Nutrition, High-Tech Style

My son’s fitness trainer had a little chat with him last week about his nutritional needs and how best to meet them.  My son is growing taller but is still lacking in the “cushioning” category – i.e. he’s all lean body mass with very few physical reserves or extra fat on his frame.  His tennis coach (and his mother!) thinks he needs to bulk up a bit in order to have enough stamina to withstand the physical demands of competing in the Boys 18s.

The trainer told him, based on his height and weight, he needs to be consuming 115 grams of protein EVERY DAY.  Since neither he nor I had any idea how that translated to real-world eating, we turned to the Apple iTunes Store, figuring there HAD to be an app for that.

We found a free app called Calorie Counter that does everything my son needs – he enters all meal and snack items with amounts eaten, and the app tracks and totals his fat, carbohydrate, protein, and calorie intake for the day.  It even has foods listed by popular restaurants’ menu names (including Panera and Olive Garden – do the rest of you eat there as much as we do???) which makes tracking easier when we’re traveling for a tournament.  He can also add his physical activity for each day so he gets a calories-in-calories-out summary.  Then, he can email the data to his trainer for accountability purposes.

The really cool thing is that now my son can see, in black and white, which food choices help him reach his 115-grams-per-day protein goal more quickly and which slow him down.  For example, this morning he ate 2 pieces of French Toast with peanut butter and maple syrup before heading off to school for a total of 19.2 grams of protein.  Compare that to yesterday’s breakfast of a toasted bagel with cream cheese, lox, and onions with a glass of orange juice for a total of 33.24 grams of protein.  Both were filling but the bagel breakfast got him way closer to his daily protein intake goal.

I figure my kid isn’t the only one who needs a little help nutrition-wise.  And, anything he can do on his iPhone is more likely to GET done, if you know what I mean.  If you’ve found any other nutrition or fitness apps you’d like to share, please add them in the Comments box below.  Happy tracking!

High(er) Anxiety

A friend recently posted an article on Facebook about our local public high school, the one my son attends and from which my daughters graduated.  The article is about 5 years old – and a bit lengthy – but many of the student observations and quotes are still very applicable today.  And, re-reading it now that my son is in his sophomore year is really making me think about the path he is on and the path I am on with him as he gets further into his high school career and closer to the end of his Junior Tennis Journey.

If you want to take the time to read the article, I promise it will make you think, or re-think, about how you interact with your child(ren).  And, if it doesn’t, it should.  We are raising our children in an era of very high anxiety, very high pressure, very high expectations.  For student-athletes pursuing a college scholarship, the pressure is magnified.  Is it any wonder many families choose virtual school or home school as an alternative to this mishigas (i.e. craziness for my non-Yiddish-speaking readers)?  Read the excerpt below and tell me you don’t recognize your child or someone you know here:

A 17-year-old should not have to spend a week in the hospital for exhaustion.  Students shouldn’t have to drag themselves through each and every school week on 28 hours of sleep or take a handful of Advil to get through soccer practice or calculus class. It may not seem like it, but we’re tired.  Everything doesn’t have to be a lesson or lecture. A kid can’t just strike out anymore and get on with his life. Yes, we know to keep our eye on the ball, you’ve told us 4 million times. Head down on the golf swing—we know. So we slip. We forget.  We’re not gonna go, like, rob banks because we shank a few Titleists off into the Chattahoochee.  Sometimes we get so much pressure from so many angles we get dizzy. We juggle so many things all day every day it almost seems silly to come home and have you nag us to do our homework. We know we have homework; we’re the ones who lugged it home like pack mules. Did it ever occur to you that what you and the teachers call procrastination is just our way of taking two seconds to, like, think?  Some of us need pushing, but there’s such a thing as pushing too hard.

As I prepare to write yet another note saying my son was absent due to illness, I have to ask myself why I allow myself to compromise my own morals when in fact I am 100% in favor of my son missing a day of school here and there (as long as he stays on top of his school work) in order to pursue his passion.  Of course, one answer is because I don’t want to see my son punished academically – teachers do not allow students to make up work or tests missed due to an Unexcused Absence – when his particular sport isn’t one offered year-round by his school.  And, I believe 100% that pursuing one’s passion is the best antidote to the stress that our society breeds.  Unless the pursuit of the passion adds stress and anxiety instead of relieving it.  So the challenge, as always, is striving for a healthy balance between hard work, dedication, and commitment as well as lightness and fun.  It’s a big ask.  I certainly don’t pretend to have the answers.

A friend of mine who happens to be a licensed social worker and also has a 16 year old son says, “And not too much is said about the incredible changes and pressures for parents as we navigate all this wonderful progressive technology that makes it harder for families to connect. I’m exhausted with all the efficiency.”  It’s so true!   How are the rest of you Tennis Parents coping with this challenge?  How are you helping your tennis players find the balance?  I look forward to reading your comments.

