Helping Kids Deal with Stress in Youth Sports
The stress of youth sports
Kids involved in sports today have a lot to stress out about, including performance concerns, playing time, dealing with coaches and teammates, and bouncing back from adversity. Interestingly, even though stressful situations are around kids all the time, rarely are kids taught specific stress appraisal and response life skills, leaving most kids to cope with stress in a variety of unhealthy ways. When student athletes are not equipped to deal with stress, they often respond by becoming frustrated, losing motivation, and sometimes even prematurely quitting sports.
The reality is stress is a part of life, and kids who play sports will always have stressful situations to conquer. Parents and coaches can play a big part in helping kids deal with stress, and teach kids how to keep their emotions in check while they think through the causes of stress that they experience, as well as potential coping mechanisms to use when working through problems.
Teach kids life skills through sports
The youth sport experience should serve as a vehicle for life success, but that doesn’t always happen for every kid who plays sports. For coaches and sports parents looking for tips to help kids with stress, consider the following:
- Normalize stress. Rather than teaching kids to avoid stress (an impossibility), instead help them understand stress is a normal part of life — the key is to learn how to cope effectively.
- Help kids identify what they control. A big tip when dealing with stress is to focus on what you control, and let go of the things you don’t control.
- Teach healthy, effective coping. Just about any coping response is effective if it gets your mind off the stressor, but is the coping mechanism healthy? Help kids identify coping that is healthy and doesn’t compound problems even further.
- Keep an open, ongoing dialogue. Remind kids that you are there 24/7/365 when it comes to offering help. Just knowing you are there for them helps lessen the problems associated with stress.
What are the biggest stressors in youth sports today in your opinion? What are coping mechanisms that you have found most useful?