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Journalist Julie Deardorff: Modeling Healthy Lifestyle For Kids Is Key

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Being the mother of an athlete is a challenging yet rewarding role. At momsTEAM we think sports moms deserve to be honored, not just on the second Sunday in May, but for an entire month. So we have designated May as National Sports Moms Month and invited some veteran sports moms to share their wisdom by responding to a series of questions. We will post a new blog for every day of May, which we hope you will find interesting, empowering, and informative, and that you will share them with your family and friends.

Today we hear from one of momsTEAM's favorite journalists, Julie Deardorff, a health reporter and consumer watchdog for the Chicago Tribune, avid cyclist, and sports mom:

momsTEAM: Were you an athlete and what sports did you play as a youth (under 19)?

Deardorff: I started playing Little League baseball with the boys in the 1970s and loved all sports. In high school, I played volleyball, basketball, softball, but basketball was what I lived for. The highlight was playing in the state high school basketball championship in Illinois. To this day, it's one of my greatest memories.

momsTEAM: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a sports mom?

Deardorff: My two boys are 7 and 5. What I love most is watching them gain confidence by doing something new or difficult. Last week, after three years of swim lessons that appeared to be going nowhere, my five-year-old finally put his head under the water. He was triumphant, proud and now wants to swim - or practice blowing bubbles in the bathtub - every day.

momsTEAM: What lesson has your sports active child taught you?

Deardorff: My son who resists sports - or at least the ones his older brother is doing - is teaching me the lessons that I need the most. The main message so far has been not to push sports on him. He's an active 5-year-old, has been riding a two-wheeler since age 4 and loves to run, skip and ride his scooter. But he would literally rather dig a hole in the sand for an hour than kick a soccer ball, even though he is quite good when he decides to try. The lesson I'm trying to learn is that it's really OK to let him dig holes and play with trucks, and might even be better for his development. Julie Deardorff with family

momsTEAM: What is the most important lesson your child is learning from his/her sport?

Deardorff: Right now, the only lesson I want my children to learn is that sports are fun and rewarding. I don't even care about practice. As they get older, I hope teamwork, camaraderie, discipline, time management, sportsmanship and hard work will be what they bring on and off the field.

momsTEAM: If you could "flip a switch" and change one thing about the culture of youth sports what would it be?

Deardorff: I would eliminate year-round travel teams for children under age 10. While some children do need a competitive option, "everybody plays" type leagues such as AYSO would be strengthened if the best players weren't pulled away. But more important, we're increasing the risk of injury and burnout in our children by putting them on competitive teams too early. That said, if others are doing it, and you want your child to make the high school team and enjoy the benefits playing on a team can bring, there's a great temptation to join travel teams.

momsTEAM: What have you done to make sports better for kids?Julie Deardorff on her bike

Deardorff: I'm a volunteer youth soccer coach. And as a journalist, I often write on important child health topics, including concussions and second impact syndrome, whether children should run marathons or strength train and why kids don't need sports drinks. But my real contribution will always be on a micro level. Every day, I role model a healthy lifestyle for my kids and this often goes beyond playing sports. I bike everywhere I can (meaning the boys often have to bike with me to get places), work out every day and stress the value of healthy living for our family.

An award-winning journalist, Julie Deardorff writes consumer watchdog/investigative health- and fitness-related stories for Tribune Co. publications which appear in many other major newspapers around the country, and writes  the blog "Julie's Health Club."   She began her career as a sportswriter for the nation's first and only sports newspaper, The National.  A longtime vegetarian and chocolate lover, Julie delivered a 9.2-pound baby without pain meds and completed two Ironman triathlons. Both events changed her life. Her Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/julie.deardorff. 

For more blogs in momsTEAM's May is Sports Moms Month series, click here.