Youth Sports Engagement: What’s Right for My Child?

Sports participation and viewing have long been traditions in most cultures, bringing people of all backgrounds together. Participation in sports can build character in youth and benefit them in multiple ways, but parents who want to provide enriching opportunities for their children may have questions about the pros and cons of sports. What if a child does not care for the competition that comes with organized sports? What if they get hurt? Is there a way to keep youth physically active outside of sports? Consider this list of pros and cons.

Pros of participating in sports: Participating can help prevent obesity through regular physical activity. Approximately 75% of U.S. youth play a sport. Exposure to many sports is physically and mentally beneficial for young children. It’s a good way for youth to have fun. It reduces screen time, eating out of boredom, and mental health concerns. Athletes are more likely to do well in school, avoid drugs, and make healthier food choices. Females are less likely to experience teen pregnancies when they participate in sports. Coaching does not require special training, certification, or skill for most adults who wish to fill the role. Sports build character, the ability to work well with others, and mutual respect among peers.

Cons of participating in sports: The risk of injuries is high. By age 15, 80% of youth stop playing sports. Too much emphasis can be placed on winning and being highly skilled. Busy schedules lead to eating more processed and less healthy meals. Adolescent sports participation disparities exist between races. The cost can be a burden on families. Lack of adult training can lead to sports injuries and youth attrition. Negative experiences can occur with coaches. The development of character, teamwork, and respect cannot happen unless coaches and parents teach these values to young athletes. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2022) recommends that youth ages 6-17 engage in 60 minutes of physical activity that increases the heart rate at least five times a week. If your child is not interested in sports, there are other ways to encourage regular physical activity. Keep in mind that youth will be more likely to engage in physical activity when it appeals to them and is fun. 

As you search for ways to help your child engage in physical activity, talk to them to determine their interests. What does your child enjoy doing? What would they like to try? Alternatives to sports that can help keep your child physically active and healthy include: hiking, biking, dancing, night games in the neighborhood, jumping rope, boxing or martial arts, fossil digging and exploration, swimming, scavenger hunts in the neighborhood, gardening, jumping/exercising on the trampoline, and hula hoop contests.

For other ideas on ways to get the family moving together, check out the USU Extension Hidden Gems Adventure Guides.

Click here to see references and resources. 

By: Eva Timothy, Utah State University Extension Assistant Professor,

New “Hidden Gems” Guides Released

Utah State University Extension recently launched new “Hidden Gems” Family Fun Adventure Guides. The guides were created to help strengthen family connections, support positive youth development, and help families have fun together.

According to Naomi Brower, project lead for the adventure guides, playing together as a family is not just fun but it is also an investment, both in your child’s development and in strengthening your family’s relationship.

“Research shows that children who spend time with their family have fewer behavioral problems, fewer substance abuse and delinquency issues, and better academic outcomes,” she said. “Families that spend time together also report feeling happier and more fulfilled.”

Brower said the hidden gems team has worked to include activities that will appeal to a variety of ages and also that will work for different family dynamics, including grandparents playing with their grandchildren. 

“We have two kinds of family adventure guides – Family Fun at Home, and Family Fun Out and About,” she said. “We would love people to use these guides indoors or outdoors this summer. It is a great way to bring families closer together after experiencing such a stressful couple of years.”

An additional guide available to download is the Date Your Mate Adventure guide, which provides date night ideas and ways to help strengthen relationships.

All three guides are free and can be found at Families that download a guide, connect and play together, then provide feedback by July 31 will be entered in a prize drawing.

How To Relax After a Stressful Day

We can all agree that stress is a part of human existence. Dealing with short stints of stress is not bad for us. This type of stress can propel us into action or increase our energy levels and memory to help us complete a task or goal (Jaret, n.d.). Conversely, when people experience high levels of stress for long periods, it can lead to major health concerns. The American Psychological Association (2018) tells us that these health concerns range from heart disease to exacerbated reproductive difficulties. Prolonged stress can also lead to what is known as burnout- a state of mental, physical, and emotional fatigue that reduces productivity. So, whether you are experiencing good or bad stress, that is either occasional or prolonged, practicing self-care through the use of calming can benefit you.  Here are some calming practices you can try at the end of a stressful day to calm your mind and body. This will reduce the negative impacts stress can have on your health and relationships. 

1. Do something you enjoy. Whether it be indulging in a hobby or soaking in a bubble bath, do it. When we engage in activities we find enjoyable it allows our mind to take a break from what is causing our stress. We can lose ourselves in something that fuels our sense of passion for life, thereby, reinvigorating our ability to healthily cope with the next stressor. 

