As sports counselors in Orlando, we know performance anxiety can happen at all ages. While the young athletes are first experiencing it, the older adolescents and teens are learning how to deal with it. If your teenage son or daughter is an athlete and you feel as though something may be off, dive a little deeper. Have you noticed a change in their motivation, drive, or a sense of burnout? These can all be symptoms of performance anxiety and something easily resolved by seeking help from a sports counseling specialist.
For teenagers, you might notice it when simple discussions that involve their sport get immediately directed somewhere else. This is because their sport has become an anxiety trigger. Why would they want to embrace a topic that fosters anxiety? Oftentimes, what fosters performance anxiety in teens in sports is the worry of not performing and being viewed as a failure.
This can also be seen often with those athletes who are trying to play collegiate athletics. They may be worried about not earning a scholarship, being recruited, or not living up to the expectations and pressures perhaps you, the parent, have placed on them. This makes them want to dissociate and turn away from their sport in fear of not being good enough. So, how do you address this with your teen?
Ask them what their goals and aspirations are for sports. Ask them if they ever get nervous before playing. If so, ask them what makes them nervous and what is causing this. Keep in mind they are a teen, so it may be short answers at first. Don't let that dissuade you and remember this is just your way of letting them know you care about their feelings. They need to know that your door is always open so that they can come to you and seek support and guidance.
You can use positive reinforcement in your communication but be mindful not to go into "coach" mode. You are their parent and fan. They should not feel like you are judging or criticizing them in their performance. Reinforce this by telling them what they contribute to the sport, not what the sport contributes to them, and allow them to develop their own identity.
Speaking to a sports counselor is also a great step because it can provide a third-party objective view on their performance anxiety which may be rooted in something completely different. Continue to be that support and guidance for them and let them know you are more concerned about them than their results on the field/rink/track/pool.
For more information on sports therapy and to speak with a sports counselor in Orlando, call or email our office today. We look forward to hearing from you. Be proud of yourself!
Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.