While lots of kids play sports for exercise, or to make friends, many take the game much more seriously. These days youth sports is extremely competitive for everyone involved, from parents to coaches and of course the players. Kids can feel the most pressure to succeed all of the time, which can lead to mental and physical stress.
Some stress isn't necessarily a bad thing. Feeling a little affirming pressure can be a positive. It can push kids to want to perform at their best. To remain focused and reach their goals. It's normal to feel some duress when facing a tough opponent or trying to win a big game.
Oftentimes though, athletes take on more exigencies than necessary which can lead to exhaustion and ultimately keep them from achieving their objectives.
There are a few ways we can help our youth to keep stress at bay, and remain focused.
Eat right, take vitamins and supplements as needed, drink lots of water, and get plenty of rest. If the body is ready to put forth the efforts needed to play hard, the mind will follow.
If a child has too many commitments on his or her calendar, they may quickly be lead to exhaustion. Limiting the amount of sports played per season or per year if they are in travel or club, can help them to stay focused on excelling in one at a time. This will avoid having to juggle the different mindsets and each sport requires simultaneously. Overbooking activities can also play a role. Prioritize their schedules: school, sports, family time, and allow for some down time. Find more time management tips here.
It's Okay To Not Be Perfect
Because youth sports are so competitive these days, many of us forget that we are relying on young bodies and minds to get to the win. As parents we need to make sure we are not pushing perfection on to our kids. Teaching them that while winning is great, losing is part of the game. Every loss is an opportunity to reexamine, regroup, iron out the wrinkles, and do better next time.
This may sound like the ultimate cliché, but have fun! The kids should enjoy what they are doing on the field, on the court, or the rink. They should play the game because they love it and revel in it. It's also important to appreciate other things in life that can bring joy. A good balance of sports and other leisure activities can take some of the pressure off. If they play baseball competitively, then a game of wiffle ball in the backyard may help blow off some steam. Or if they are in club hockey, then an unstructured day at the rink may be enjoyable too.
Find a quiet spot in the house and take a few minutes everyday in gratitude. Have your athlete write down a list of the things they are thankful for and recite them out loud daily, whether as a prayer or just to themselves. A few items to start the list could be:
- I am thankful for the talent to play hockey, baseball, football, soccer, lacrosse, etc.
- I am thankful for parents and supporters that push me to do my best.
- I am thankful for good coaches to guide me and help me reach my goals.
- I am thankful for a healthy body and mind that enable me to perform well physically.
The list can be as long or as short as they want. The point is to remind them that they don't need to rely on just themselves and their abilities to reach their goals. For example, they have other forces around them (like mom and dad!) that are on the ride right along with them. This can also trigger visualizing new goals for the future. Make this a time of rest. Relaxing the mind and the body by taking deep breaths as they are reciting what they are thankful for, and visualizing what they want down the road.
Take a Break
If your son or daughter is showing signs of physical or mental stress, then perhaps it's time to take a break. Not necessarily retire from sports, but take a weekend off or even just a day. Honoring team commitments is very important, but having a sound body and mind are even more so. Talk to the coach in advanced and plan for a day of rest for your child. Sometimes a day off of school or practice can help recharge the batteries, so they can come back fresh and ready to battle again.
Youth sports can be painstakingly competitive these days. Having a strategy to deal with the stresses that can bog a child down can be crucial. Employing these tips can help your player remain focused on goals, with less pressure and more fun!
What other ideas can you think of to relieve stress in competitive youth sports?
Barbara is the mom behind the blog, Modern Sports Mom.She began writing a craft and lifestyle blog in 2012. As life evolved, and her boys became more involved in sports, she aimed to create a site that would resonate with moms like her, and in 2017 Modern Sports Mom was born. A baseball and football mom, she is fueled by her strong faith, dedication to her family, and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee! Barbara lives in beautiful Southern California with her husband, kids, dog, and cat.