Does Participation in Sports Negatively Affect Academics?

Student athletes should be relieved to learn that, according to researchers at the Brown Center on Education Policy, a commitment to school sports does not have to translate into compromised academic performance. Although these students often feel substantial pressure to perform both on the field and in the classroom, the benefits of athletic endeavors seem to counterbalance the challenges they present. Nevertheless, many youth athletes become increasingly stressed as they strive to maintain academic eligibility while advancing through their school years.
In a 2005 analysis of stress levels in college athletes, Dr. Gregory Wilson and Dr. Mary Pritchard reported that time management factors were a significant source of academic-related stress. Many student athletes expressed concern over having insufficient time to study for exams and write term papers. Team travel was also cited as a stress factor because of missed classes and assignments. Some student athletes, however, seem to thrive on the pressure caused by tight schedules. During her senior year at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, field hockey player Leah Ferenc reflected on the role athletics play in academic achievement. ¡°Most of my peers believe that they perform at a higher academic level while participating in their sport and have felt more organized and motivated during their seasons to do well academically. I am more successful at completing my assignments during the season, because I know that I only have a certain amount of time to do so.¡±
Children and adolescents who pursue sports activities have been shown to exhibit more active brain function, better concentration levels and classroom behavior and higher self-esteem than their less-active counterparts. Understandably, all of these factors seem to support better academic performance. In 2002, the California Department of Education examined whether any correlation existed between standardized test scores and results from a state-mandated physical fitness exam. In its analysis of data from over 954,000 fifth, seventh and ninth grade students, the study found that students with higher levels of fitness performed better in school. Students who met three or more physical fitness standards experienced the greatest academic gains.
In a 2002 Brown Center report on American school performance, schools with top-ranked baseball, basketball and football teams were found to have better state achievement exam scores than those with less successful sports programs. Not surprisingly, public schools with both successful athletic teams and high academic achievement are found in areas with better financial resources: wealthy, suburban neighborhoods with predominantly white, non-Hispanic populations. According to the report, such advantaged schools are better able to integrate excellence at sports into a broader culture that encourages achievement.
Academic performance in student athletes does vary between boys and girls. Results of the California Department of Education study showed that all of the girls¡¯ teams had significantly higher grade point averages than their male counterparts. A 2010 study published in ¡°The Sports Journal¡± reinforced these findings and showed some interesting between-sport comparisons. Boys on the cross-country team had among the lowest grades of all the sports examined, but girls¡¯ cross-country teams had among the highest. Male students on the golf and track teams were able to maintain high grades but girls committed to these two sports fared worse academically.

