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Jack Perconte

How to Deal with Fearful Athletes

Sports coaching tips of the day

Know the keys to helping athletes deal with fear. There are many types of fear, some apparent and others not so much. Fear of engagement or of injury may be obvious but fear of failure or of letting mom and dad down are hard to detect.

  1. Understand that it is normal to be afraid and have some anxiety at a young age.
  2. Show patience - nervous players need time to work through their worries.
  3. Do not, repeat, “do not” make a big deal of a player’s nervous situation and fear by broadcasting it to others. Singling out a kid’s apparent trepidation will make it less likely they can overcome it. When they or another player suffers an injury, show care but do not go overboard with attention to the situation. Explain to everybody that occasional injury is a part of sports.
  4. Talk to them one on one and explain that fear and anxiety are normal sports traits, but that good concentration allows them to focus despite their anxiety.
  5. Keep teaching - knowledge of how to do things is a key for helping players feel in control.
  6. Teach players to breathe and move - tense players are very static.
  7. Practice game-like situations often so kids have the “been there” feeling.
  8. Do not allow others, team parents and players, to deride fearful kids.
  9. Remind them that they should play for the love of the game and not only to please others. 

As implied above, do not implore players to engage or give the “You have to be tough speech.” Once too much is made of things, it will become a mental issue that players may not be able to overcome.