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Coping With Youth Sports Pressure

Coping With Youth Sports Pressure – I interviewed a Sports Psychologist Dr. Jared Wood to help children (and parents) struggling with the increasing pressures of youth sports.

My kids have been involved in youth sports for about four years. Even though my children are only eight years old and six years old, I’m beginning to notice the increasing pressure and intensity of the leagues and sports they participate in as they grow. I can only imagine the pressure will increase greatly as they progress into playing sports in the junior high and high school levels.


I had many questions about the anxiety levels of young athletes coping with youth sports pressure. I sent some questions to Sports Psychology Consultant Dr. Jared Wood. I wanted to ask Dr. Wood about the pressures of youth sports and high school athletes and what parents can do to keep the games fun for young athletes.

Coping With Youth Sports Pressure Interview

Glen LaGrou Oakland County Moms – What can parents do to reduce the stress that is associated with youth sports or high school sports? What are ideal ways for kids coping with youth sports pressure?

Dr. Jared Wood – I think always maintaining an expectation of, “Do your best,” is the best policy, and that includes practice (preparation). Winning is sometimes out of an athlete’s control (because an opponent has something to do with it), but giving one’s best is within their control. This idea can be related to real life too, by presenting ideas such as, “We don’t always make a sale even when we make a good presentation, but in the long run, doing one’s best will lead to success.”

Glen LaGrou Oakland County Moms – If a child performs poorly or seems shaken after a game or meet, what can parents do to “lift them back up”?

Dr. Jared Wood – I’m a big fan of point out what was done well or correctly. This isn’t to say we should make a big deal out of moral victories – bottom lines are important in life – but a young athlete can gain confidence even in defeat if she gives her best and performs well.

Glen LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Is there a point where parents should consider pulling kids out of their respective sport? How much pressure is “too much”?

Dr. Jared Wood – I think pressure is an individual thing, and it’s hard to speak in generalities. Often, young athletes understand that it can be difficult to be honest with a parent or coach who puts a lot of pressure on them. I think it’s important to always remember that even in the pros, athletes should learn more from playing a sport than just the skills of the sport or how to put points on the board. This is never more true than in youth sports. And if you don’t believe the idea that pros should learn more through sports than just the skills of the sport, think about Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds and where their careers are now. We need to start young, but all levels of sports should be a context for learning life lessons.

Glen LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Is there anything parents can do to help their child so they don’t “burn out” of a sport?

Dr. Jared Wood – I think allowing them to choose their sports and have some variation in the sports they play is a good idea. I’m not a big fan of sport specialization. I understand it’s important to focus on some skill development early, but early specialization leads to more burnout than it does professional ball players or even scholarships. I think practicing smarter can offset long practices and seasons. If organizations are unwilling or incapable of varying the length of seasons, I suggest making sure practices are efficient, effective, and fun.

Jared Wood, Ph.D., is a sport psychology consultant and limited licensed psychologist based in Clarkston, Michigan. Additionally, he has 10 years experience as a school psychologist in the Lake Orion School District. He is the author of “It’s Already in Your Head: How Everything You Know About Caddyshack Can Improve Your Mental Golf Game“. You can follow Dr. Jared Wood @woodjared, on Twitter.

Originally Posted – 2011

See related posts below for more columns from Dr. Jared Wood regarding coping with youth sports pressure.

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