Ah, if only we could wave a magic wand and rid every athlete of their anxiety!
Hi everyone, Coach Anna Kojac here.
This time of year is notorious for being an anxiety-provoking season for many of our athletes. Whether your athlete is gearing up for competition season or is already in the throes of it, anxiety just seems like it’s in full effect these days.
Some of that comes from general stress surrounding this time of year due to the upcoming holidays, various school functions, and getting in Fall-themed family events in the limited time you have available.
But mostly athletes start to feel the stressors of their sport compounding as competition season ramps up.
As a parent, it’s not only exhausting to hold your athlete’s emotions during this time, it’s also confusing!
You might wonder ‘Do I lay off? Do I push more? Do I hold my breath and pray this will be over soon?’
Navigating anxiety is tough and when your athlete seems overly stressed and on edge, it can make parenting an even tougher journey.
To help you, I’ve outlined 3 ways you can assist your athlete in navigating through anxiety this season:
Tip Number 1: Stop Asking So Many Questions
When nerves and anxiety are high, questions can make these feelings worse.
Yes, I know you want to check-in with your athlete and make sure everything’s ok. You might be curious how practice went, what she is feeling after you know she had a tough practice, or what she’s thinking as she grabs her things and heads to the car.
But now is NOT the time to ask.
In this season especially, with anxiety high as is, lay off a little.
Give your athlete the time he needs to process what happened or even to not think about it for a while.
Being quiet doesn’t mean you love your athlete any less.
It means you’re respecting her space and time alone with her thoughts.
Number 2: Model Appropriate Anxiety Coping Behaviors Instead of Unhealthy Ones
When you get stressed out personally, what do you do?
Do you lose your temper, scream more, tense your shoulders, stay up too late, forget important events?
If your athlete sees you manage your anxiety this way, he’ll think that’s how it’s supposed to be managed.
Instead, work hard to model appropriate anxiety-coping behaviors.
Show your athlete that it’s important to take time for yourself.
Stop in the middle of a stressful moment and show your athlete how you take deep breaths to calm yourself down.
Show your athlete how you can focus on what’s important and let the other less important things go at this time.
While these behaviors aren’t directly in a sport domain, your athlete is still picking up on them.
You can’t expect her to know how to cope with anxiety appropriately if she hasn’t seen it been done around her.
Number 3: Make Sure You’re Not Putting Undue Stress On Your Athlete And Causing More Anxiety
Parents, we all mean well. But sometimes we just don’t realize how our own expectations affect our athletes.
Makes sure you’re not adding extra anxiety to your athlete by talking about goals you have for him or reminding her of corrections she should make in order to improve.
Now is not the time to be your athlete’s coach or critic.
Instead, be extra supportive and encouraging during this stressful time of season.
Remind your athlete that you love him regardless of the outcome.
Leave notes in her lunchbox telling her how proud you are of her for being who she is (not for what she’s accomplished but for who she is as a person).
Give him extra hugs just because.
Love on your athletes extra hard during this anxiety-provoking time. And refrain from giving helpful tips or critiques. Let their coaches do that.
Your job is to be a parent and to love your athlete no matter what.
While it feels like this ramp up in anxiety will never end, always remember that it is temporary. All athletes go through these periods of high anxiety. In fact, it’s an important part of navigating through their sport journey. There are so many things to be gained from experiencing anxiety – learning new methods to cope with it, getting through it and gaining confidence because you made it out the other end, figuring out what strategies are effective or not. Seeing anxiety as a blessing instead of a negative experience will help you stay positive as a sport parent and remain the guiding light that your athlete needs you to be during this time. Remember to stop asking so many questions, model appropriate coping behaviors, and make sure you’re not causing the anxiety unintentionally through your own behaviors towards your athlete.
I hope these tips help. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.