2. Find a quiet place where you can practice deep breathing and focus on the here and now. When we get stressed, we get stuck in the brainstem, the fight, flight, or freeze part of the brain meant for survival. Deep breathing calms the brainstem and allows us to move to higher levels of thinking. Once we are in those higher levels of rationale, we can focus on how we feel physically and our current thoughts.

3. If you require a quick way to relieve stress without acquiring a quiet space, practice those deep breaths. Just breathing deeply for a few minutes can help reduce stress levels. 

4. The American Psychological Association (2018) recommends utilizing our circle of friends and family to help us manage our stress levels.

5. If you find that your muscles are tense from the day’s stress, try some progressive muscle relaxation. For this form of stress relief, you will tense and release various muscles in the body. Work from one end of the body to the other, tensing for 5 seconds and resting for 30 seconds before going to the next area. This technique also helps to refocus the mind and make us aware of what is occurring in our bodies (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2022).   

For more ideas on what you can do to reduce the effects of a stressful day, visit


American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Stress effects on the body. American Psychological Association. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from

Jaret, Peter. (n.d.). The surprising benefits of stress. Greater Good. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022, April 28). Relaxation techniques: Try these steps to reduce stress. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved May 2, 2022, from

By Eva Timothy, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor

Don’t Try to Outfox the Fox

Red foxes, although not native to Utah, are becoming more common in cities and suburban settings. In an effort to impress social media followers, some wildlife enthusiasts are attempting human/fox selfies and are getting too close, even offering them food. This is not without risk to both humans and foxes.

When spotted in a neighborhood, residents may wonder if foxes pose a danger to people or pets, or if they could have rabies since they are out in the daytime. Red foxes may be active day or night, though most are active at dawn and dusk, so a fox being out and about during the day doesn’t indicate rabies.

A fox’s breeding season is from mid-January to early February. Red foxes usually have a single annual litter of four to five kits. Fox kits, or pups, are born from March to May in dens dug in the ground or under rocks or structures. Kits begin to hunt with adult foxes at 8 to 12 weeks old and will stay with their parents through spring and summer, then disperse to find their own territories by the fall.

If foxes are sighted near residential homes, it is likely because they are finding shelter under decks, sheds, or landscape rocks, or finding access to food including rodents or forage.

In general, foxes hunt their natural prey, but individual foxes may learn to target unprotected poultry and pets. Foxes are known carriers of rabies and can transmit the disease to humans and other animals, but this is rare.

Foxes have a natural fear of people. They can be dangerous to humans if they are captured and handled, but even then, their natural tendency is to flee rather than fight. If you see a fox outside during the day, it’s no cause for alarm. It will likely run away if it sees you. If it doesn’t, it has probably learned to associate people with food, likely because someone has fed it, and it may exhibit a boldness or even approach you.

You should never feed, approach, or chase foxes. The best way to avoid conflict is to prevent issues from developing in the first place. Consider these tips:

·         * Red foxes will occasionally scavenge in garbage cans. Secure trash in a locked can and put it out the morning of pickup rather than the night before.

·         * Remove attractants from your property, including pet food, water sources, bird feeders, and fallen fruit.

·         * Trim vegetation around your yard to reduce hiding places.

·         * Install outdoor and motion-sensitive lights around your property to make approaching foxes visible.

·         * If a fox is on your property, make it feel unwelcome. Bang pots and pans, yell, spray it with a hose, or turn on sprinklers.

·         * Supervise pets when they are outside, especially at dawn and dusk, and never leave them outside after dark.

·         * Keep dogs leashed, especially when on trails and in open areas.

·         * Never let your dog chase or “play” with foxes.

·         * Keep cats indoors.

·         * Use electric fencing to help keep foxes away from pets and livestock.

For more information, visit Wild Aware Utah.

By: Terry Messmer, Utah State University Extension wildlife specialist,

How Do You Tell People Who are Interested in You That You aren’t Interested in Being in a Relationship?

Telling someone you are not interested in dating them is uncomfortable and can be a painful experience. In order to answer the question of how to tell someone you are not interested in dating them, it is important to point out that it really depends on the situation. However, there are a few principles that can be applied to a variety of circumstances. 

