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Youth Sports Anxiety

Discussion in 'Coaches Corner' started by Just a bit outside, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    My 15 year old son has developed sports anxiety. He has played baseball and basketball since he was little and has always been a very confident player who played like he didn't have a care in the world. In the last year he has started to become increasingly nervous leading up to and during his games. This past summer he vomited during two or three different baseball games. It was very hot on those days and we, my wife and I, thought he was having trouble with the heat and talked to his pediatrician. The pediatrician recommended we make sure he is staying hydrated and eating well. We knew he was a little nervous before games but I was always a little nervous and thought it would go away once the game started like it did for me.

    Baseball season ended and we didn't think much about it until his first high school basketball game two nights ago. He is on the freshman basketball team and threw up at halftime. He is the starting point guard and one of the better players on the team. Playing time will not be an issue in that the team is not great and really have no one else who can handle the ball. We talked with him after the game and he expressed that he was really nervous and seems to have lost some of his confidence. He kept saying how he hopes to do well instead of being confident he would do well. He is putting a ton of pressure on the outcome of his games and his performance. He seems to be his old self when he is playing pick up games. Tons of confidence and joy but that is not what we witnessed and he expressed last night.

    My son really likes basketball and I am asking for any suggestions that may help him to work through the anxiety.

    Thank you in advance.
    #1 Just a bit outside, Dec 6, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 6, 2018
  2. steveluck7

    steveluck7 Member SoSH Member

    I'm no expert so take this with a grain of salt...
    If he really likes basketball, is there a way for you and him (or him and siblings / friends) to just play ball outside of organized team stuff? Maybe getting him to remember how fun it is could help.
  3. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    That is exactly what we did last night. The two of us went to the Y and played horse and goofed around. He knows he is under no pressure to play for the high school team but does not want to stop playing.
  4. Doug Beerabelli

    Doug Beerabelli Killer Threads Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    A suggestion, and intended to be friendly one: While this post will get more eyeballs here, the Coach's Corner forum might get eyeballs that are likely to have knowledge and informed opinions on this matter.
  5. Hank Scorpio

    Hank Scorpio Member SoSH Member

    Could someone be putting unrealistic expectations on him, or perhaps criticizing his performance?

    It's possible one negative experience in the past could have also triggered this. A bad coach? A bad game?
  6. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    Thank you. That is probably the right forum. I just need to figure out how to move it.
  7. The Napkin

    The Napkin wise ass al kaprielian Dope SoSH Member

  8. amfox1

    amfox1 Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

    I'm neither a professional nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but it may be a form of social anxiety disorder. Some self-help strategies include:

    - relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, guided imagery and progressive muscle relaxation
    - monitoring his own negative thoughts and replacing them with more helpful ones
    - healthy self-care such as eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep

    If these don't help, I'd suggest seeing a professional therapist with experience in these areas. Even a couple of sessions may give your son some tools to cope with this.
  9. wiffleballhero

    wiffleballhero Member SoSH Member

    It could also be an understandable lack of perspective on how really transient and meaningless these games really are.

    Maybe just underscore that it is not only just supposed to be a joy to play, but that, really in the end there is always another season if he wants there to be one, and the individual games come and go. It is good to do your best, try hard, train for real and all of that, even being downright obsessive if you are into it, but it is also good to keep in mind that it really is just a game in 9th grade. In fact, one of the worse case scenarios is that it all goes wonderfully and you live your life having peaked in high school hoops. Rabbit Angstrom, I'm looking at you!
  10. Kenny F'ing Powers

    Kenny F'ing Powers posts 18% useful shit

    This is good advice, although much easier said than done. Its really, really hard to do those things in the moment. Still, it cant hurt for him to start practicing these techniques now as I'm sure hell probably need them later in life if hes experiencing anxiety now.

    Again, useful, but easier said than done. Its akin to telling someone to "relax". Its good advice, but very difficult to digest, especially for a teenager.

    I'm not a doctor, but have had bouts of anxiety going back as far as I can remember. Almost never debilitating, but very frequently steering my actions subconsciously. Especially before understanding it was anxiety. In other words, arm chair psychologist.

