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Helping Young Athletes Overcome Fear and Anxiety in Sports

Parents and coaches may see fear and anxiety present in the sport performance of young athletes. Whether it's fear of failure, fear of injury, or fear of not living up to expectations, these feelings can be overwhelming and hinder an athlete's ability to perform at their best.

It's important to recognize that fear is a natural and normal emotion, and it's okay for young athletes to feel scared at times. However, it's also important to help them process and grow through their fear so it doesn't hold them back from reaching their full potential.

Here are four considerations to help young athletes process and grow through their fear:

  • Acknowledge the fear: The first step in dealing with fear is to acknowledge it exists. It's important for young athletes to recognize their fear and understand it's a normal part of the human experience. By acknowledging their fear, they can begin to take control of it rather than letting it control them.

  • Identify the source of the fear: Once young athletes have acknowledged their fear, it's important to help them identify the source of their fear. Is it fear of failure? Fear of injury? Fear of not living up to expectations? Understanding the root cause of the fear can help young athletes better understand and address their emotions.

  • Practice relaxation techniques: Relaxation techniques can be a helpful tool in managing fear and anxiety. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization are mental performance techniques which can help young athletes calm their minds and bodies. Encourage your young athlete to try these techniques before practices and games to help them relax and focus.

  • Seek support: It's not uncommon for young athletes to feel overwhelmed by fear and anxiety. In these situations, it can be helpful for them to seek support from a trusted adult, such as a parent, coach, or counselor. Having someone to talk to and confide in can help young athletes feel less alone and more equipped to handle their fear.

Parents and coaches are trusted adults. Your support and understanding will have a major impact on young athlete's fear and anxiety. Be patient, listen actively, and offer encouragement and support as they work through their emotions. With time and practice, young athletes can learn to manage their fear and perform at their best.

Mental Coach Neil

Neil Wattier is a Mental Performance Coach leading science-backed performance coaching for athletes at all levels of sport performance. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona and an active member of the United States Air Force Reserve. He has helped individuals and teams realize their full potential while serving as a coach, advisor, and mentor to business executives, senior military leaders, young professionals, youth and adult athletes, fitness professionals, and faith communities.


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