How Your Breathing Is Ruining Your Workout

Breathing — one of the most basic things we do every day — can change drastically within the course of a workout. Whether we’re trudging up the Stairmaster, hoisting kettlebells off the floor or cycling our legs off, breathing usually isn’t the first thing we think about. We just do it, sometimes with more force than we¡¯d like to admit. (Cue the treadmill fan, please!)
But experts say our breathing pattern can make a difference in our workout. ¡°How you breathe can affect your exercise,¡± says Marta Montenegro, exercise physiologist and nutrition specialist in Miami. Depending on the activity — practicing yoga, lifting weights, running or simply stretching — breath awareness and proper technique can help you maximize your workout results and reduce your chances of injury.
The manipulation of breathing has a specific outcome: Some to calm you down and [some to] energize you.
– Andrea Marcum, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles
Breathing is the foundation of all different workouts, says Andrea Marcum, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles. ¡°It keeps us focused and reminds us to get rich, full, deep breaths.¡± While heartbeat and other physiological mechanisms are difficult to manipulate, breathing is something we can influence — and reap benefits in return.
¡°The manipulation of breathing has a specific outcome,¡± Marcum says. ¡°Some to calm you down and [some to] energize you.¡± Coming to a balanced point in breathing can reduce stress and bring the body and mind to a relaxed state. ¡°We are looking for balance in our lives,¡± Marcum says. ¡°We are a culture of having our foot stuck on the gas. The nervous system is the control system for our body. Our breath brings us to conscious place where we realize relaxation response is as important as stress response.¡±
One way to find this balance is to lie flat on your back and rest your hands on your belly. ¡°Feel the rise and the fall,¡± Marcum says of each breath. ¡°Tell yourself silently ¡®let¡¯ as you inhale and ¡®go¡¯ as you exhale. Follow your own instructions and see if you can feel both physical components of breath.¡± Try this exercise before diving into your workout for a more focused, powerful sweat session.
Anyone who lifts weights knows there¡¯s a peak point during a range of motion, such as rising from the bottom of a squat while holding weights, says Montenegro. Muscles exert maximum capacity when you block respiration, she says. But she also warns that you need to know how to contract muscles in order to brace the load during heavy lifting and maintain stability for posture. When you maintain good posture, you utilize more core muscles in your favor.
¡°Every time you control those muscles, you have a more structured support in your core and you¡¯re going to perform better in whatever you do.¡± When you hold your breath during a heavy lift, that¡¯s what¡¯s known as the Valsalva maneuver, which inevitably creates a pressure response. This practice can increase blood pressure, which can reduce oxygen flow and even cause fainting, so it should be used with caution by someone who’s already very familiar with all the other aspects of weightlifting. ¡°Every repetition takes practice. It¡¯s very easy to stop breathing,¡± she says.
Montenegro says there are ways to practice this style breathing to get the most out of your weighted squat — or other heavy lifting. ¡°One of the best exercises to hold your breath and strengthen your core muscles is when you are in a plank position,¡± Montenegro says. ¡°Suck your tummy in and hold your breath for as long as you can [safely]. Then let your stomach out without rounding your back — your back should be flat. The movement should just be abdominal area. Inhale. Suck your tummy in. Control your breath. Exhale.¡± She suggests doing 15 to 20 inhale-exhales, and then repeating for 15 to 20 repetitions.
Controlling your breathing while running — whether on a treadmill, in a pick-up basketball game or on the pavement — is often a challenge even for seasoned athletes, especially as you increase speed and incline. But proper breathing can help you get around the track. ¡°The more you can go with the flow, the better,¡± Montenegro says. Let your lungs be the boss. If you need to breathe deep, heavy breaths, let it happen. A natural breathing pattern is best in this scenario.
High-intensity workouts such as football, basketball, fast-paced cycling or running — in addition to being awesome workouts — can also help to decrease respiratory muscle fatigue by strengthening the intrathoracic pressure (where your chest and lungs are). When doing plyometric exercises — think jump squats or lunges — Montenegro says to hold your breath when making contact with the ground to help with the rebound, thus reducing chance of injury.
Similarly to yoga, stretching involves full-body movements that align with breathing techniques, too. ¡°The inhale is expansive. When you lift arms overhead, it doesn¡¯t make sense to exhale,¡± Marcum says. Marcum says to follow the concept of ¡°root to rise.¡± ¡°If you are not rooted, you are not going to rise,¡± she says. ¡°Rooting is the exhale and rise is the inhale. You can feel that energy.¡±
Montenegro also says it¡¯s very important to take deep, long breaths when stretching to avoid pulling anything. When you hold your breath, you are tightening the muscles and you could stretch something too hard.
Whether your goal is to become faster, stronger or more flexible, there¡¯s likely a proper way to breathe. ¡°As you become better in whatever you are doing, proper breathing pattern can help you maximize what you are trying to improve,¡± Montenegro says. ¡°If you are trying to improve strength when you are lifting weights, it will help you to lift heavier. If you keep rhythm in endurance every time better, that¡¯s going to help with an endurance workout.¡±
Marcum says a final payoff to proper breathing other than physical benefits is a sense of serenity. ¡°This deep-seated sense of contentment — it lives within breath and within the moment. That¡¯s what breath can remind us — we only have this moment and we want to find sense of contentment with ourselves.¡± It may not have a direct correlation to six-pack abs or leaner legs, but a sense of calm is very beneficial to your overall wellbeing.

