Sports are competitive, and young players sometimes have a hard time dealing with the pressures of the game. Add in the demands of school, and you may end up with one stressed kid. Here are 10 tips for helping your child manage sports-induced stress.
1. Provide the Right Encouragement
To help your child manage stress, you must provide encouragement without adding pressure. Don’t push too hard, overreact to mistakes or losses, or make your child feel like sports is the most important thing. It’s not.
2. Watch Your Sideline Behavior
Are you yelling at coaches, refs and umpires? Your sideline behavior can greatly add to your child’s stress both on and off the field. Help your child by keeping it in check.
3. Teach Deep-Breathing Techniques
Teach your child to find a quiet place to sit when feeling stressed. Inhaling slowly through the nose, then holding the breath for five seconds and releasing it slowly will help limit stress. This exercise should be repeated five times in one sitting.
4. Teach Muscle Relaxation
A good stress reduction technique is to contract a group of muscles tightly, hold for five seconds and release slowly. Cognitive thinking about muscle relaxation can make a stressed child relax significantly.
5. Walk Your Child Through Visualization
Ask your child close his eyes and picture a peaceful place, like his room or the beach. Then, have him imagine the stress flowing out of his body while he thinks of the happy, peaceful place. This can take a while for kids to grasp, but it is a powerful tool once they do.
6. Focus on Nutrition and Sleep
Kids need proper fuel and proper sleep to do well in any aspect of life, including sports. If you are rushing so much that you are forced to eat drive-thru food regularly, your kids’ overall health is going to suffer. Focus on proper nutrition and be strict about sleep schedules to help kids cope with stress.
7. Find a Fun Distraction
You need a break from work, and your child needs a break from school and sports. Suggest that you take a walk together, have a sleepover with friends, go see a movie with you, or any other activity that will get your child’s mind off the stress and the sport that is causing it.
8. Don’t Require Perfection
Make sure you are not aiming for perfection, because your kid will pick up on that quickly. Perfection is not the name of the game in youth sports, and to limit stress, you must avoid perfectionist thinking.
9. Encourage Mastery
While perfection is not desired, kids who are unsure of their abilities will feel stressed. If your child needs extra help, arrange for some private lessons or coaching to help achieve mastery. Psychology Today found mastery coaching to be a highly effective way to balance winning with learning in youth sports.
10. Ensure Your Plate Isn’t Too Full
Kids need a chance to just be kids. KidsHealth.org warns that if your plate is overly full, you must find places where you can cut activities. You can encourage your child to focus on one sport or choose a new one that requires less work.
Brandon Capaletti is the Vice President of Cisco Athletic, a Maryland-based athletic apparel manufacturer that designs, produces and distributes custom uniforms for 18 different sports including basketball, soccer, and baseball.