NATA hosted Prepare to Play February 29 in partnership with the University of Kansas Health System, Kansas City Chiefs and area Girl Scouts. This community service event is designed to educate area youth and their parents on important health and safety topics, promote general wellness and highlight the valuable role that ATs play in work, life and sport.
In an effort to raise awareness of the profession as part of the event, At Your Own Risk engaged with a Kansas City parenting community, Kansas City Mom Collective. In addition to having a Kansas City Mom Collective contributor, Jen Christensen and daughter, participate in Prepare to Play, information about the importance of athletic trainers was scheduled to be shared online and via social throughout March in honor of National Athletic Training Month.
A few days later, the COVID-19 pandemic struck the nation causing schools to close, sports to cease and focuses to shift. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, NATA edited the content to provide expertise from an athletic trainer to parents faced with keeping their children educated, active and safe at home. To help parents at home with youth athletes, NATA’s At Your Own Risk held a Facebook Live March 26, hosted by Christensen of Kansas City Mom Collective and University of Kansas Health System athletic trainer Dakota Orlando, MSEd, LAT, ATC. They discussed how parents can help their youth athletes stay healthy and active while away from sports during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To watch the live in full, visit the At Your Own Risk Facebook page. It is a great resource for ATs to share with members of their communities as it covers content for students, athletes and parents.
During the near 22-minute event, Orlando gave advice on how student athletes can stay connected to their team, stretches they can do, unstructured play, heat illness prevention, healthy meals and how kids can prepare for the upcoming season at home.
“If you’re a soccer player, you play baseball [or] softball, put your hands on that ball, and go out there and play,” Orlando said. “Make sure you’re staying in contact with your coaches. We all feel isolated right now. Our coaches want to hear from athletes. … Make sure you stay active. Don’t just stay at home and play videogames and be on your phone.”
Coaches aren’t the only ones who student athletes should be contacting, though. Orlando recommended they call, group FaceTime or use Zoom to check in on one another.
“I know some people have been doing Just Dance and have been doing the same one and having a Just Dance party,” Orlando said. “Or they choose a workout on YouTube and start at the same time, and they are laughing and joking. The main goal is to get your heartrate up and stay active.”
Orlando discussed the importance of stretching. She said not to hold a stretch for just 10 seconds as muscles actually need the stretch to be held for 45 seconds to two minutes in order to relax. Taking deep breaths while stretching can help go a little deeper each time, she said.
Although getting a workout in is important for student athletes, unstructured play is just as important during this time to continue their social learning.
“If they are able to play together with other kids or with parents, it’s good for them because it helps them develop social skills,” Orlando said. “If they fall, they learn to get up and realize not everything is a crisis. If one person gets tagged, the attention is on them and they may not like that. It puts them in an uncomfortable position and puts them in a situation to work through it and absorb those emotions.”
As the season moves into spring, some locations can become warm during workouts or play time. Orlando told viewers about the warning signs for heat illness.
“If your kid is heavy sweating or stops sweating, that’s a major warning sign,” Orlando said. “Tired, dizzy, fatigue, they aren’t acting like themselves are others. They get muscle cramps is one of the early signs. When you see those things, you want to move inside. Your whole goal is now what we call rapid cooling. Get them cold drinks, whether water or juice, preferably water. If you have a Gatorade or PowerAde, give it to them. Have a snack, usually a salty snack. We know dark colors attract the sunlight, so if it’s going to be a hot day, wear a light T-shirt.”
The end of the Facebook Live focused on how families can continue eating healthy with limited groceries and during a more sedentary time.
“This is I think a silver lining during this pandemic,” Orlando said. “Yes, we are spending a lot of time together, but this is an opportunity for parents and all of us to come together to teach the kids how to use appliances, how to cook, what produce is. You can have them be a part of the meal making process. Give them that confidence that they are being listened to and heard. They also get excited as they are helping with the meal, and as you sit down, they will never stop talking saying, ‘I made this.’”
Orlando currently works in Kansas City and has been an AT for six years. She is contracted through a hospital and works out of a high school. Since the pandemic, Orlando has been called to the frontlines of the hospital, where she screens the temperature and well-being of every person who comes in. Once someone passes the screening, they are given a number on their chest.
“That’s become the new normal,” Orlando said. “Athletic trainers are still using what we are known for, which is our empathy and sympathy and really just being that person to help and guide people through the process.”
Athletic trainers are valuable resources for their communities and play an important role in educating, providing resources and keeping patients performance ready for when the pandemic ends. If you are interested in educating your community in a similar fashion and would like recommendations on how to do so, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and someone from the NATA Marketing, Communications and Public Relations department will connect with you.