May 2021 Archives

Optimal Nutrition for Your Young Athlete


Sponsored post. Written by IMG Academy.

 Sports conditioning doesn't only take place in the gym or on the field. Nutrition also plays a huge role and is so important that IMG Academy has nutrition experts on staff. Nutrition education is a significant focus within our boarding school and camp programs. As a parent to a young athlete, it is especially important that you make sure your child has a well-balanced diet because, not only do they require energy to perform at their sport as effectively as possible, but their bodies are also still growing and developing. So where do you start? 

Here are a few guidelines we recommend at our sports boarding school and sports camps: 

Day-to-day diet: It is important for developing young athletes to focus on incorporating a variety of foods into their diet to ensure they are meeting all of their nutritional needs. An easy goal to work towards - and to teach your child for when the time comes that they are responsible for their own diets - is to incorporate at least three or four different and brightly-colored foods into each meal. 

Ensure your child follows a consistent fueling routine, meaning they should be eating a well-balanced diet of lean protein, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits on a regular basis without skipping meals or snacks. Your child should have a snack or a meal every three to four hours, which breaks down to about three meals and two or three snacks per day. Not only will this help your child achieve optimal performance athletically, but it will also help to keep them sharp and focused in the classroom.

It's important to remember that your young athlete is still a normal kid, and they're going to want to eat "junk" food like soda, candy, or fried food. There's a time and a place for these types of food in moderation. Rather than absolutely forbid these foods from your child's diet, teach them to enjoy them occasionally and when the food won't impact their training or competition schedules.

Post-workout meals and snacks: Research has shown that muscles are the most sensitive to protein and carbohydrates 45 to 60 minutes after a workout, so this is a good time for a recovery snack or meal that includes quick digesting carbs, low-fat protein, and fluids. We want to refuel, repair, and rehydrate (Think the 3 R's) after physical activity.

If your athlete is going to a meal shortly after training, you can skip the snack and refuel with a well-balanced colorful plate of whole grains, low-fat protein, fruits, and vegetables.

Pre-Competition Snacks and Meals: First things first, don't do anything new on competition day! Routine is very important for getting into the right frame of mind and staying calm prior to a competition, and this includes food. You also don't want to introduce anything into your child's diet that they might not be accustomed to eating as it could cause some digestive issues that impact their performance.

The ideal timeframe for a pre-competition meal is three to four hours prior so that your child has time to digest the food. A third to half of the meal should be composed of carbohydrates, with the remainder being lean protein, fruit, and vegetables. The goal is to prepare a meal that is low in fat and fiber because these will slow digestion and could cause your child to experience an upset stomach at competition time.

Jackie Barcal, head of nutrition at IMG Academy, suggests the following pre-game meal combinations:

  • Grilled chicken with sweet potatoes and cooked vegetables

  • Grilled shrimp with brown rice and pineapple and green beans

  • Eggs, chicken, or turkey sausage with whole grain toast and avocado or fruit

Post-Competition Snacks and Meals: Many athletes aren't interested in eating after a competition, and that's completely normal. Physical activity can suppress hunger, but you still want to ensure your child is replenishing lost fluids and nutrients. A great post-competition snack would be a fruit smoothie with an NSF Certified for Sportâ protein powder to support muscle recovery. The main components of this meal or snack should be carbohydrates, protein, and fluid.

At IMG Academy, we follow the three Rs of recovery:
Refuel with carbs.
      Rebuild with protein.
Rehydrate with fluids.

Jackie's suggested post-competition meal combinations are:

  • A fruit smoothie with 15-20 grams of protein

  • A turkey sandwich with pretzels, a glass of milk, and a side of fruit

  • Six to eight ounces of Greek yogurt topped with granola

  • Pre-packaged protein shakes or bars if something more transportable is ideal

Helping your child maintain a well-balanced diet year-round is critical towards their success both athletically and academically. The nutrition experts at IMG Academy's boarding school and sports camps are committed to guiding our young athletes to build the best dietary plans for their needs as both athletes and as students!


After a year of inactivity, it's time to get kids moving again

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As a result of COVID-19, most kids lost an entire year of social interaction and organized activities. Remote learning deprived kids of the chance to be around friends and peers at school. Cancelled sports left kids without a structured way to practice their sport--and get active with fellow players.

In 2020, 88% of parents saw COVID-19 as a major reason not to send their children to summer camp. Now, after a year spent being largely indoors and inactive, kids (and their parents) are experiencing harmful impacts to their physical, mental, and even emotional health.

