We can all use a “Brain Break” from time to time. But what’s become abundantly clear is that our young athletes can really use one too. Have you noticed how hard it is for them to get serious and focused when they arrive at their afternoon sports practice, after spending the day behind a computer doing virtual or modified learning? That’s because they need a break… and you don’t need to be an expert in Social And Emotional Learning (SEL) to know that.
It’s really hard for them to leap from the virtual school environment to the learning environment at the ball fields without a good, healthy brain break. So if you want your athletes to be focused and ready for practice, here are a few ways to implement a 15 minute brain break before every practice:
- Let your athletes organize themselves in a “free play” environment that you loosely supervise.
- Set up some relay races or obstacle courses so the kids can burn off some energy in a competitive environment.
- Set up some team building games that might involve exercises that can only be completed with a partner (sit ups, partner push-ups, leapfrog, wheelbarrow, piggy back rides etc.)
- Let your players take turns telling jokes in front of their teammates.
- Have each player lead the team in their favorite exercise.
- Have your team take a jog or a bike ride together.
This necessary brain break should have been obvious to us, but I missed the boat until I asked my u12 girls soccer team why they are so unfocused and giggly at practice. They told me what I should have known all along:
- “Coach, I can’t keep my mind in one place after staring at my computer all day”
- “Coach, I can’t stop laughing when I get to practice”
- “Coach, it’s hard for me to focus on one thing when you are talking to us”
Let’s be aware that our athletes are dealing with many hidden challenges right now that are preventing them from “just being kids”.
So let’s give them and their brains a break before we ask them to start their training.
Ian Goldberg is a sports dad, coach and the Founder of iSport360.