succeed in whatever sport she plays. However, success is defined by so much more than achievements or wins. It is crucial to help student-athletes develop healthy routines and healthy mindsets that will prevent injury, nourish them, build up their strength, and help them to find joy in their sport.

Here are five important tips to help your daughter become the most well-rounded, healthiest athlete she can be. 

  1. Get a good night’s sleep! Did you know that your daughter is 1.7 times more likely to get injured when she gets fewer than eight hours of sleep? In addition, lack of sleep accounts for a 9% decrease in accuracy, a 4% slower speed, and poor decision making. As applied sport scientist Dr. Tim Gabbett says, "It's not the load that breaks you down; it's the load that you're not prepared for." Encourage your daughter to remember that it’s not just training and conditioning that will make her a better athlete. Proper rest will give her both a physical and mental edge and help her to truly reach her full athletic potential. 
  2. Pay attention to your gut. Athletes should eat three or four hours before an activity. Foods to avoid include fiber, foods with high carb concentrations, and high fructose. Work to prevent dehydration as well as overhydration. Other ways you can take care of your gut are to avoid laying down 2-3 hours after a meal, decreasing caffeine intake, and in general eating smaller meals. Managing stress is also an important factor in keeping healthy. 
  3. Directly target areas of likely injury in training. Youth injury happens from the bottom up (as does growth)—from the ankle to the knee to the hip. There are certain types of exercises that can be done to increase tendon health, tissue tolerance, and localized strength so that these sorts of lower body injuries don’t happen. The best way to do this is by increasing the amount of time that muscles are under tension. Certain types of exercises do this very well. They include Isometrics (holds, such as staying in plank position); Eccentrics (controlled descents, such as a slow squat); and Tempo work (which varies the speed at which you do certain exercises and helps build muscle by giving you time under tension). 
  4. Develop a good set of “brakes.” As strength coach Matthew Ibrahim says, “Speed is worthless without a durable, long lasting set of brakes.”  Two ways to work on your student athlete’s “brakes” are through deceleration and landing. Deceleration demonstrates body control when changing speeds (speeding up to slowing down) in a fast and controlled manner. Landing demonstrates body control when accepting a load and absorbing force upon impact in a fast and controlled manner. A training program that includes jumping and landing exercises can be effective in reducing the risk of lower body injuries. 
  5. Know what drives you. Performance coach Brett Bartholomew describes the art of coaching as “the ability to identify, analyze, and adapt to variables that affect human performance." Growing in self-knowledge and being aware of the unique factors that make your daughter who she is and gets her up in the morning is crucial. There is no one size fits all method to learning and honing technique and competing well. 
Jennifer Pruskowski is Oakcrest School’s Varsity Soccer and Varsity Track Coach and Physical Education teacher. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pittsburgh and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She began teaching and coaching at Oakcrest in 2010.
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