As vaccines continue to roll out and COVID-related restrictions are lifted, this summer is the perfect time to get active again. Here are some of the benefits of enrolling your child in a summer camp this year.

Increased activity

The biggest benefit to sending your child to a summer sports camp is the physical activity. The CDC suggests that kids ages 6 to 17 get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day. Summer camps provide the perfect opportunity to get your child active in a fun and rewarding way.

Not only are summer camps a good form of exercise for your child right now, they also lead to healthier lifestyles in the long term. Summer camps allow kids to develop a healthy lifelong foundation for exercising and staying fit. Some camps even offer nutritional classes that teach kids about the right foods to maintain great physical health. By starting kids off on the right track with health, it'll lead to more clean, active lifestyles through life.

Time outdoors

During the pandemic, the amount of time people spent staring at an electronic screen increased significantly. In fact, screen time for children and teenagers more than doubled during the pandemic, which means collectively, kids spent more time in front of a TV, computer, tablet, or phone than ever before in history.

Even prior to the pandemic, surveys have shown that Americans only spend 8% of their time outdoors. That's a low number, especially when considering the positive benefits being outdoors can have on overall wellbeing. Research shows that there's a strong connection between being in nature--and relishing lower levels of stress and anxiety.

After a significant amount of time spent indoors as a result of quarantine, kids need to get into nature now more than ever. The outdoors is also the most COVID-safe method of conducting a summer camp, as the CDC continues to encourage outdoor socializing to slow the spread of COVID.

Healthy minds

Just like time spent outdoors, exercising also improves mental health, lowering the risk of anxiety and depression. In a May 2020 survey, 56% of parents agreed that youth sports are important to the mental and emotional health of their child. After a long period in isolation, getting your kids back into sports really kickstarts that feeling of normalcy.

Playing sports also helps with overall mental development. Studies have also found that kids who play sports have better cognitive function and memory.

New friends

Adolescence is a critical time for kids to learn how to navigate different social situations. But COVID stopped the clock. 22% of parents reported that, as a result of the pandemic, they felt their children were behind where they should be in terms of socialization and communication. Not only were kids separated from their usual friends, they also missed the chance to make new friends.

After a year of not being able to interact with peers, it's crucial to get your kids back out there. Consider doing so at summer sports camp.

Fresh skills

Summer sports camps allow your kids to learn from people who are experts in their sport and know how to develop athletes at every level. Whether camp counselors and coaches are from the local high school or Division I sports programs, your child will learn from qualified and enthusiastic professionals.

Camp counselors can also serve as role models for impressionable, admiring kids--whether intentionally or inadvertently. You're responsible for shaping them into who they'll become, but some extra help from these camp instructors will just add more to your child's confidence and overall personality.


When you play a sport, you learn what hard work and practice can do. Attending a summer sports camp is a great way to get kids inspired--and to show them that hard work leads to measurable improvement. There's always a new skill to learn, or an old skill to improve on, and working towards a goal is a great way to teach your kids agency and responsibility.

Playing a sport also creates more structure in a child's everyday life. This helps them with their time management skills and teaches them valuable lessons about balancing different priorities. In turn, this keeps kids more organized and more focused.


Playing a sport infuses confidence, even for supporting players. If a child plays a sport well, that builds confidence. If a child experiences a bad game, but feels the support of their peers, that builds confidence, too. Even surrounding kids with other like-minded kids can build confidence--and a sense of security, too.

Fun (!)

Most importantly, summer sports camps allow kids to be kids: relaxed, having fun, and laughing.

Memories of carpools to and from camp with their best childhood friends will last forever. They'll think of the Gatorades you packed for them each morning, or how good that post-camp PB&J tasted. The smell of the gymnasium or the field where they ran their first relay race will float back to them at challenging moments, and they'll smile..and laugh.

As a final note, the CDC's most recent guidelines (at the time of publication) advises summer camps to encourage outdoor activities, social distancing, and vaccines for all attendees and camp staff. At US Sports Camps, we adhere to these guidelines and follow local protocols, too. As the CDC continues to update these guidelines, so will we, creating the safest and most beneficial camp experience for your kids.

Interested in learning more about US Sports Camps? We offer camps in 24 different sports. Explore your options and learn more about our mission at

6 Ways to Choose the Best Sports Camp for Your Child

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Many children dream of an athletic career, even of one day making collegiate leagues and/or going pro. Whether your child imagines hitting a grand slam or scoring a touchdown on the last play of the game--or just loves playing a sport or three), there's no better way to help them develop and improve their skills than by enrolling them in a summer sports camp.