The History of Youth Sports

Organized sports for young people have become an institution in North America. Sports like baseball, football, ice hockey and soccer attract 44 million youngsters, according to the National Council of Youth Sports. In some cases, players grow and have fun while being taught the game by experienced coaches. One of the keys to organized youth sports is providing a safe environment for all players to enjoy sports.
Little League Baseball is synonymous with youth baseball. In 1939, Carl Stotz of Williamsport, Pennsylvania founded an organization that gave youngsters the opportunity to play organized baseball. Stotz’s goal was to teach players the ideals of the game, fair play and teamwork. According to, there are more than 200,000 Little League teams in 50 states and it is also popular around the world.
The first youth football league was founded in 1929 in Philadelphia. Joseph J. Tomlin started a four-team league and called it the Junior Football Conference. The league changed its name to Pop Warner in honor of Glenn “Pop” Warner, who was the legendary coach of Temple University. Pop Warner Football teaches youngsters how to get in top condition and play organized football under safe conditions. Pop Warner Football is played in all 50 states and in many foreign countries.
While soccer has not grown to the proportions of baseball, football, basketball and ice hockey in the United States, youth soccer is attractive to young people and their parents. Many youngsters turn to soccer because it is nowhere near as hard hitting as football. AYSO soccer was founded in Los Angeles in 1964 by Hans Stierle. The first league had nine teams and Stierle opened the league up to any youngster who wanted to play. Players who had never kicked a soccer ball were taught how to play and were put in the lineup. The organization had grown to 50,000 teams in all 50 states with 650,000 players by 2010.
USA Junior Hockey was organized in 1999. The stated goals of the organization are to provide an opportunity for young players to play the game and to help players, coaches and referees improve. Additionally, USA Junior Hockey wants to help players advance outside the rink by providing players with the chance to continue their education and grow socially. The junior hockey program is open to all players 20 or younger.

A List of All the Positions in Football & Their Responsibilities

The game of football gives players and fans the chance to experience exciting plays, thrilling wins and heartbreaking losses. Football has become the most popular sport in the U.S., with a fan base in countries all around the world. Fans have a greater appreciation of the game once they learn about the responsibilities of the different football positions.
One of the main aspects of football is the running game. The running backs, normally a fullback and a halfback, stand behind the offensive line. While their main duty is to run the ball down the field, running backs also catch passes and make blocks to protect the quarterback. As leaders of the offense, quarterbacks call plays, hand the ball to the running backs, and make passes to the receivers. Quarterbacks can run with the ball, especially if there’s not an open receiver down field.
Offensive linemen protect the quarterback and open holes for running backs. The center’s job is to snap the ball to the quarterback, to make blocks and to protect the quarterback. The guards and tackles make blocks for running backs and protect their quarterback while he throws passes. The tight end is an offensive lineman that blocks, but he also catches passes.
Quarterbacks throw passes to the wide receivers. The role of the receiver is to run pass routes. They use their speed and quickness to evade the other team’s defensive players as they try to get open to catch passes. Receivers also make blocks for the quarterback, for other receivers and for the running backs.
Defensive tackles, defensive ends and the nose guard make up the defensive line. The nose guard plays in the center of the defensive line. His job is to stop the run up the middle. Tackles play on either side of the nose guard and try to stop the run play. In some cases, they can break through and hurry or sack the quarterback. Defensive ends play at the end of the defensive line. Ends work to sack the quarterback and try to prevent running backs from getting farther down the field.
Linebackers are usually the best tacklers on the team. They play behind the defensive line and are responsible for defending both run and pass plays. The defensive backfield is made up of cornerbacks and safeties. Their job is to cover the wide receivers, to break up passes and to make interceptions. They also make tackles, work to stop the run and try to sack the quarterback.
The special teams, often the key to success in football games, are made up of a kicker, a punter, a long snapper and a place holder. The kicker’s job is to kick the ball off at the opening of the game and after every score. He also kicks the extra points after touchdowns, and he kicks field goals when the offense cannot score a touchdown. Place holders catch the ball from the center and hold it for the kicker as he kicks extra points or field goals. Punters kick the ball when the team does not score, and the long snapper is the center who snaps the ball during punts.

