I didn’t start formally playing sports until I was sixteen years old. At that age, I had missed all the fun travel teams, experiences, and learning tools that most acquire when they start at a younger age. I missed out on a lot but what I did not miss out on was developing coping skills for performance anxiety. As an athlete trying to overcome performance anxiety, the first thing you have to learn is how to verbalize how you are feeling.
At sixteen years old, I had the cognitive thinking to be able to communicate about my anxiety. This is often not something a younger athlete may be able to know how to do. A young six, seven, eight-year-old athlete does not always know how to put into words what they are feeling. As a parent trying to help your child overcome performance anxiety, there are certain signs you can look for to know how to recognize anxiety symptoms in your teen.
First, there are physical signs that you can pay attention to. You may have noticed if your child begins to breathe very deeply before going to practice, a game, or even putting on their clothes. Perhaps your child tries to be avoidant first before getting in the car or tries to run away from the “sport”. If this is happening, your bundle of joy is possibly experiencing performance anxiety in sports.
Anxiety, itself, limits itself to no age and the same goes for performance anxiety. For your child, there could be many reasons causing this anxiety such as a worry of not playing, avoiding the coach or a specific player, fear, and in worst cases a trauma that happened. If you notice this, there are two steps that I usually recommend.
STEP ONE: Try to ask your child athlete basic questions such as “How do you feel about this sport?” or “What do you like about this sport?” This can establish a baseline as compared to other similar answers they have given in the past. If any answer is irregular, ask those kinds of questions frequently.
STEP TWO: Meeting with an Orlando Sports counselor who treats performance anxiety can also be extremely helpful. This can help you consult with an objective and knowledgeable professional resource. A sports counselor is specially trained in ways to teach your athlete how to play their best game. They will show your athlete how to keep their mental health as fit as their physical health.
The most important thing as a parent that you can do to help your child overcome performance anxiety is to be a parent first. Then a fan...but not a coach. Reward them, give them positive reinforcement, and support them on and off the field. Be their strong support network and just let them know that you are there for them. This is what I often find makes the difference between conquering performance anxiety and keeping yourself in the game.
For more information on how to deal with performance anxiety or to speak to a sports counselor in Orlando, call or email today. We have anxiety counselors and sports counselors who specialize in anxiety relief for athletes. Nicholas DiGianivittorio is a therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy and specializes in anxiety, couples, and sports therapy.
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.