Anxiety in Youth Sports
Nearly 20% of the population suffers from anxiety, and young athletes are no exception. In fact, kids who have mild anxiety might experience high anxiety in stressful sports situations.
Parents and coaches, you can help identify when sports kids are suffering from anxiety- and determine how to help them.
We recently interviewed Dr. Jeremy Pettit, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology in the Center for Children and Families at Florida International University, an anxiety expert.
How do you identify kids with anxiety that affects their sports performance?
Kids who are suddenly reluctant to play, who used to enjoy sports but don’t anymore, or who complain of headaches and stomachaches might be suffering from anxiety. Some kids may simply say that they get scared playing sports; they don’t like it, says Pettit.
If you think a sports child is suffering from anxiety, there’s a fine balance between showing empathy and encouraging the child to keep playing, says Pettit.
You shouldn’t be dismissive; listen to the child and show that you understand. On the other hand, you should encourage the child to learn coping skills and keep playing.
Tell the kids that taking a few deep breaths will help calm them. Tell them that it’s not a good idea to escape the scary situation. It’s better to try to push themselves through it and come out knowing they succeeded.
“Avoidance maintains anxiety,” he says. “Tell the child, ‘I know this is tough but I know you can do it’,” Pettit advises.
However, at times, the parents need to seek help for children with anxiety. That’s true if the child is truly impaired by the anxiety- if he or she has major meltdowns on the field, or if he or she wants to quit sports due to anxiety. In that case, it’s important to find a psychologist, he says.
Want to learn more about how to help kids excel in sports and overcome mental game barriers?
At Kids’ Sports Psychology, we have lots of resources for you, beginning with our interview with Pettit. Exclusive members of Kids’ Sports Psychology have immediate access to this interview here:
What’s more, we’ve got more interviews, ebooks, Question-And-Answers, and other expert advice!
What do people say about our resources?
“I especially like the mental game videos that my son can watch alone or we can watch together. The videos help to reinforce all the concepts we have learned together. I think the pre-game stuff is cool and the lessons on confidence, coping with doubt, and trust are worth there weight in gold.”
~Dr. Adam Glantzman
Help your sports kids enjoy sports and excel!
P.S. Exclusive members should be sure to listen to our interview about kids and anxiety in sports. You’ll learn lots! Kids’ Sports Psychology Network
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