Stress Management
for Kids in Sports

boy playing tennis

Stress management for kids can be tricky depending on what activities your child pursues. It can be especially difficult for those kids who are active in sports.  Sports take up a lot of time, and if your child has chosen a competitive sport to learn and become proficient, there will be some stressful occurrences along the way.  Sports by their very nature are competitive and can cause anxiety and stress if not handled carefully.

In the US, for example, over 40 million children participate in organized youth sports each year.  And 70%of these will either quit or be rejected by age 15.  The youth sports system encourages a systematic filtering of athleticism so that only the best athletes make it to the top.  It may be challenging for your child to handle the pressures that go along with training, competing, winning and losing.

Helping your child learn how to handle stress in competition allows more opportunities to build pleasant memories.  There are peaks and valleys in any competitive sports journey, so insuring that your child is highly motivated and interested in a chosen sport will prevent burn-out down the road. 

Stress management for kids in sports starts with balancing the interest with the amount of time investing.  Children may show early interest, and then as they learn more about the sport they become less motivated and less engaged in learning the skills.  My younger son started playing tennis in the summer of his ninth year.  He enjoyed playing with his friends, using an inexpensive racquet and taking some group lessons together.  The tennis group lessons led to private lessons on a weekly basis, year round.  This led to competition in local, regional and national tournaments throughout his high school career.

His interest in the game of tennis remained high until he found that this was not his major focus for life after high school.  There were many kids who were better players than he, and he no longer focused solely on tennis.  Having a big picture of where tennis was going to fit in his life allowed the experience to be healthy, yet not overwhelming.  He knew his life would encompass many other things along the way.  His career would not be in tennis.

Matching your child’s personality traits with the chosen sport is important when addressing stress management for kids in sports.  Some sports, such as soccer, are team sports where the emphasis is learning to get along with other team members and sharing.  Tennis is an individual sport in which you compete on the court alone.  No teammates, except in doubles. 

My son had to rely on his own ability to devise his strategy to compete against his tennis opponent and develop confidence in his ability to play well.  There was no coach to help him out there on the court.  Stress is always a part of competitive sports but the type of stress your child handles better than others gives you an idea of a sport that will be comfortable for your athlete to master.

Handling winning and losing is another aspect that you will be addressing.  Learning how to lose is a lesson that is more difficult for some than others.  If winning is the primary goal for your child, there is a good chance that stress will increase when losing occurs.  If the child does not experience winning, then frustration can set in and the child will quit.

Kids participate in sports for many reasons including the opportunity to develop physical skills, make friends, be a member of a team, learn to play fair and improve their own self-esteem.  Keeping things in perspective encourages effective stress management for kids in sports.  It allows your child’s enthusiastic participation to provide lifelong learning opportunities and fond memories.  When all is said and done, "it's only a game."

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