How to prepare for spring sports success

by Beth Milligan

With the days getting longer and the temperatures finally warming up, it’s time to begin spring sports — soccer, softball, baseball, tennis, golf and the list goes on and on. 

During winter, many of us, including our kids, have spent more time inside and have had a more sedentary routine.


Here is a list of suggestions on how to prepare for spring sports, so that you can see me in the stands instead of in the clinic. 

Consider a child’s overall health. I recommend getting a good physical each year. If your child is playing school sports, it is required. It’s always best to establish a relationship with a pediatrician or primary care physician to track your child’s health as well as have someone to call when needed. If a child hasn’t had a recent eye exam, this may be a good time.

Consider a child’s current responsibilities and everyday stress. Some kids flourish with “too much on their plate” while others feel like they’re drowning. You know your child better than anyone. If they’re preparing for their first solo in the church’s Easter program, maybe they don’t need to do two sports this spring.

Encourage children to get outside and play more. Many times, this means you need to shoot baskets with them, play a game of tag, or kick the soccer ball before the first day of practice. Kids usually stay conditioned, but if they haven’t done anything physical since they got an Xbox for Christmas, this is a perfect time to head to a local community center together. You will be amazed how quickly coordination and overall development can improve.

Set a good example. Be a good sport. Encourage your child in the early weeks of a sport. It’s also important to show them how to respect coaches, refs and other sporting officials. They will follow your lead, so remember to “practice what you preach.”

Get organized. About two weeks before the first practice, find all the necessary equipment and have your child try it on. Chances are, their cleats are too small, their bats are too short or their glove is too tight. Go ahead and get the new ones before every other parent ravages the aisles at the sporting goods stores. 

After reading through this, you may be thinking that spring sports are just as much work for the parents as it is for the kids. Good planning and organization on the part of the parent help the child focus on what’s important — getting moving, learning new skills and having fun.

Take the time to encourage your child to participate when they are young, even if they’re not the star on the team. Sports help teach kids the value of teamwork, how to deal with adversity and the significance of commitment. The playing field can also be a great way to meet new friends as well as positive role models. 

Stay safe and enjoy the spring! I’ll see you in the stands. 

Common questions

What do I do if I think my child is injured?

You know your child best, but sometimes with children emotions can unnecessarily scare you or the child. I always recommend beginning with R-I-C-E.

R – Rest from any activity causing the pain.
I – Ice the injured area for 20 minutes.
C – Compress any swelling with an Ace wrap (available at most drug stores) that is firmly applied, but not too tightly. 
E – Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart.

How do I prevent overuse injuries?

Most children, prior to puberty, are at a low risk for overuse injuries. This is mostly due to the fact that pre-pubescent children are not yet big enough to generate the forces that cause more serious injuries in adolescents. 

I always caution parents that “no pain, no gain” is not relevant to little league. This is a period where children should learn the fundamentals of the game as well as the value of teamwork.

Signs and symptoms to look for if you are concerned about an overuse injury:

Soreness that lasts for several hours following the activity.
Soreness and/or pain during and after an activity that is not resolved by the next morning.
Soreness and/or pain during daily living and during sports. 
Essentially, any symptoms of pain that affect their mood or behavior at home and school should be taken seriously. If any of these persist, you should take your child to the doctor.

How important is stretching or warming up?

During periods of rapid growth, such as adolescence, stretching and warming up are very important, although they have not been proven to prevent an injury. I suggest dynamic warmups, where stretching and warming up can be done simultaneously.


Beth Milligan is a physical therapist and clinic supervisor at Conway Regional Therapy Center-Scherman Heights. She’s an avid sports fan, and her specialty is sports injury rehabilitation. She is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist.