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?