How to Help Your Child Fight the Pressure of Youth Sports

track athleteIs your young athlete feeling the pressure of youth sports? If you recognize the symptoms—lack of desire, communication, and motivation—it may be time to step in and help your child deal with the stress he is feeling.

Face the Facts. If your gut tells you things are not right with your child, don’t ignore, deny or whitewash the stress they may be feeling. Talk with your child about how he feels and what he wants to do. Listen to him without judgement.

Take a break. Encourage your athlete to rest from organized sports 1-2 days per week. Allow longer breaks from training and competition every few months.  Even in between seasons, if possible. Use the break to focus on other activities.

Keep expectations realistic. Don’t expect too much from your child. Make sure you know his goals and try to help him achieve those goals without pushing him.

Recognize what your child can handle. Every kid is unique and you need to know how much your child can handle physically. Help him learn to prioritize what he should and can do, and then help him find a balance between school, extra-curricular activities, and free time.

Downplay the importance of outcome. We all want to win. But the more you emphasize sportsmanship, hard work, and small victories, the less pressure your athlete will feel to perform to perfection.

Don’t push for specialization. Many athletes played more than one sport in junior high and even high school. Tennis great Roger Federer and pro basketball player LeBron James didn’t specialize until high school. Encourage your child to play more than one sport as long as they want to. Not only will it help keep them from getting burned out in one sport, cross-training can improve their athletic performance.

Don’t let your child over-practice. Practice makes perfect, but is there such a thing as over-practice? In youth sports, I think there is. Parents and coaches need to discern when enough is enough and stop pushing kids so vehemently to excel. There’s a balance here between challenging them to be better and pushing them beyond reason.

Have a life outside of youth sports. Encourage your child to have interests that have nothing to do with sports. Let them know it’s okay to take a pause from their favorite activity and even be lazy every now and then.

Youth sports is not really the cause of your child’s stress. What we have turned it into is. Coaches and parents can help athletes avoid feeling too much stress by promoting fun, skill development, and balance for each athlete.

Do you have other ideas on how to help kids avoid stress from sports? Tell us about them in the comments below. 

photo credit: Sangudo via photopin cc

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