You can always tell when I come off a weekend full of kids sports and activities! I have to share something about my kids, an amazing play or some crazy parent that could not control themselves on last soccer field.   This week, I want to dedicate this blog to the KIDS and share what we need to know as parents, coaches and mentors to get them to the next level safely!

Let's start with the biggest complaint that I am hearing right now from parents. . ."injuries"!  Kids between the ages of 9 and 15 are getting injured during practice and game time at record numbers.  Parents are becoming concerned and at times frustrated because some of these injuries seem to never go away.  Their kids start to miss practice and valuable game time to help them compete at a higher level.  I get it! You son or daughter is talented and need to be out there but at what cost?

There are several factors to take into consideration when your child gets injured.  Some injuries are out of our control.  If they collide with another athlete and/or physical hurt themselves in a game because of an unlucky move to make something big happen in the game.  Then there are the injuries that we can control.  Those injuries have to do with their ligaments, tendons and muscles.  There are proper techniques to keep kids healthy and continue to grow with minimum injuries and that's want I want to focus on today.  

As I always state, talk to your pediatrician/family doctor about how your kids are growing and what you need to look out for when they are in sports at such a young age.  I am a former kid athlete and competed at high school, state and in the Big 12 division level with Track and Field.  I have worked with doctors throughout my athletic career to keep my body aligned and healthy in order to keep competing at any age, especially as a teenager and young adult.  

Right now some of the most common injuries with kid athletes from the ages of 9-15 are knee injuries, tight hamstrings, and some hip issues.  There are things you can do as a parent and a coach to keep your athletes strong and injury free.  

First, before you get your child involved in any sport get a physical from your family doctor or pediatrician.  I recommend finding a doctor who familiar with the demands of youth sports especially at the competitive level.  They can discuss what is going on with your child's body at whatever age they are at and what to look out for in their particular sports.  

Second, understanding that your child is not a smaller version of yourself or any adult.  I totally get that your child is talented and can take on the world but they are still a "child".  Their bodies and even minds are not fully developed and you have to be their sounding board on how to play safe and hard at the same time.  Things that come easy to us (because as adults we are seasoned and fully developed) may not be that easy for child to understand.  So be patient with them as they learn the "ins and outs" of their sport.

Third, good coaching can be hard to find but the coach has to love what he/she does and is willing take your child to the next level.  For the most part, coaches are definitely there for the kids and they have a passion for their sport, hands down.  I have been very lucky of the years to have amazing coaches like Coach Janet Casey, Coach McGuire and Coach Gatson from the University of Missouri and SCW high school.  They had a true passion for the sport and took the time to talk to me and understand where I was as an athlete to get me to the next level.  That is what you look for in a coach.  If they truly "care" about each athlete and can clearly communicate and positively influence your child. . .that's a good coach.  As a parent, sometime we tend to get jealous of the hold a "good coach" may have on our kids because WE can't even hold their attention but relax.  Your child/kid is learning GOOD STUFF! Listen to their coach and help the coach build a fantastic athlete! "Let the coach be a COACH and if you are not happy move on, don't argue with the coach during an entire season."

Last but not least, make sure your kid is having fun.  I understand that Grandpa Joe was a football player and Uncle Jed was a track star and you have to keep the athleticism in the family but make sure your child is competing for the right reason. . .their reason and not for you or anyone else.  

I have to confess, I had a hard time with this one because when my oldest daughter didn't want to run track a few years ago, I thought I was going to MELT AWAY into a dark hole! WHAT? You don't like running? (but it was because I forced her to do it)  You look at her and she is BUILT to run 800 meter race but I had to let it GO! UGH!!!! Why? Because, I have seen what it has down to some of my team mates over my younger years who only competed to make their parents happy and let me tell you, the results did not turn out well.  So listen and let the chips fall where they may!

For me, I got lucky! I am happy to say she has entered Cross Country on her own and she is going to be amazing!!! SHHHHH! Don't tell her I told you! At the end of the day, just make sure your kid is "happy" and that they are in a positive environment.  Stay encouraging and let them know. . .you've got their back! Happy Parenting! LOL!

2012 (400meter Olympic) Winner Sanya Richards-Ross