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Working with Adolescent Athletes

From busy day syndrome, supporting their needs through a time of change and growth to nurturing their relationship with food and body image, and more, there is a lot to consider when working with the adolescent athlete.

Adolescent Atheltes and Body Image

How our athletes feel about their bodies can directly impact their food choices and how they choose to fuel their bodies so screening and discussing body image with your athletes should be a core part of your nutrition support. Particularly as poor body image is a risk factor for disordered eating behaviours.

Adolescents are one of the highest at-risk groups for poor body image as it is an unstable time filled with body changes. If we think back to the factors that are protective of a positive body image body acceptance is a key piece. As an athlete, these adolescents actually have two body images.

  1. Their body image as an athlete
  2. Their body image as a non-athlete aka their body compared to their non-athletic friends.

Often these two body images can cause a lot of conflict with each other. The traits they like about their ‘athlete’ body may be what they dislike about their body as a non-athlete.
Conversations around this with adolescents are extremely important when nurturing positive body image.

Adolescent athletes and body image

Adolescent Athletes and Body Composition

When it comes to body composition assessment in adolescent athletes, it is important to note that those under 18 years of age need consent from a parent or a legal guardian. When it comes to age there are no clean-cut guidelines, however, a common cut-off used is often 16 years +. The athlete’s age and level of competition needs to be taken into consideration when assessing the appropriateness of the justification.

The underpinning philosophy of body composition assessment is “first do no harm”, with the aim to ensure positive outcomes for the athlete. Anybody composition assessment should be justified and have a supporting rationale: unjustified routine periodic screening should be avoided.

Body composition assessment and weighing strategies must reflect individual needs and emphasise choice, collaboration, trust, safety, and empowerment.

Nuturing A Positive Body Image

This is just one important element of working with Adolescent athletes. We cover several more in detial in our Adolescent Athlete Course.

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