Energy Drinks and Young Athletes

I’ve been meaning to start posting again for a while now that my life has gone from barely managed chaos to just insanely busy. So while perusing the excellent NY Times Chrome Edition, I stumbled across an interesting article on young athletes and energy drinks:

In a recent survey of American high-school athletes, 32 percent reported drinking energy beverages. In another survey, 27 percent of a group of 16,000 adolescent athletes, some as young as 11, said that they used caffeine, usually in the form of energy drinks, to improve their sports performance; 13 percent said they did so at the urging of their coaches.

That last part just blows me away, though I’ll admit I expected the percentage to be a little higher. Yes, I can be called a hypocrite given that my morning would not be complete without a HUGE cup of coffee or Diet Pepsi. But I’m a 40 year old adult! Yet when you see kids downing these energy drinks like some sort of kick off ritual, it’s a problem. Some leagues have even gone so far as to ban energy drinks from their complexes. Why? Because of both potential health risks (even if just high caloric intake) and the message it sends (take this to play better). We all know parents who take their child to Starbucks for a double shot before matches, only to have their child crash after halftime. Even more telling was the recent researching showing caffeine improved response time, but that overall speed and accuracy were better in the group that did NOT use caffeine.

When it comes to my players, I tend to be very strict about stuff like this.  When I caught my then U11 girls passing around a tube of some glucose gel at a game I flipped out. I’m sure they couldn’t understand why I was so upset at first, but I made very clear the whole idea of needing a stimulant or supplement to play well was ludicrous and they were in fantastic shape – any lack of energy (or low blood sugar which those gels are indicated for) meant their diet and sleep habits needed to improve. Plus the concept of needing artificial ‘help’ to perform could lead to very bad choices as they got older.

Why yes, I am a nanny coach! And proud of it. How would you handle players who drank Red Bull and friends, or as a parent if their coach encouraged their use?

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  1. I agree with your feelings on this and coaches in all sports across the board have a big responsibility to educate their players by pointing them in the right direction for eating and drinking the right stuff before matches or training sessions.
    This is an article taken from about keeping players well hydrated when they’re playing and it points out that there’s no substitute for drinking water.

    Keeping players hydrated
    Whether it’s a hot day or a cold one, water is vital for the health and fitness of your players during soccer training drills and matches, so make sure it is available all the time.

    Keeping your body properly hydrated is vital when playing sport. This is especially true for youngsters, whose bodies are still growing and developing. A lack of water can cause players to become drowsy and dehydrated. The cure is the simple act of drinking water. As a coach, it’s a basic tip to make sure your players are drinking water.

    Take plenty of water bottles with you and spread them around the pitch during training sessions and have them handy in matches so you can let players drink when they need to.

    When the weather is hot it is easy to drink water. In the colder months, drinking water takes more of an effort, but drinking adequate amounts is just as important.

    One of my players often brings a flask of hot chocolate on cold days, but this is no substitute for water and does not replace the fluids lost during physical activity.

  2. Energy drinks are forboten on both my AYSO and high school teams. I remember coaching U12 girls a century or so back and there was a girl who had a Red Bull before and at Halftime of every game. We all talked about it at the time, and sure enopugh it started to have adverse effects on her health, but they caught it soon enough. It’s not enough to teach X’s and O’s to kids. We have to teach them good nutrition, training, and help them to become good citizens.

    <Peace Love Soccer