  1. Be Kind and Honest- It is important to remember that you can be nice and kind in addition to being honest. Being kind means being honest and treating someone the way you see them. If you see them as a friend, treat them as a friend, but do not treat them as a romantic interest or potential boyfriend/girlfriend. Although it is unpleasant for a moment, being honest and telling someone you are not interested is the kindest thing to do. 
    2.Be consistent- Similar to the last point, make sure to be consistent in your words and your actions. There’s a principle of communication called a double bind, which means you are expressing something different with your words than you are expressing with your actions. A double bind is an unhelpful communication pattern, so you want to avoid it. If you don’t want to date someone you can say, “Thank you so much but I’m not interested in dating.” Then make sure your actions support this statement. This may mean not texting or calling someone you just turned down, or it could mean something else. 
    If you are long-term friends with the person or if you just met them, your follow-up actions will probably look a little different. However, the principle is the same. Make sure your words and actions match. If you want to go back to being long-term friends, express that. If you just met and do not want to build a friendship or relationship with the person, then show them you’d like space. People generally will respect that and know how to act in response when your verbal and nonverbal communication matches.   
    3. Keep communicating the same message as long as you need to. Occasionally there may be individuals who you turn down, who will not get the message. Even if you are very good about communicating that message verbally and nonverbally, they may not respect this, or they may be unsure about how to give you the appropriate space to move on socially or romantically. If you have communicated to a person you are not interested in, and they keep texting, calling, or showing up and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you could clearly say to them “Don’t be offended if I am slow to reply or respond. I want to make sure I am not sending the wrong message.” Once you have explained your reason for not responding, you don’t need to feel guilty for not responding to any texts or not answering any phone calls.   

Managing relationships, especially with others whom you do not want a romantic relationship, can be tricky. The key is compassion and kindness balanced with straight forward communication and clear expectations.

By Luara Woodland, Intern, and Dr. Dave Schramm

Spending Time in Nature Boosts Mental Health

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, adults and adolescents in the United States spend over 90% of their time indoors, and the article, “Screen Time Statistics” in Comparitech says the average American spends more than seven hours a day looking at screens. These numbers are not encouraging for getting people outside to enjoy the benefits of nature.

            Research shows that too much screen time and not enough time in nature can contribute to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, research has also found that time spent in nature has positive mental health benefits, including reduced stress, better sleep, and greater happiness.

            It can be difficult to find time to spend in nature because of busy, day-to-day schedules, and it may seem especially hard to access nature sites in urban areas. Fortunately, there are several easy things you can do to get out in nature, no matter where you live. Consider these ideas.

            * Bring nature inside. Decorating indoor spaces with live plants is a simple way to bring nature to you. You can also let natural light in through windows to brighten your home and provide views of the outdoors.

            * Take breaks outside. Even if you only have a few minutes, take a walk or eat a meal outside. Bring your attention to the view of the trees and flowers, the sound of birds, or the feel of the wind to help increase mindfulness and decrease stress. Click here to try a mindful walking exercise.

            * Try gardening. Gardening can be a fun way to increase your physical activity and increase your contact with nature. There are many ways to do urban and planter box gardening if you live in an apartment or area that lacks gardening space. Click here for gardening information and tips.

            * Visit nearby nature sites. Even most urban areas have parks, streams, or public gardens nearby. Consider exploring nature near you to have picnics, family games, or other activities. Visiting nearby nature sites is a free or low-cost way to enjoy nature. 

            * Plan a nature trip. If you want to spend longer periods of time with nature, plan your next trip to a national park, lake, or beach to camp, rock climb, fish, hike, star-gaze, bike, canoe, or a number of other activities.

            Whether large or small, any activity that helps you spend more time connecting with nature is beneficial. It can offer enjoyable alternatives to screen time, help increase your appreciation of the earth, and provide both physical and mental health benefits.

            To see information links and citations, click here.

“Hidden Gems” Out and About Family Adventure Guides Launched

Looking for ideas to play together as a family this summer? Use our FREE Hidden Gem adventure guides! (New guides available now!) Download a guide, connect and play together using the guide, then give us feedback at the link provided on the guide by July 31, and be entered to win fabulous prizes!

Click here to download the guide!

May Gardening Checklist

April showers bring May flowers – as well as a multitude of gardening tasks. The Utah State University Extension Gardener’s Almanac provides a checklist for each month as well as links for tips and further information. The May checklist follows. 

* Plant warm-season vegetables and annual flowers once the threat of the last frost has passed. Click here for a listing of the average last and first frost dates.

* By planting tomatoes deeper, they are able to form more roots along the stem, creating  a more vigorous plant.

              * Consider planting sweet corn in the garden every other week (until early July) to extend the harvest.

              * Consider the various types of fertilizers. Click here for information on traditional fertilizer options. Click here for information on organic fertilizers.

              * Thin overcrowded seedlings using a pair of scissors, and try not to disturb the young roots.

