Aaacckk! Helping Teen Athletes with Pre-competition Anxiety – Part 2

Helping Teen Athletes with Pre-competition - Anxiety Part 2

Photo Credit: Julean Hickenlooper

In part 1 of this post I shared ways your teen can deal with pre-competition anxiety. In part 2 we are going to talk about how your actions as a parent, coach or adult supporter can help ease your teen’s pre-competition anxiety.

Before the Competition

  • Acknowledge how your teen is feeling. “Don’t worry everything will be fine” is not reassuring, it tells your teen that how they are feeling is not ok.  Let them know that you understand they are worried (nervous, anxious, or scared) and that you are confident they will be able to handle it.
  • Give them some space. Your teen knows what they need to do to prepare. Let them do their thing, they will ask if they need something from you.
  • If you are feeling nervous or anxious before they compete, model good ways to stay calm. If your teen sees you freaking out it will feed their anxiety.

During the Competition

  • We’ve all seen “That Parent” at a sporting event. The loud one who yells at everyone and makes a big scene? Keep it positive and cheer for your kid and everyone else on the team.
  • Let the coach do the coaching. Trying to give your teen advice while they are competing is going to embarrass them and just add to the stress they are already feeling.
  • If you are the coach, keep it positive and focused on what is happening in the moment. This is not the time to get in a young person’s face.

After the Competition

  • Ask how they felt about the competition without giving a critique of their performance. Let your teen take the lead on this conversation. If you have expertise in the sport and your teen asks for your feedback, tread carefully. Be clear about the difference between how they perform and who they are as a person.
  • If you’re coaching, balance your feedback between what the team needs to improve and what they did well.
  • Celebrate what went right!

In General

  • In competition there are winners and losers, that’s life. We need to be sure kids understand that the outcome of a game does not define who they are. If you are all about winning your teen will be more worried about winning than about performing well – which just adds unnecessary pressure. Take the primary focus away from the outcome.
  • Keep your expectations about your teen’s abilities realistic. Help them do the same.
  • Handle your own anxiety in healthy ways. (Deep breathing, meditation, healthy eating, etc)

The only way your teen is going to learn to deal with anxiety is to work through it. If you step in and handle things for them, or allow them to avoid situations that make them anxious, they will not learn coping skills.

Anxiety can overshadow the positive aspects of participating in sports. By working together we can help teens work through pre-competition anxiety and experience the benefits of competition.

If your teen’s anxiety reaches a level that significantly interferes with their performance or other parts of their life, you may need to seek professional help. Look for a mental health professional in your area that has experience working with teens and experience working with athletes.

Do you have other ways adults can help ease pre-competition anxiety? I’d love to hear from you!

Other articles you might enjoy:

How Not to Embarrass your Sports Kid from the Sideline

Help Young Athletes Overcome Anxiety in Sports and Life
(I have not used the products promoted on this site.)


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