The More Intense Youth Sports Become, the Greater the Need for Sport Psychology Services
As youth sports leagues continue to develop and morph into what many would call intense, “mini professional sports,” there are new challenges that emerged for sports parents. In addition to the increased chance for physical injury due to the wear-and-tear on young bodies still physically developing, there are a number of mental issues kids often need help with in order to maximize their sport experience.
Youth sports burnout is a growing problem in America, as each year more kids decide to specialize in one sport (and often play that sport year-round). Quite often I am told by kids who I see at the practice that they “feel like there is no end in site” and that “it is no longer any fun but instead feels like work”). Of course, not every kid who feels tired and stale from playing sports should go see a sport psychologist, but most experts would agree that the number of kids who would benefit from such services are far more than those actually receiving any kind of treatment.
Kids who compete in sports can also benefit from general sports counseling to help learn important life skills to cope with stress, as well as increase their human resiliency. Not only are kids playing more games today, but the pressures are often much greater, too, as it is not uncommon for parents, coaches, and even teammates to expect that certain, more talented kids go on to compete in college and later professional sports. The faulty assumption is that if a kid is good enough to excel at a sport, then he or she must want to play that sport at college (and beyond).
Reasons why mental health services are underutilized — even today
- Stigma – Even in 2014 there is still a stigma that many people hold onto when it comes to mental health, and this is especially true in sports where any kind of “mental issue” is often looked at as a sign of weakness. This is truly unfortunate as most kids who receive mental health treatment do indeed improve on many measurable scales, including confidence, motivation, focus, and resiliency.
- Costs – Counseling does have built-in costs both in time and money, but if the return on investment is good then those costs may be well worth it. For example, if a youngster is struggling with parent/team expectations to the point where he is using alcohol and drugs to cope, the cost of counseling might not be an issue at all when put in perspective.
- Services not truly understood – Some people simply have no idea what sports counseling services can do for their child, and therefore stop exploring the question. Others have been lead to believe that all sport psychologists do is help golfers use imagery so that they can make more putts — again, this is just a mere fraction of what the field of sport psychology has to offer. The best advice for parents is to explore information on the internet or simply call a practitioner up personally and ask about his or her services – you might be surprised at what you learn.