              * Protect fruit blossoms and tender garden plants from late freezing temperatures. Click here for information on critical temperatures for fruit.

              * Plant summer-blooming bulbs including gladiola, begonia, dahlia and canna.

              * Divide warm-season ornamental grasses when new growth begins to emerge.

              * It’s already time to take notice of weeds. Click here for information. 

              * Allow the foliage of spring blooming bulbs (tulips, daffodils and crocus) to die down before cutting the leaves off.

              * Click here for information on planting a lawn.

              * In compacted sites, aerate with a hollow core aerator when turfgrass is actively growing (April – June).

              * Control broadleaf weeds in the lawn when temperatures are between 60 and 80 F. Follow the label and stop the use of broadleaf herbicides once the temperature is above 85 F.

              * Apply a slow-release lawn fertilizer to provide a long-lasting effect throughout the summer months.

Pests and Problems:

              * Monitor newly planted vegetables for cutworm and flea beetle damage.

              * Monitor for cankerworm damage on scrub oak and Box Elder trees along the foothills.

              * Monitor for aphids on new spring growth on a variety of plants. Treat for aphids by using “softer” solutions such as spraying them with a hard stream of water or using an insecticidal soap.

              * Monitor for slugs and snails. These pests thrive in moist, cool areas of the garden and landscape, feeding on a variety of plant hosts.

              * Protect ash trees from the lilac-ash borer around the first of May.

              * Control codling moth in apples and pears to reduce wormy fruit. For specific timing, see the Utah Pests Advisories.

              * Treat for powdery mildew on apples when leaves are emerging (at ½-inch green) until June.

              * Watch for insect pests in raspberries from mid-May through early June.

              * Monitor for damaging turfgrass insects. In areas previously damaged, consider a preventative (systemic) insecticide.

            * Click here to subscribe to the Utah Pests IPM Advisories for timely tips on controlling pests in your yard and garden.

            * Consider taking an online gardening course. Courses cover everything from container vegetable gardening and creating the perfect soil, to planting trees and controlling pests. Courses are geared to both beginning and professional gardeners. 

            * Explore more gardening tips on Extension’s newly designed yard and garden website. For drought information and tips, click here.

How Do I Know My Partner Will be Faithful?

Trust in a relationship is key to its success. Couples can create trust through sharing varied experiences. Most people do not automatically trust someone they do not know. They determine trust by giving a little of it at the beginning of the relationship, observing behavior, and then giving or rescinding it based on their perception of the person’s behavior. For intimate partners to progress toward feeling fully secure in the longevity of a relationship, fundamental traits should be exhibited. Those traits are predictability and dependability, which lead to faith in the survival of the relationship (Zak et al., 1998).  

Predictability means that in any given situation, you have an idea of how your partner will respond. Zak et al. (1998) suggest that this knowledge is gained by a series of observations and behavioral responses. As a partner follows through with what they said they would do, the other member of the relationship can begin to determine whether or not there is consistency in their behavior. This idea, the feeling as if we know what to expect, is one way in which couples can build trust. Conversely, if a partner shows a lack of consistency in what they say and do, then this can erode the base foundation of a trusting relationship. Once predictability is established, Zak et al. (1998), propose that a couple can move towards establishing dependability.

Dependability in a relationship connotes surety that you can count on your partner to be reliable and trustworthy. This includes being willing to admit mistakes and always being truthful, even in your interactions with others. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is part of being truthful. However, there may be times in which your partner needs to make changes to plans. Their willingness to communicate with you about the change is what makes the difference. 

It is important to note that our own past experiences can influence how we perceive behaviors. A breach of trust in a past relationship can color the way we interpret behaviors in the present. Therefore, open communication about your thoughts and feelings is vital to establishing a trusting relationship. 

Use the following questions to explore trust in your intimate relationship.

  •     Does my partner keep promises?
  •     Does my partner tell me about needed changes to a plan?
  •     More often than not, is my partner’s behavior in our relationship positive?
  •     Do I know what to expect from my partner in most situations?
  •     Do I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally safe with my partner? Why?

If you are still uncertain as to whether or not you can trust your partner, I would encourage you to explore your past experiences, behaviors that cause you concern, and why they are of concern. Talk with your partner about your concerns, and if you do not feel comfortable discussing these things with him, then seek out a licensed therapist to help you explore your experiences and thoughts. 

By Eva Timothy, Professional Practice Extension Assistant Professor


  • Zak, A. M., Gold, J. A., Ryckman, R. M., & Lenney, E. (1998). Assessments of trust in intimate relationships and the self-perception process. The Journal of Social Psychology138(2), 217–228.