What are some mental strategies for youth athletes who get nervous before competitions?
Ask youth athletes why they are feeling nervous and open a dialogue with them to figure out what their fear is. Make sure they are having fun and playing in a skill level that is right for them. Have a postgame ritual no matter if they win or lose and have them set their own goals to accomplish during the game/practice.
Transcript: "What are some mental strategies for youth athletes who get nervous before competitions? I first want to say that I'm answering this as a sports medicine physician and team physician and parent and with my years of experience and not as a licensed mental health professional. I do want to say, also, that it's not unusual for kids to feel stressed-- a little bit stressed or nervous before a game. But really get down to the meat of the matter and ask them, why? Why are you nervous? Let's talk about it. Try to have an open dialogue with your youth athlete, whether or not it's your child or whether or not it's someone that you're coaching. And is it because they're afraid of failing-- the coach failing their parents or their teammates? And if so, why is it? Is it because they don't feel like they can perform to their full potential? And figure out what the reason is. What is their fear? If they have heard parents yelling from the sideline or a coach yelling from the sideline, and they feel like they're being critical, well, then you may want to have a conversation or tone it down to the crowd. Tone it down to the parents. Or talk to the coach. The coach may not understand, especially if it's a youth coach and not a professional coach, how their comments can be perceived by the youth athlete. You want to make sure that the youth athlete's having fun. If they feel this competition is too much above their skill set, then move them down to recreational level. The other thing is sometimes, too many times it's a reward. Like if they win a game, well, then we're going to go get ice cream. Make sure that there's a postgame ritual that happens, no matter if it's win or lose. It's important that your child has fun and that there's a ritual that you can talk about, well, what did you do well? And sometimes, that child can't really do visualization. And I've heard a youth athlete say to me, I visualize a ball going through the hoop, but then it doesn't, and I feel bad. But have them set their own little goals in terms of, what do they want to accomplish for that game, for that practice? And hopefully, that'll be helpful. Thanks."