K12 and NCAA

A ParentingAces reader messaged me this morning to tell me that K12‘s online schools have recently been put on “Extended Review” by the NCAA.  She went on to say, “It’s throwing quite a lot of us parents into a panic! So many tennis players, athletes, actors, musicians, etc. use the K12 programs (especially the free state charter school pathways), so this is insane!”

As a former K12 parent, naturally I was curious to find out what was going on.  I contacted K12 through its Facebook page to see what I could learn.  I got a very quick reply from them accompanied by a phone call from Jeff Kwitowski,  K12’s Senior Vice-President of Public Policy.

First of all, it’s important to understand that K12 has never had any of its courses rejected by the NCAA for failure to comply to its standards of rigor.  There has been NO VIOLATION by K12 to date.  Apparently, the NCAA is under increased scrutiny to ensure that incoming college student-athletes have the necessary academic knowledge and experience to survive and thrive at the university level – that’s a good thing in my opinion. They have changed their education standards for all high schools, not just virtual schools such as K12.  Click here to read the NCAA Homeschool Information sheet and click here to read the NCAA Homeschool FAQ (which also applies to virtual schools such as K12).

And, as of last week, the NCAA has put K12 under a 2-year Extended Review that could require students to demonstrate that a specific course (or courses) provided adequate engagement by the student and the teacher, and that the student achieved “college readiness” as a result of taking the course.  Please note, though, that this Extended Review only applies to students who are seeking eligibility from the NCAA to play a Division 1 or Division 2 varsity sport in college – it does not apply to Division 3, NAIA, or junior colleges, nor does it apply to non-athletes seeking admission to a college through regular (non-sport) channels.

K12’s official stance on the review is as follows:

“K12 courses have met the NCAA standards for years and, we believe, K12 courses continue to meet these standards.  However, during this extended review period, individual K12 courses completed by students will need to be reviewed by the NCCA Eligibility Center.

Our K12 counselors, advisors, and school leaders are prepared to work closely with every family to ensure all necessary information and documentation on K12 courses are provided to demonstrate they meet the eligibility requirements.

While we are confident K12 courses meet eligibility standards, the final decision will be made by NCAA on a case by case basis.   Therefore, we cannot guarantee that every course successfully completed by a student will be accepted by NCAA.”

If your child is currently enrolled in a K12 high school program, please contact your particular school’s administration to find out what steps you and your child need to take in order to ensure NCAA eligibility.  The administrators are all well-trained in helping families overcome this hiccup in the college application process.

I have emailed Mark Emmert, current President of NCAA, to ask for clarification on the potential impact this “extended review” could have on current and future K12 students.  I will update this post once I hear back from him or someone in the Eligibility Department, so stay tuned . . .

Dreams vs. Goals

“A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward achieving it” – Anonymous

My son started his sophomore year of high school today.  For me, it’s been a day of reflection because I’m realizing how quickly these next three years are going to go by and how soon my son’s years of dreaming about playing college tennis are going to either become his reality or not.  I’ve got to admit it’s kind-of taking my breath away.

Lately, I’ve been talking to several different people about my son and his tennis goals.  I’ve been listening to lots of different advice about the best way for him to achieve those goals.  I’ve been trying to reconcile the advice with our time and money constraints to come up with a Plan (yes, with a capital “P”).

One of my son’s goals is to play Kalamazoo before he exits the juniors.  When I shared that goal with a higher-up at USTA, I was told that playing Kalamazoo is a dream NOT a goal because my son has no control over the performance and rankings of the other boys in his age group and, therefore, can’t control whether or not he gets into the draw.  This person told me that goals are things you can control; dreams are the same as wishes and are not within your own control.  Hmmmm . . .

I beg to differ.  As the quote above states, once you begin taking steps toward achieving your dream, it becomes a goal.  And, my son is taking very specific steps toward Kalamazoo.  He has added another fitness component to his workouts.  He has tweaked his tournament schedule so that he’s playing higher-level and stronger opponents in preparation for The Zoo.  He has altered his school schedule slightly to allow him more flexibility in terms of on-court time.  He maintains an on-going dialogue with his coaches so that they’re all on the same page about where my son is in his preparation and where he needs to amp up his training.  My son has a Plan.

Of course, we won’t know until next summer whether or not the Plan has been successful.  But, there will almost certainly be checkpoints along the way that will let my son know if he’s on track.  And, if he’s not, he and his coaches will need to revamp and to refocus to get back on track.  And, if this one doesn’t work, then he’s got another year to try a different Plan.

But, if it DOES work, wow!  That feeling of achieving a long-term goal is amazing.  It’s one I hope all my children get to experience over and over again in their lives.  But, really, what I hope they experience is the jubilation over seeing hard work pay off, of seeing commitment to a goal or a purpose yield dividends beyond their wildest imagination.  Didn’t someone once say that tennis is a metaphor for life?  I would have to agree.