| By Elizabeth Right Reiss

Your aspiring athlete is on a roll. They have been taking the initiative and working on their own, focusing on wall exercises, practicing with coaches and friends, and even getting enough sleep. They are taking the time to watch their opponents, studying their strengths and weaknesses, watching the pros play and has even started some visualization to give them a leg up on the mental side of the game. But, they seem to be lacking energy halfway through their lesson or match, even when practicing wall ball activities.

Let’s discuss the concept of hydration. When our athletes get tired, the first thing that comes to mind is, “He or she is not eating enough.” That might very well be the case, however, we cannot forget about hydration; especially with the extreme activity levels that these athletes endure.

The recommended daily water intake for kids ages five through eight is one liter, which is about five glasses of water. For nine- through 12-year-olds, 1.5 liters is suggested and for kids ages 12 years and above, two liters or approximately eight to 10 glasses of water, is the suggested daily intake. It does not seem like a lot, but if we do not get water consumed early in the day, it is often too late to aid in the body’s hydration process to help with energy levels. Unless we are truly focused, we might totally forget!

So, just how do we get our kids to drink more water? Below are some suggestions for your athlete to help get water consumed early in the day and throughout. When children are away from caregivers, these suggestions can empower children to remain motivated in their hydration challenge.

Drink water the moment you open your eyes
Have a glass, maybe even two, by your athlete’s bed. Before they even get out of bed, have them “chug” that water! Make it fun by selecting a cool Nalgene, sippy-cup or Bkr Bottle, which is fun and colorful. Let them choose which one fits them the best!

Before breakfast, have another glass
Children often model behavior, so have a glass of water with them! This can be a great way to be a role model and you might not be getting enough either! That is already two to three glasses down before the day has started!  Try to get in the majority of the water early in the day, before you are thirsty. Some specialists stress that if you become “parched,” it’s a little too late.

Practice your hydration
Before practice, make sure to drink another eight-ounce glass or water bottle.

During your match or practice, see if you can be challenged by drinking at every side change or every ball pickup. Ask yourself mindful questions that make you in charge of your water consumption, such as, “Do I feel like I had more energy than when I didn't drink much? Could I have played longer if I had to?”

Digital reminders
There are many apps available to remind kids to drink water. If kids do not have a phone, parents should set it on their phones, and when the reminder goes off, it’s water time!

Invest in a cool water bottle
Going online or to a sports shop and finding one you’ll love and won’t mind taking with you is a great way to promote hydration. This way, you put the water control in their power and it is also a bit more eco-friendly than using multiple plastic bottles.

What about the children who don't like water
What about the children who don't like it, complain and feel like it’s worse than pulling teeth to get water down? Empower them. Ask them about solutions. Could you cut the water with a little pure orange, cherry or apple juice?

What about sports drinks?
Too much sugar is not really beneficial, but adding a little flavor is no problem at all. With all of their activity, a little sugar can actually be helpful. After they get in the habit of it and see how their game responds when they are hydrated, less and less juice will be needed.

Back to school
When kids head back to school, there is no reason to halt water intake. Continue with the morning routine and find a cool looking water bottle for them and head off to school with it. Have them try to fill it up after every class, or have the younger ones see if they can drink one bottle before recess, another before lunch and another before dismissal. Of course, it depends on the size of the bottle, but there are some great kid-friendly and teenage-friendly options available.

Oh, and just a reminder: In the beginning, drinking water throughout the day might seem like a hassle … one more thing to think about. But like every routine, once you get into the swing of it, it will grow to become second nature. And just like you developed the habit of brushing your teeth every morning, you will start to reach for that important and refreshing glass of water!