Workouts From the 1940s & 1950s

Primitive nomads spent days hunting and gathering, and traveled miles on foot to neighboring tribes to share their bounty and celebrate successful hunts. By 2500 B.C., Confucius put forth the idea that a range of diseases could be prevented by exercise. The development of organized workouts continued as societies evolved. In the 1940s, economic difficulties and start of World War II precipitated failing fitness levels.
Recruits coming into the armed services during World War II were found to be unfit for duty in droves, according to the University of New Mexico. Because of the strikingly low levels of physical fitness, researchers began developing guidelines for cardiovascular fitness testing. Jumping jacks, developed by West Point officer John “Black Jack” Pershing in World War I, were used to increase cardiovascular endurance in soldiers and entered the mainstream at the same time.
Jack LaLanne began developing resistance pulley machines, including leg extension equipment, as far back as 1936. He opened a health club in California, but his unique style of workouts didn’t become popular until the 1950s when he launched a fitness television program. LaLanne, who often is considered the father of fitness, promoted weight training as a means of obtaining ultimate fitness.
Jack LaLanne also brought calisthenics into the home via his TV show, “The Jack LaLanne Show.” His aerobic workouts and water aerobic programs complemented his weight training workouts. Housewives all over the country worked out with LaLanne doing one-sided jumping jacks, marching in place, high kicks and leg lifts. Many a Mom could be found on her living room rug with her legs lifted high in the air, her hips supported by her hands, bicycling for all she was worth.
Bill Orban was a Canadian football and hockey player who graduated from the University of California physical education program. Orban designed the 5BX, five basic exercise program for the Royal Canadian Air Force in the 1950s. A precursor to the modern circuit training, the premise for his workout was that if you exercise for 15 minutes a day, three times a week, performing the same round of activities, you’d remain healthy and fit. The five exercises included touching your toes, ab crunches, push ups, a stationary run and leg kicks. The program required you to build intensity into your workouts as the 11-minute routine progressed over time.

What Is the Difference Between a Pitch and a Chip Shot?

Learning how to execute in the short game is one of the keys to improving as a golfer. The short game consists of your approach shots to the green, plus your putting. Chipping and pitching make up a big part of the short game, and you’ll shoot better scores when you execute these shots properly.
A pitch shot is hit high into the air. A well-struck pitch shot will land within 20 feet of the pin and then stop or roll backwards, since the grooves on a wedge put backspin on the ball. Pitch shots can be executed anywhere from just off the green to a distance of 120 yards. The pitch shot should be hit over water hazards or bunkers. The chip shot, on the other hand, is a low, bouncing shot that is appropriate from 40 yards in. The chip shot is effective when there is no trouble on the way to the green, and the hole has an uphill profile that will help the ball come to a stop.
The pitch shot is often used as a second shot on a short par 4 or the third shot on a par 5. Often, there will be a bunker fronting the green on these holes, and a pitch shot will fly over the bunker, yet land softly on the green. A chip shot can be used in many situations. You may not want to take a chance on flying the ball over the green with a pitch; chipping the ball up to the hole can avoid this. Chipping also keeps the ball low, which can be key if it is windy during your round.
Golfers use a lofted club such as a pitching wedge, a gap wedge or a lob wedge when hitting a pitch shot. Some golfers also pitch with a sand wedge. A chip shot can be hit with any club, but chipping is usually done with less-lofted clubs like a 7-, 8- or 9-iron, which will keep the ball lower and provide more roll.
You need to be in the fairway or the first cut of rough to execute a pitch shot successfully. Pitching the ball is extremely difficult when you’re in the deep rough or in wooded areas. A chip shot is better for getting your ball out of these trouble areas. For example, if your ball is in the deep rough, chip the ball back onto the fairway with an 8- or 9-iron, so you can attack the green with the following shot. You should also chip the ball if there are hanging branches that will prevent you from pitching the ball high.
Chip shots and pitches will help a player become a more complete golfer, according to teaching pro Don Trahan. While one shot is high and the other is low, both shots require significant arm movement and hardly any weight transfer. “Chipping and pitching are like putting and involve good setup and swing technique to develop touch and feel, which everyone can do,” Trahan said. “The ball is played in the center of the stance. The weight is moved left (for right handers) to the forward foot with as much as 70 percent on the front foot and leg.”