    These types of performance anxiety can stem from control or a lack thereof. Sometimes saying things like "just try your hardest and dont worry" or "it's just a game" can lead to more helplessness, not less.

    I'd suggest he finds things he can control throughout the game and focus intently on perfecting those things. Focus on perfect passes between the numbers. Stepping into the pass, the release point, the feel of the rotation on the pass, etc. Get him out of his own head, kind of like a breathing exercise for when hes on the court. Can do this for all different aspects. Defensive alignment shooting, etc.

    Anxiety sucks, but it can be a great tool to use to get better at sports too.

    Or that could make it worse. I dunno. Send him to a sports psychologist.
  11. AMS25

    AMS25 Member SoSH Member

    My son developed anxiety as he went through puberty. Amfox has some good ideas. I would also recommend cognitive behavioral therapy if this is chronic and debilitating.
  12. Kliq

    Kliq Member SoSH Member

    If he's throwing up during game, you might want to encourage him to chew gum during his games. Anxiety, especially when playing sports, can cause mouth dryness which can lead to nausea. Gum helps keep the mouth hydrated and also chewing is a simple, repetitive act that can be relaxing.
  13. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    Thanks for all the replies. Halftime of his game right now. He looks fine on the court but still seems to be thinking instead of playing free. He also was out of breath after like 2 minutes which I think might be related.
  14. Fred not Lynn

    Fred not Lynn Dick Button Jr. SoSH Member

    You call it “Sports Anxiety” like it’s some newfound millennial syndrome. It isn’t. Every single athlete who’s ever cared about a game, or a performance or a race has experienced it (except maybe Manny Ramirez - his “give-a-shit” game was second to none).

    If I could do one thing to change how youth sport is presented, I would introduce sport psychology at as early an age as possible. To learn the concept of process over result young would help so many kids, and be a skill that transcends sport.

    To feel what it is like to play “in the zone” is a glorious thing, just as feeling your heart in your throat, your legs barely responsive and your brain reminding you of what could go wrong is excruciating. I wish I could have controlled my athletic mind better when I was younger - but it’s an elusive talent that is hard, if not impossible to “learn”.

    All I can think of is that in the end, every sport is an exercise in preparation. The better prepared you know you are, the less anxiety you may feel...

    And I would say, don’t go the route of discounting the importance of that particular game to lessen anxiety...every game and every moment is important. Better to use this maybe less important game as a way to conquer the anxiety monkey, so that maybe you have a better chance against him when an inevitability bigger game or life moment comes up...
  15. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    I agree that everyone who cares about something has experienced nerves and anxiety. I often talk to my kids that being nervous shows that you care about what you are doing. My daughter, a gymnast, coined the term "nervecited" to describe her feelings when she was going to her first competition. I think it is the perfect word to describe how I felt growing up playing sports.

    I started the thread because I see my son's reaction as extreme. Vomiting during games because you are anxious seems out of the ordinary. I appreciate everyone for the suggestions and advice. I just want to help him find a way to enjoy the game and learn to deal with the anxiety.
  16. wade boggs chicken dinner

    wade boggs chicken dinner Member SoSH Member

    Have you thought about taking him to a professional?
  17. Just a bit outside

    Just a bit outside Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

    My wife and I have discussed it with him but he is reluctant at the moment. He wants to try and work through it. We have been making sure he is eating, sleeping, and hydrating. My wife practices meditation and has been giving him some breathing exercises. I have been talking with him about approaching it like he did when he was younger and seemed to have it more in perspective.
  18. Strike4

    Strike4 Well-Known Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

    FWIW a guy in my high school baseball team (pitcher) used to throw up before all his starts. He just kind of accepted it as a by product and he didn't seem worse for wear. We all thought it was weird and at first it concerned us, but it became normal.
  19. Fred not Lynn

    Fred not Lynn Dick Button Jr. SoSH Member

    Eventually the vomiting became part of his ritual/process - and if he didn’t do it, he’d be off his game!

    On a more serious note, one way to try to mange this is to have a strong process as you prepare on game/race day. Keep your mind on process, and it’ll help keep if off anxiety.

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