One of the largest obstacles to peak performance in young players is stress. Young players are frequently under stress at school in order to achieve high marks for acceptance to post secondary education. In addition, they are often under stress in terms of time management to fulfill both their academic and athletic commitments.
Stress can also be placed upon young players by coaches, parents and even themselves in order to achieve outcome goals such as results. This can negatively impact any performance improvements gained through training, increase the risk of injury and even lead to serious health issues.
It is very important that young players are able to identify stress symptoms early and be able to use techniques to help them better manage and reduce their levels of stress.
Dr. Joseph Mercola, who operates a Natural Health Centre in Illinois, believes that the dangers of stress can include:
- Impairment of working memory
- Hampering of fitness gains
- Impairment of motor coordination
- Reduction in Motivation
- Slowing of Exercise Recovery
- Depleting of emotional resources
- Sabotaging of concentration
Young players can help recognize the symptoms of stress by asking themselves the following questions:
- Do they have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep?
- Are they feeling tired for no reason?
- Do they crave sugar or salty snacks?
- Are they waking up unrefreshed from sleep?
- Are they feeling run down and overwhelmed?
Suggestions to help reduce stress
- Proper nutrition
- Mind relaxation techniques
- Deep breathing exercises – yoga, meditation
- Establish a consistent sleep and wake up time
- Increase downtime away from laptop/iPad/phone
Stress can have a very negative impact on a young player’s performance during games. There are numerous examples of young players not being able to deliver their best performances during games. In order to reduce the risk of this, Kristi Pikiewicz, Ph.D. (Managing Editor of the American Psychological Associations Division of Psychotherapy) offers the following advice:
- Recognize that pre-race jitters are normal
- Prepare both mentally and physically
- Use visualization to image positive scenarios during games
- Focus on tasks (1v1’s, dribbling, passing, shooting) rather than the outcome (the result)
Player Tips: Ask yourself the series of questions above to determine if stress is limiting your performance. Introduce the suggestions listed to improve your game performances
Coaches Tips: Help reduce the stress of the young players you work with by emphasizing performance goals (how well players execute skills) over outcome goals such as game results
Parents Tips: Help keep an eye on your child to make sure they are not suffering from stress. Help play down the importance of game results. Is your child enjoying the game and are they improving?
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