Interesting Facts About Italian Soccer

Soccer, or football as most of the world knows it, is a national passion in many countries, especially Italy. Italian soccer fans have good reason to be passionate: Their country¡¯s national team has won the World Cup championship four times and is consistently ranked among the best in the world. In addition, Italian league teams attract some of the top soccer talent in the world.
Italy¡¯s national soccer association, known as the Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio, or FIGC, formed in 1898 and is a part of the Union of European Football Associations, or UEFA. According to the website, the Italian national team¡¯s nickname is the ¡°Squadra Azzurra¡± or ¡°Blue Squad,¡± a reference to the team¡¯s blue and white uniforms.
The International Federation of Association Football, the governing body of world soccer, held the first World Cup tournament in 1930. Since then, the FIFA World Cup has become one of the most popular sporting events in the world. Italy has won the World Cup four times, more than any nation except five-time winner Brazil. Italy won back-to-back World Cup titles in 1934 and 1938. Italy won its third World Cup at the 1982 tournament in Spain and its fourth in Germany in 2006.
Serie A is Italy¡¯s top professional soccer league, consisting of 20 of the country¡¯s top-ranked teams. Juventus of Turin has won the league title a record 27 times since the league¡¯s inception in the 1890s, World Football reports. International of Milan, better known as Inter, has won the Serie A title 18 times, including five consecutive times from 2006 to 2010. Another Milan club, AC Milan, has won the title 17 times.
The Italian Cup is Italy¡¯s top national tournament, pitting soccer clubs from across the country. The first Italian Cup took place in 1922, with AC Vado winning. The tournament did not occur again until 1936, when Torino FC won. Two clubs, Juventus and AS Roma, hold the record for the most Italian Cup wins, with nine victories each, according to World Football. Inter and ACF Fiorentina have won the tournament six times each.
In addition to their national competitions and the World Cup, Italian soccer teams also have made their mark on the UEFA Champions League, which pits Europe¡¯s top soccer clubs against each other. Since 1956, when the Champions League began, Italian teams have won the league 12 times, tying with Spain. Italian teams that regularly compete in the Champions League include Inter, Juventus and AC Milan.
Italian teams have enjoyed massive success on soccer pitches around the world, but corruption scandals have erupted over the sport, even costing a team its national title. The British Broadcasting Corporation reported that a match-fixing scandal in 1980 resulted in two Serie A teams, Lazio and AC Milan, being demoted to Serie B, a lower league. In 2005, an investigation revealed that some referees had been pressured to fix matches by favoring certain clubs. As a result, Juventus was stripped of its league title. In addition, a team doctor was found guilty of giving performance-enhancing drugs to Juventus players during the 1990s.

How to Train Kids to Run Hurdles

Running hurdles is one of the most difficult events in track and field. Runners need to train for maximum speed, and they also need to practice jumping high enough to clear hurdles without losing momentum or balance. Running hurdles takes speed, proper footwork and flexibility. With proper coaching and plenty of practice, you can train kids to make positive strides every time they run the hurdles.
You can be an exceptional hurdler, but you need speed to win races. Kids competing in the hurdle run shorter distances — typically 80 or 100 meters — and have to clear eight to 10 hurdles before reaching the finish line. Train kids to sprint as fast as possible before learning the art of hurdling. Deep stretching and leg swings get kids ready to run and prevent muscle pulls and cramping. Practice running as fast as possible at 100 meters with no hurdles to build speed. Train kids to explode off the starting line and run with the knees pumping high to prepare for jumping.
Clearing hurdles requires hours of training. Young runners attempting to jump over hurdles with poor technique can suffer serious injuries. In an article on, Mission Viejo High School track coach Fred Almond stresses the importance of doing fence work to get young runners ready to compete. Place hurdles in front of a high fence, side by side, at a height of 30 to 39 inches, depending in the size and age of the hurdlers. The hurdles can be leaned against the fence to reach the desired height. Hurdlers face the hurdle and fence to begin the drill. From a standing position, they raise their lead foot over the top of the hurdle to touch the fence and then return it to the standing position. Repeat the drill with the back foot. The fence drill helps simulate clearing the hurdle and increases leg flexibility.
Training kids to use their arms when clearing hurdles is as important as leg technique. Almond likes to use the “reading your watch” drill to improve arm work. The lead arm — which is the opposite of the lead leg — is raised to shoulder level in this training exercise. The elbow is bent so the wrist comes back toward the nose. The trailing arm should be extended back when simulating clearing the hurdle, with the hand at waist level. The training exercise can be done without hurdles so young runners learn to develop the proper technique. Arm training allows hurdlers to jump with power and maintain balance.
Simulating jumping over hurdles is the best way to train for the real thing. The knee slap drill gets young runners prepared to lift off the ground. Start with a simple jog with the hands held near the hips. After every third or fourth step, have the runners jump like they are clearing a hurdle. The right hand should slap the right knee near waist level, and the left hand should slap the left knee. This is a good training drill to help young runners take off and land with the proper technique.

