Overcoming Fear of Reinjury in Youth Sports
A sports parent asks:
“I notice my children tend to take a long time to mentally rebound after an injury, often not returning to regular form for weeks or months. Is this normal, and is there anything I can do about it?”
Returning from an injury is an issue that even professional athletes have a hard time dealing with. While injuries can damage an athlete physically, they can do just as much damage mentally.
Upon returning from an injury, your children are likely to worry about re-injury.
They will feel as if they are less then 100%, and will play warily as they think about the odds of re-injuring or further injuring themselves.
They will be less sure of their physical limits and play with less confidence than usual. They will play less aggressively in an attempt to protect themselves from further harm.
Playing cautiously and fearfully can hurt their confidence, especially if your kids fail to accomplish the things that seemed to be just average for them before the injury.
In addition, when they play tentatively, they don’t take the risks needed to improve their performance.
From here, you run the risk that they may want to take some time off, or quit altogether if their confidence is too low.
You need to get to the bottom of this injury-created lack of confidence. Otherwise, your kids may not return to the athletic form they previously enjoyed.
While physical injuries put many athletes in retirement, the mental effects of injuries have caused players to give up the game far before their bodies were ready to hang it up.
What do you do to get your children ready to return from an injury?
First, you have to manage your children’s expectations and assumptions. If your kids believe they will immediately do just as well as before the injury, they are in for an unfortunate surprise.
Tell them it is normal to need a few games to get confidence back, and to not pressure themselves to perform well. Instead, tell them to focus on being comfortable in the game and finding the flow again.
If, on the other hand, your kids think they will play badly because they’re rusty, tell them that it doesn’t matter how they play.
Once again, stress that they need time to re-acclimate to the game, and they should focus on re-establishing their confidence instead of performing up to the level that they are accustomed to.
It takes time to get over the fears of returning to competition…
A great way to boost their confidence is to help them learn what to do just before a game.
To do that, you can check out our 10-Minute Pregame Prep program here:
Young athletes, their parents and coaches tell us that sports kids often struggle with these pregame mental game challenges:
- They feel pressure to excel from expectations they feel from others.
- They worry too much about what others think about their performance.
- They hang on to mistakes and dwell in them in competition.
- They interpret pregame jitters as harmful to their performance.
- They fail to take charge of their confidence before the compete.
- They don’t trust in their skills when they go from practice to competition.
- They focus too much on the outcome instead of the process.
- They tighten up and play safe when they feel pressure to succeed.
“10 Minute Pregame Prep” will tell you everything you need to know about ensuring your sports kids avoid classic mental game pitfalls before a game, learn how to trust their instincts, and just go for it. It provides lots of advice for you, too…
Parents ask us:
“I am more nervous than my son before games. How do I as a parent stay calm and not show I am nervous before games?”
“My challenge is not to talk too much about the upcoming games or what they need to do. I want to psych him up and encourage him but don’t want him to feel that he has to perform perfectly.”
“How do I support my athlete without putting more pressure on him?”