It’s game day. Not just any game day, but the BIG game day. Is your child ready?
Your child will play their best when it counts the most if they remain calm. If they are too nervous, their muscles may tighten, confidence may slide, and it’s downhill from there. No athlete plays to their potential when that happens.
The next time your child faces an important game, here’s a few ways you can help them be ready.
Keep the Right Perspective
Placing too much importance on one game and the dire consequences that may ensue if they lose is enough to tense any athlete up.
As hard as it is to lose, it will not be the end of the world or the end of competition; in the journey of life, it will be a bump in the road. Helping your child keep a balanced perspective will calm them and help them play better.
Focus on the Process
As athletes shift their focus away from their preparation and the process and onto the outcome, their play may be negatively affected. If they focus on the process, they will pay attention to the things that help them play best, like technique and their preparation. Instead of looking too far ahead to the end of the game, they learn to focus on this hit, this throw, this serve or this lap. In doing that, they can do their best in the moment.
Focus on Your Own Play
If your child gets distracted by opponents, officials, spectators, or parents yelling, nerves are sure to kick in. Talk to them about how they can stay focused on their job, not on everything that’s going on around them.
Contrary to some old-school thought, having fun in sports does not diminish the quality of your child’s performance. Fun is the key to remaining calm and doing their best when competition heats up. If your child gets too serious, they will put too much pressure on themselves and that most likely will negatively affect their performance.
If the fun disappears in youth sports, then most likely game skills will too. Fun means that your child enjoys the game, embraces the challenges, works hard, and has fun with friends before, during, and after the game.
Don’t Focus on Goals
Taking goals into the game builds up tension and could work against your child.
For example, if your child is thinking, I want to go 2 for 3, pitch a shutout, or score a goal, or even set out to prove to the coaches that they are good, they may become too nervous to play well. It’s better instead of for them to keep their focus on this play, shot, throw, pitch, or hit, and to concentrate on each moment.
It’s expected that tour young athletes feel pressure when they face a big game. Help them be prepared to face that pressure and the anxiety it brings. In the end, that is a strategy for helping them to play their best.