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Signs of Performance Anxiety in Young Athletes and How to Combat It

By T1EHL Staff, 10/30/19, 9:30AM CDT


Many athletes limit their performance due to anxiety, tension, worry, and fear. Sports are supposed to be fun, not stressful for your young athletes, right?

Parents and coaches, you can identify when sports kids are suffering from anxiety–and determine how to help them.

First of all, how do you recognize your kids suffer from anxiety that affects their sports performance?

Kids who are suddenly reluctant to play, who used to enjoy sports but don’t anymore, or who complain of headaches and stomachaches might be suffering from anxiety. Some kids may look scared playing sports; they play too safe or tentatively. They might look highly distracted.

A clear sign of anxiety or worry is when kids play well in practice, but then shut down and look like different athletes in competition.

If you think your athlete is fearful or anxious about competition, you want to find out what the source of fear is. Start by talking with your athlete and show that you understand. You might ask, “You look worried on the field, what’s so stressful about playing sports?”

You can explore these questions with them:

·      Are you worried about making mistakes?

·      Are you concerned with what your teammates think about you?

·      Are you worried about letting down the coach?

·      Are you worried about disappointing us if you don’t do well?

·      Are you concerned about losing and what might happen?

You might be able to see a change in your athlete’s demeanor in competition, but not know what’s going on in their heads. And sometimes kids don’t know the real source of their apprehension. They just know they feel tight and awkward and don’t understand it themselves.

Telling your athletes to take a few deep breaths might help calm them, but this might be just a band aid to what they are feeling. If they try to avoid mistakes, losing, or embarrassment, ask them to focus on being a kid and playing with friends–they need to stay in the moment and get into a child-like mindset.

If they worry about letting down others, you want them to know you and the coach support and love them no matter how well they perform.

This post originally appeared on and was written by Patrick Cohn. You can find it here: