Water breaks for sports

My 11-year-old son plays football. He participates in two hour practices four times each week and the temperature is usually around 90 degrees. His coach has been allowing one 10 minute water break per practice and finally has agreed to allow two minute water breaks every 30 minutes instead. He will not allow water bottles. I am concerned that this is not enough fluid to keep my child adequately hydrated. Is there anything else I can do to help him stay hydrated or should I just pull him out of this sport that he really loves?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Your concern is very legitimate and is one whose solution is worth the fight. Quite often in youth sports, external factors can get in the way of proper nutrition and hydration. Withholding water from a child when they need it won't get their bodies acclimated to it. What it will get the coach is suboptimal performance.

Ideally, the players should be allowed to drink four ounces every fifteen minutes. It is good that you were able to get the switch from one long break to short breaks every thirty minutes. Most likely this will be fine to keep the players properly hydrated.

To guarantee that your son will not become dehydrated be sure he arrives at practice well hydrated. That means drinking plenty all day long, and at least 10 ounces one to two hours before practice. When practice is over, be sure he gets 16 ounces more to drink, and that he is able to get out of the heat to prevent further sweating and fluid loss.

Explain to your son that he can be sure he is well hydrated if he is urinating frequently and his urine is almost clear and not acrid smelling and deep yellow.

You may also want to try to schedule practice for a cooler time of day. Allow the kids to wear light colored clothing, and change from sweaty shirts to dry during one of the breaks. Be sure there is a shady place for taking the water break. Assign individual water bottles so that all kids are drinking the water they need.

For pre-adolescent children, sufficient fluid is even more critical than for teenagers. They sweat less and so get hotter during exercise, therefore requiring fluid to help keep their body cool. Football players are at additional risk because all their protective gear reduces the body's ability to cool itself.

If you are worried your son is not getting enough fluids, weigh him before and after practice. Excessive weight loss is a sign that he is not replacing the fluid, and in excessive heat. this can lead to dangerous heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Thanks for asking an important question. Withholding water doesn't make kids tough, it just gets them dehydrated, and dehydration if not treated, can affect more than performance. It can endanger their health.

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