The Bleachers Talk

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Supporting Young Athletes Under Pressure: Key Tips for Parents

Nov 02, 2023

Performance pressure can be a game-changer in youth sports, often striking at the most critical moments and derailing an athlete's performance. Whether you've seen it happen to your child or someone you know, the frustration and disappointment it brings can be heart-wrenching. This pressure can shatter belief, dent confidence, and instill doubt in an athlete's abilities.

As someone who has experienced the weight of performance pressure, I want to share two vital tips to help you support your young athlete:

  1. Foster a Supportive Environment: Cultivate an atmosphere that values effort, growth, and enjoyment over fixating solely on winning. Encourage your child to replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and supportive statements. Remind them of their strengths and past achievements to boost their self-image.
  2. Focus on Controllable Factors: Teach your young athletes to set realistic, achievable goals for each event while emphasizing that many factors affecting outcomes are beyond their control, such as teammates' performance and external conditions. Encourage them to concentrate on what they can manage: their preparation and their best effort.

Performance pressure can come from various sources, including coaches, parents, peers, and self-imposed expectations. Despite its challenges, young athletes can develop the resilience and mental fortitude needed to overcome these hurdles. Encourage them to shift their perspective, as one NFL head coach wisely noted: "There are two kinds of pressure: the pressure you feel and the pressure you apply. When you feel pressure, shift your mind to applying pressure to your opponent." With these strategies and unwavering support, you and your young athlete can tackle performance pressure and strive for continued success.


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