How High Expectations Lead to Pressure in Young Athletes
A recent NCAA poll of more than 21,000 current college athletes shed some interesting light on how pressured these athletes feel about making it big.
The data, from NCAA’s GOALS Study of the Student-Athlete experience, and just reported in USA Today, revealed:
- About 26 percent of Division I men said their family expected them to compete in the pros/Olympics.
- About 22 percent of DII men’s families expected them to compete in the pros/Olympics.
- About 13 percent of DI women reported their family expected them to be pro/Olympic athletes.
- Approximately 9 percent of DII women said their family expected them to compete in the pros/Olympics.
But here’s the reality, as reported by USA Today:
About 3 percent of NCAA athletes end up playing professional sports. Only .9 percent of NCAA football players compete professionally, while 35 percent of D1 football players’ families expect them to play professionally.
It’s fair to assume that these athletes feel tremendous pressure to make it to the pros.
Here at Kids’ Sports Psychology and Youth Sports Psychology, we have lots to say about high expectations—no matter how well-meaning or goal-oriented you think they are.
When parents place high expectations on young athletes, especially young kids, the kids often strive to be “perfect,” and take on perfectionist qualities that hurt them.
Perfectionists are often too hard on themselves, and blast themselves for making mistakes. When they don’t live up to other people’s expectations, they get frustrated easily.
And, as the USA Today story points out, a number of factors that are out of kids’ control can hurt their performance—bad weather and equipment that fails, for example.
They can’t be perfect all the time!
Rather than placing high expectations on young athletes, help them focus on the process—one stroke, pass, or shot at a time.
Help them establish mini-goals, which are obtainable goals that allow them to focus on the process. They might include, for example, concentrating on communicating well with teammates, or executing good passes.
Want to learn more about high expectations and perfectionism?
Our latest program, “10-Minute Pregame Prep,” teaches both parents and their young athletes how to handle these challenges.
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Young athletes and 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 focus too much on the outcome instead of the process
- 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 hang on to mistakes and dwell in them in competition
- They worry too much about what others think about their performance
- They tighten up and play safe when they feel pressure to succeed
- They interpret pregame jitters as harmful to their performance
“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…
With our program, you can stop wondering what to do and relax before your kids’ games!
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- How kids can learn top mental strategies to perform well
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- Learn the top five “costly” sports parenting trips, and much more!
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“ABSOLUTELY LOVING your weekly videos and tips. I have a young high performing tennis player. He almost needs the thrill of competition and a match to perform well. In fact the more people that are watching and the higher the stakes the better he usually does. His problem is practice-he does not seem to motivate himself in practice.”
~Alex Dunn, Sports Parent
“I wanted to let you know that I read your last email to my 14-year-old son the evening before his final match at a tournament, which he subsequently won. He said that your message helped him to focus and win. He won 1-6, 7-5, 6-4. Thanks for your valuable insights!”
~Arjun Kalyanpur, Tennis Parent
Help Young Athletes Boost Confidence in Sports!
Do your young athletes:
- Criticize themselves often after making mistakes?
- Freeze up and look scared when faced with competitive pressure?
- Lose confidence after working with a negative coach?
- Perform like stars in practice but freeze up or play tentatively during games or competitions?
If so, check out The Ultimate Sports Parent!
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What are sports parents saying about our mental training program?
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