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Playing the Game

A Little League fitness education expert offers tips for kids about how to get the most out of playing on a sports team

April 25, 2014
ROB CARR—GETTY IMAGES

A Little League player gets ready to pitch.

This spring, kids in the U.S. will head outside to get active. Have you considered joining a sports team? TFK spoke to Nick Caringi, who oversees education for Little League International, the largest youth sports organization in the world. This season, Little League is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Caringi—who grew up playing Little League in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where the organization is headquartered—offered some tips for kids about playing on a sports team.

Have a positive attitude when you join a team: “Make sure that you have fun first,” Caringi says. “Go in with the [attitude] to have some fun, and know that you’re not going to be a major league player from the minute you start. That shouldn’t be your goal. Your goal is to go out, have fun, and make friends because this is an experience that will carry with you throughout life.”

Make the most out of practice: Stay active! “We put an extra emphasis on activity, on running, on station work, and on fun—fun being the first priority. Parents want their kids to come home from practice tired and a little sweaty.”

Always warm-up: Do a pre-practice run to get your blood flowing, and then stretch to focus on the muscles you’ll be using, like your throwing arm in baseball. “As you grow, you need the ability to be stretched out a little better because the game itself is changing. When you get to the minor leagues, base running is introduced.” At Little Leagues’ summer baseball camp, the coaches have players do a base-running relay drill to both get in shape, and to learn how to make correct angles when running bases.

Work hard to prevent injuries: “Most sports injuries occur because a) you are not prepared to play [by being] properly stretched and warmed up, and b) because the techniques aren’t taught correctly. In the major league [division], we found that [avoiding] overuse of the [pitching] arm and teaching the proper mechanics go hand-in-hand in helping to prevent injuries.”

Focus on your attitude: “Understand that you can only control two things as a player: your attitude and your effort—how much effort you put toward trying to be a better player and teammate. Everything else will improve based on those two.”

Attend summer sports camps or other clinics: “It’s important that you allow yourself as a player to experience different types of coaches and learn as much as you can. Become a sponge. Look for local camps and clinics. There are also tons of instructional components online.”

Don’t stop moving in the off-season: “Go play other sports. It’s interesting and fun to go experience other sports, not only for the benefit of relationships and fitness, but to cross train different muscle groups as you get older. That makes you a better athlete.”

 

Read more about Little League’s 75th anniversary in the May issues of TIME For Kids classroom magazines and TIME For Kids: Family Edition for tablet.


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