Proper Warm-up for Sprinting

A proper warm-up is an important part of any type of exercise routine. Warming up loosens and warms your muscles, decreasing your risk of injury. The fast pace of sprinting calls for quick action from your muscles. The rapid race times can cause muscle and ligament strains if you are not properly warmed up. A proper warm-up for sprinters includes stretches and drills to get your muscles moving and to refine your form on the track.
Jog for at least 20 minutes or two laps around the track before you begin sprinting. A slow jog elevates your heart rate and raises your body temperature, preparing you for the arduous sprint training that follows. You should be perspiring slightly but not drenched with sweat at the end of your jog.
Loosen your hamstrings and calf muscles with a modified hurdler’s stretch. Sit on the ground with your left leg straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee so the sole of your right foot is pressed against your left thigh. Keeping your back straight, bend at the waist and try to touch the toes of your left foot. Hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Complete two to four repetitions with each leg.
Stretch your foot muscles and ankles with heel-toe drills. Take a step forward, landing on the heel of your front foot. At the same time, raise yourself up on the toes of your back foot. Use a rolling motion to transfer your weight from heel to toe for each step. Perform the heel-toe drill for about 20 meters or 65 feet, approximately one-fifth of the straightaway on a 400-meter track.
Extend the range of motion in your hips with “A” marches. Walk with exaggerated steps, bringing your knees up high toward your waist. Bring your arms up with elbows bent and your fingertips pointing toward the sky each time you raise your knee. You can also quicken your pace with an A skip. Complete 20 meters of either A marches or skips. This drill also helps maintain and refine the proper position of a sprinter.
Do front and lateral lunges as part of a sprinting warm-up. Take a step with one leg in front of the other. Both knees should be bent, but do not let the back knee touch the ground. Balance in the lunge position for three seconds before switching legs. Take side steps with both knees bent and back straight to complete lateral lunges. The lateral movements improve balance when sprinting around curves, such as in a 200-meter race.
Practice accelerations as the last part of a sprinter’s warm-up. Sprint all out for 10 meters and stop. Sprint for 20 meters next and then run at top speed for 30, 40 and 50 meters. After your accelerations, you are properly warmed up and can work on your technique for relays, hurdles or other sprint events.

Is Swimming Good for Bad Knees?

Swimming offers a low-impact workout if you have bad knees. Unlike weight-bearing activities that place stress on your knees as your feet hit the hard surface, swimming allows you to move through the water without placing much pressure on the knee. Most people can exercise longer in water without strenuous effort or joint pain.
Several sports-related movements can cause bad knees. Sudden stops, excessive flexing, and awkward landings after jumps, starts and pivots can all lead to knee injuries. Tennis, basketball, football and soccer are some of the sports that can lead to knee injury or overuse, which can cause knee pain. Swimming is usually easier on the knees, but avoid the butterfly stroke if you have bad knees.
Swimming is considered a moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. To get adequate fitness benefits from swimming, swim a minimum of 150 minutes per week. This can be done in increments of 30 minutes for five days per week or whatever is most convenient and comfortable for you, as long as you meet your minimum requirements. For maximum health and weight benefits, gradually work toward swimming 300 minutes per week.
Knee pain is a common complaint with arthritis. Swimming can reduce your joint stiffness, strengthen muscles around your joints, strengthen your bones and improve your overall fitness, according to the University of Washington Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine. Swimming can also improve symptoms of depression and decrease your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. Aquatic sports with friends and family can also provide aerobic benefits.
If you choose to swim for bad knees, discuss your decision with your doctor or physical therapist to determine a routine appropriate for your fitness level and your knees. Your doctor may suggest stretches and strengthening exercises to do in combination with swimming. Not exercising stiff or painful knees can make the symptoms worse in the future. You should not feel pain while you¡¯re swimming; if you do, this is your body’s way of signaling you to slow down or stop. Your muscles might feel a little sore after beginning a new swimming routine, but this will lessen as you continue your routine.