Just as it is important to be physically prepared to play youth sports it is equally important for youth athletes to be mentally prepared to handle the pressure. No one can predict exactly how a match will play out, but you can arm your athlete with techniques to overcome pressure from the competition. Here are some methods for overcoming challenges during the match.
First, teach your athletes to reframe bad situations— transforming their negative emotions into positive ones.
For example, if your child went from having a three-point lead to a one-point lead in the final session, they may be feeling discouraged. But encourage them to focus on the positive: “If before the match we knew going into the final session that you’d have the lead, wouldn’t you be happy?” You don’t deny the reality of the match, but choose to find the positive in a seemingly negative situation.
Next, arm your youth athletes with tools to control their emotions. A key to being a better player is learning how to use those emotions constructively. Control your emotions, rather than letting them control you.
A bad call, cheap shot from an opponent or noise from hostile spectators may increase pressure and negative emotions, but encouraging players to experience those emotions as a fun part of the challenge and thrill of competition can keep things from getting worse. One way athletes can do this is by allowing themselves a moment to refocus. Take deep breaths, or use encouraging self-talk phrases like “let it go” or “it’s ok.” Be in charge of your emotions.
There are many more techniques athletes can use to avoid caving in to pressure during the match. Check out this graphic to see how using the three B’s is a simple way to help your athletes overcome match-time anxiety.
At Liberty Mutual Insurance, we constantly look for ways to celebrate the countless acts of sportsmanship and integrity shown by people every day. We created Play Positive™, powered by Positive Coaching Alliance, as part of this belief to help ensure that our kids experience the best that sports have to offer in environments that promote and display good sportsmanship. We believe kids can learn valuable life lessons when coaches and parents come together to support winning on and off the mat.
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