Shortness of breath. Lack of focus. Throwing up before the game.
These could all be symptoms of sports performance anxiety.
A lot of athletes go through this because of several factors. It could be self, societal, or even parental pressure that is causing them to engage in negative self-talk which leads them to “choke” on the playing field.
If you’re a parent of a young athlete, you would certainly not want this to happen to your own child. In your eyes, your little superstar can do anything that will help him will rise to the pinnacle of sports success.
But hold on a moment.
Have you ever asked yourself if how you think and what you do as a parent can actually affect your child’s performance in sports?
You might not be so conscious about it so here are some ways your behavior can actually be detrimental to your child’s sports performance:
1. Focusing on winning.
When your child expresses interest in a sport – especially one that you have enjoyed or participated in when you were his age – there’s a high tendency that you will burst at the seams with excitement.
You want to express your utmost support by being present at all the games, cheering him on, getting him the best sports coaches, and even playing coach at times. You do all these things and more to motivate your child especially when it comes to the point when the sport becomes competitive.
However, being overzealous about winning and getting obsessed about being no. 1 all the time can cause psychological stress on your child. This stressful situation can cause pre-game anxiety, sleep disruptions, head and stomach aches, and depression. It may even lead to your child totally losing interest in the sport.
According to the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, parents, coaches, and other caregivers should focus on developing the skills involved in enjoying sport instead of putting too much emphasis on getting the gold medal.
2. Focusing on failure.
On the flip side, parents who train their eye on every little mistake can also cause performance anxiety. Moms who nitpick on every jump and axle and dads who criticize every lob or serve might think they are helping their little athletes perform better.
The opposite could actually happen. If you always see the hurdles and telling your child his way won’t work, you are diminishing his self-esteem. It might also make him feel intimidated by challenges because he thinks he won’t be able to overcome them.
Instead, a better way to be a supportive sports parent is to give kids genuine encouraging words that will help instill a healthy belief in themselves.
3. Comparing to others.
You don’t want to always be measured by how good others are, do you?
The same goes for your kids. Saying, “Son, your dad was the star figure skater in his time” or “Your sister always took the Grand Slam in her division” will not only put your child down but also create insecurity in him.
Each child is unique and they have their own set of skills and abilities. If your neighbor’s kid can do The Lutz and your child can’t, don’t say that he should have practiced more. Instead, praise his efforts for trying and simply say that you will be there to support him no matter what.
4. Withholding attention and affection.
Some parents shower their kids with love, attention, and gifts when they win something. That is all well and good. But if that affection and attention wanes or worse, purposely withheld as a method of punishment for not winning, then there is cause for worry.
Doing so is psychological and emotional abuse. Kids can experience stress because of this and might equate winning or losing to the unhealthy association to emotions.
Regardless if your child wins or losses, shower him with equal love, attention, and respect.
5. Giving false praise.
Sometimes, parents to fall into the trap of being afraid to hurt their children. The opposite of always giving criticism is constantly giving praises, even when praise is not due.
Sugar coating everything and saying that your child did well all the time even if he didn’t can also have adverse effects. It might make them complacent, less motivated, and highly entitled.
Parents must learn to also expose their kids to the harsh realities of life. By letting them experience the hurdles and challenges of the sport they are engaged in, they will also learn how to face their emotions and deal with them their way.
Sports psychologists, top coaches, and other experts in the field agree that too much support or motivation can also put too much pressure on your young athlete. It is always better to strive for a balanced, objective approach to you giving your child support in his athletic endeavors so as not to lead them to be anxious about their game.
A veteran c-level executive with more than 25 years of experience across multi-faceted industries including Leisure & Recreation, Barry Bremner joined Zayed Sports City as Director of Business & Corporate Services in 2009 and was appointed to General Manager in 2013. During his time with Zayed Sports City, he has developed and implemented new management systems as well as raised the profile of the organization by securing leading events to take place at Zayed Sports City, including: WWE, Monster Jam, the U-17 World Cup, FIFA Club World Cup and the Mubadala World Tennis Championship. During his tenure at the property, annual visitors to Zayed Sports City have increased from 420,000 in 2009 to 1.3m in 2016.