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9/23/19 blog post

7 tips to reduce athletic performance anxiety

A certain amount of worry about how you perform can be helpful in competition. At the same time, negative thought patterns and expectations of failure can bring about a self-fulfilling prophecy and interfere with performance. If there is a big difference between performance during practice and competitions, anxiety may be affecting your athlete’s performance.

What are the triggers of performance anxiety in athletes?

Some types of athletes are more prone to feeling the effects of anxiety on performance.

  • New to the game: Amateur athletes are more likely than seasoned professionals to experience anxiety.
  • Solo athletes:  Athletes in individual sports are also more likely to experience anxiety than those who play team sports.
  • Travel: There is evidence that in team sports, playing an “away” game at the venue of the opponent, anxiety levels can be higher than when playing at home.
  • Key positions:  Pitchers, goalies, and quarterbacks are just a few of the key positions that feel more stressed due to the role they play.
  • The big game: Of course, it’s natural to feel nervous before the championship game but some athletes are paralyzed by the heightened competition.

So what can you do?

As a parent or coach of a student-athlete, there are strategies you can use to help your child through moments of performance anxiety.

  1. Identify when your athlete is feeling anxious. You know your child best and can often see this happening before your eyes.
  2. Acknowledge and normalize. Letting your child know that these feelings are OK can go a long way in reducing nervousness.
  3. Plan ahead. If you know that away games give your athlete'd nerves, work on a plan ahead of time.
  4. Take a breath. Help your athlete remember to slow down and breathe. Taking a few deep breaths can slow the heart rate and clear the mind.
  5. Power of positivity. Positive feedback is always helpful. Encouragement and remind your athlete of all the things that went well often.
  6. Go to the games. This might seem simple, but often parents get caught up in running errands or doing other things that they may skip games, especially games far away from home.
  7. Get help. If the anxiety is overwhelming, get help from a professional.

mental health resource connection 

The Mental Health Resource Connection program at Dayton Children's is a service that connects patients and families to available mental health services in the community. The service is administered by social workers experienced in evaluating pediatric mental health needs and the services required to meet those needs. The Mental Health Resource Connection strives to improve the mental health status of children in Dayton Children's service area. Conditions evaluated include (but are not limited to):
• Emotional issues
• Anger issues
• Behavioral issues
• Eating disorders
• Anxiety
• Family conflicts
• Depression

Learn more about how the Mental Health Resource Connection works. You can also access our online directory to search for mental health resources in your community.

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Lora Scott, MD

division chief sports medicine
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