Summer sports camps are a great way for kids of all ages to have fun, make new friends, and improve their athletic prowess. They also offer opportunities for social and emotional growth.

But how do you choose a camp that's ideal for your child? Here are a few factors to keep in mind.

  1. Who are the coaches?

Your child will learn important lessons and develop solid sports techniques at camp. So it's important to consider who will be teaching them these new skills. Coaches play the biggest role in determining what kids will gain from camp; make sure the ones you pick are qualified, experienced, and above all, passionate.

Some camps advertise "celebrity coaches." If this matters to you, do your research to confirm whether those coaches will actually be in attendance, and what the level of camper interaction will be. Also, keep in mind that the involvement of a celebrity coach can add to camp pricing. Make sure you know exactly what you're getting in return.

At US Sports Camps, many of our fully involved camp instructors are head coaches, assistant coaches, or staff members at reputable collegiate athletic programs.These coaches have helped lead their teams to championships. It's our belief that by giving your child the opportunity to learn from an all-star coach, you're giving them the best chance to become an all-star, too. Enrolling in these programs can expose your child to a collegiate-level sports discipline and skills development, just like those of college players.

  1. What's the camper-to-staff ratio?

Aside from ensuring the camp you choose is run by the right people, you might also consider whether they're run by enough people. Camper-to-staff ratios are crucial to figuring out how beneficial a camp will be to your child. If there are too many campers for staff to give individual time to, your child won't get as much out of the camp as they should.

For children that want and need additional instruction, you want to find a low camper-to-staff ratio, so that your child gets more one-on-one time to address specific needs. If your sports camp's staff is overwhelmed by the number of campers, it's unlikely your child will get exclusive coaching.

At US Sports Camps, low camper-to-staff ratios are important, so we can prioritize giving each camper the opportunity to receive one-on-one help, develop their skills, and address any specific needs.

  1. How are the facilities?

Youth athletic camps are held at numerous locations across the country, including community athletic centers, high school gymnasiums, and even state-of-the-art facilities that train local, regional, and national champions.

At a base level, you will definitely want to make sure a camp has all of the amenities it needs to be beneficial to your child. But some camps have facilities with extra perks that are worth looking into, like state-of-the-art equipment that's used by top college athletes.

US Sports Camps is unique: many of our camps are held at university athletic facilities. Enrolling here ensures that your child will be practicing their sport in the same location as the college athletes they might dream of becoming some day. For our overnight camps, kids even get to sleep in the college dorms, giving them a fun and immersive experience.

What's more, our partnership with Nike grants us access to some of the most innovative, well-known sports facilities in the country.

  1. What are the camp reviews like?

There's no better indicator of a great sports camp than hearing about the experience from past campers. If the information is available, take a look at a camp's return rate to see what percentage of campers found the programs worthy and enjoyable enough to return the following year.

Sometimes, camp websites and brochures include testimonials from past attendees. Interested parents and kids can learn firsthand what a specific camp meant to a past summer athlete. These stories should give you a great idea of what your child will take away at the end of the program.

Along those same lines, talk to the people in your circle about what camps they're sending their kids to. There's no one you trust more than your friends, and it can be reassuring to know someone personally who had a positive experience at your chosen camp.

  1. How safe is the camp?

Safety can never be compromised. At a base level, find out if the camp you're checking out does background checks on all coaches and staff.

In 2021, you'll need to find out the COVID-19 precautions that are in place. Luckily, many of the camp sports take place outdoors, which limits COVID-19 contagion rates.

All US Sports Camps adhere to state and national COVID-19 protocols. Research what your state is doing to stay safe--and you can rest assured that our camps will follow suit.

  1. When and how should I book?

It's always best to book your child for a sports camp as early as possible, when sign-ups first become available. This year, it is even more important to enroll right away, since most camps will be limiting their capacity due to COVID-19. After over a year of canceled youth sports and lots of time spent inside, parents are going to be more eager than ever to enroll their kids in camp. If you wait too long, the perfect camp for your child might fill up.

There's a lot to consider before signing your child up for a camp. At the very least, you want to make sure the camp looks like fun--and offers your child a chance to make new friends and get active.

In addition to providing a fun way to exercise, US Sports Camps has a reputation for providing kids with an unmatched sports camp experience. We give kids the opportunity to improve their skills by learning from some of the best coaches and players in the country. By attending a US Sports Camp, your child will walk away with an unforgettable experience, new friends, and a set of skills that will change their game.

Interested in learning more about US Sports Camps? We offer camps in 24 different sports. Explore your options and learn more about our mission at