Does your child play very well during training and practice matches, but tends to choke in the game? Do you feel that the child is over-anxious or nervous on the day of the game? If yes, your child is suffering from performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety is described as decline in athletic performance because of stress.
Players face extraordinary stress on the game day mainly due to two reasons:
- High expectations
- Fear of a large audience
Both of these are external reasons but the stress occurs due to the way the individual player perceives the situation. When you talk to a player facing performance anxiety, the way the player talks about her anxiety will clearly explain what she is going through and what exactly is causing the stress.
Having performance anxiety is normal given the pressure of competition and peers these days. But the child needs to know that every anxiety and fear needs to be discussed with an adult the child trusts like the coach or parent. These feelings, when controlled in time, can actually go on to improve the athletic performance of the child. Here are a few tips to control anxiety and stress in players of youth sports:
- Understand the child is in stress: Coaches and parents need to read through the child’s mind. It is normal to have some stress or anxiety before the game. That is our mind’s mechanism to prepare for the game. But if the child is exceptionally quiet or behaving abnormal, talk to her. There might be signs of performance anxiety.
- Give the team time to settle in: Bring in the players well ahead of time. Let them get a feel of the place and settle in. Get a worm-up done and then conduct some light fun team games to cheer up the kids. You might also ask the team to do some slow breathing exercises that will calm the mind.
- Focus on the game, not on the result: A lot of players make a mental image of winning, holding the trophy, celebrating etc. This then creates a sort of silent pressure on the mind. Tell the kids to close their eyes and visualize the game, a sort of mental strategy of how they are going to play. This will change the whole attitude and bring back focus on the game.
- Force a smile: Ask the team to smile even if they do not feel like it. Tell them to do it repeatedly till the kids break out into laughter.
Remember a little stress is necessary for good performance but it can soon snowball into a problem if not tackled in time.