Pressure in Youth Sports
Pressure is part of all sports and its impact in youth sports
is something we need to carefully evaluate. The spotlight
is brightest in baseball; there is simply no place to hide.
For the pitcher, batter, catcher and anybody the ball is hit
to, all the attention of parents and peers is riveted on that
player. In soccer, basketball or other sports, it's easy enough
to "blend in", but not in baseball. I have tremendous respect
for every kid who takes the risk and goes out to play ball
- especially the kids who are not as talented; it's not easy.
This is especially true for a young pitcher who controls every
aspect of the game. Is there simply too much pressure put
on kids to early? I don't think so. As we evaluate the physiological
aspects of pressure, the kid's psychology, our own beliefs,
and effective ways to deal with pressure, I'll let you know
What Is Stress? - Changes, such as sudden trauma, several
big crises, or many small daily hassles, cause stress. The
human body has different ways of responding to stress; one
quick responding nerve-hormonal system involving adrenaline,
another long-lasting system involving cortisol, and perhaps
others. These systems not only determine the intensity of
our anxiety reactions but also our attitudes, energy level,
depression, and physical health after the stressful events
are over. Stress can also be a source of energy that can be
directed towards useful purposes. How many of us would study
or work hard if it were not for anxiety about the future?
Life is a dynamic process and thus forever changing and stressful.
Physiologic changes including an increased heart rate and
blood pressure, faster breathing, muscle tension, dilated
pupils, dry mouth and increased blood sugar all take place.
In other words, stress can also be described as a state of
increased arousal. Up to a certain point stress is beneficial.
We can perform with greater energy and increased awareness
with the influx of excitatory hormones that release immediate
Understanding Each Child - There are genetic, constitutional,
and other factors that influence the pressure an individual
will feel in any situation and their reaction to that stress.
Some of us may have been born "nervous", "happy", "emotional",
or even "grouches." Almost certainly we are by nature prone
to be shy or outgoing, and we also inherit a propensity for
certain psychological effects, including our reaction to stress.
So, we have to expect that each child will be impacted by
and deal with pressure situations differently. It is imperative
to judge each child as an individual. Some kids are desperate
to bat with the bases loaded or the pitch in a clutch situation.
Does your child hope the ball is hit to him so that he can
make the play or does hope it's not hit in his direction so
that he can't make an error? My favorite Michael Jordan quote
is: "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost
almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the
game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and
over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." You want
to put kids into a position where they can succeed and to
do that you need to understand who they are and how they are
impacted by different pressure situations.
Another difference in children can be the way that they act
in team vs. individual sports. A friend of mine has a child
who is a very good athlete and highly competitive in tennis
and golf, but "disappears" in soccer and basketball. The psychology
behind this is simply that this person is able to perform
when she knows that it's all up to her. However, she doesn't
want to be the one who lets down the team by missing a shot.
On the other hand, some children may react in just the opposite
manner and not want the outcome to be totally determined by
their own actions.
The easiest thing to do is very simple - just ask the kids.
You may be surprised at how honest the answers will be. Here
are some questions to try:
1.When the game is tied and you're playing in the field, do
you want the ball to be hit to you or would you prefer that
the ball is hit to one of your teammates?
2.If your team is losing by one run in the bottom of the last
inning, the bases are loaded, and there are two out, do you
want to be at bat?
3.If you're on deck in the same situation, do you want your
teammate to win the game or do you want a chance to get to
4.Would you prefer your teammate make the last out of the
game so that you don't have to bat with the game on the line?
5.Do you want to pitch?
6.Would you want to come in with the bases loaded and your
team has a one run lead in the championship game?
Projection of Parents, Friends and Relatives - Projection
is one of the defense mechanisms identified by Freud and still
acknowledged today. According to Freud, projection is when
someone is threatened by or afraid of their own impulses so
they attribute these impulses to someone else. For example,
a parent or grandparent who is so nervous about the outcome
of a game can project their own insecurity and stress onto
a child when the child isn't bothered at all. For example,
I know some grandparents, who are admittedly risk averse themselves
and protective of their kids (no matter how old they are)
are now at least as protective of their grandchildren. They
have a grandson who is an excellent pitcher and loves to pitch,
but they still feel that he's under too much pressure and
maybe he shouldn't even be playing baseball. This is an example
of projection of their feelings about the child rather than
actually finding out how he feels. I know many parents who
prefer their child not come to bat in a tough situation just
in case their kid makes the last out. While this is very easy
to understand since we all want to protect our children, it
often isn't the kids feeling the pressure, but the rest of
Dealing With Pressure - Webster's Dictionary defines
"Pressure" as "the burden of physical or mental distress".
Even that definition is interesting because it neglects the
possibility that people can perform well and even thrive under
pressure and stress. One misconception though with performing
under pressure is that stress always has a negative connotation.
Many times, "the stress of competition may cause a negative
anxiety in one performer but positive excitement in another".
That is why one frequently hears how elite players' thrive
under pressure, when most others would crumble. As individuals,
our nervous systems differ; however, according to Richard
Dienstbier at the University of Nebraska, we may be able to
modify our physiological reactions by learning coping skills.
Not surprisingly, exercise and sports participation are commonly
considered as activities to reduce stress from other areas
in life. However, if a child is feeling pressure while playing
sports, here are some solid stress relief techniques they
1.Visualization - Before a game, visualize yourself
in stressful situations and dealing with them successfully.
Put yourself into that place mentally so that you can deal
with it better when it happens in reality. During the game,
you can remember back to how you've already dealt with this
situation and are mentally prepared for it. Just so you know
where I'm coming from, visualization is simply a shorter version
2.Breathing - If a kid is feeling stressed during a
game, feeling less anxious can often be as simple as taking
a few deep breaths. Deep breathing is a very effective method
of relaxation. It is a core component of everything from the
'take ten deep breaths' approach to calming someone down,
right through to yoga relaxation and Zen meditation. It works
well in conjunction with other relaxation techniques such
as Progressive Muscular Relaxation, relaxation imagery and
meditation to reduce stress.
Conclusion - A lot has been made of the impact of pressure
in youth sports and the negative impact, but much of this
is simply projecting a parent or relative's individual beliefs
on the situation. While you can argue that I'm doing the same
thing, but in reverse, I in fact take a different position
which is: 1) to acknowledge that pressure does exist, but
2) to determine how each individual child can deal with the
situation. Only by knowing each child can you determine if
the situation is, in fact, distress rather than an adrenaline
producing pressure moment which the kid loves.
Copyright Ken Kaiserman - http://www.sportskids.com
Ken Kaiserman is the president of SportsKids.com
, a leading youth sports website featuring games, sports news,
sports camp and league directories, community features, and
Kid Sports with over 150,000 products.
Ken coaches youth football, basketball and baseball. He also
serves on the local little league board of directors as well
as the Park Advisory Board. You can read and subscribe to
the SportsKids blogs at http://www.kidstore.blogspot.com
Article Source: http://www.hotlib.com/articles
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