How Can I Help My Child with Sports Anxiety?

Written by: Maheen Asif – M.Sc (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : March 21, 2023

You can tell that your son is getting increasingly upset in the middle of the game. John is trying hard to make a basket, but as his anger grows, his shots get shaky, making the ball go out of bounds . He isn’t giving it his all. He looks like he’s under a lot of pressure because he’s taking all kinds of shots and making bad passes. Then he trips and falls. He isn’t hurt too badly (he’s had worse falls and didn’t even flinch), but he starts to cry. He wants to sit out the quarter and work on calming himself instead of playing. Does it make you wonder how you can help your child with sports anxiety? Managing sports anxiety in children is very important, so they can play sports for a long time and enjoy them.

You never know if your child will end up in tears or glowing with success, no matter how many private lessons or pep talks you give them. There’s nothing worse than a quiet drive home when you’re sad. The good part is that you can always help in managing sports anxiety in your children if they have any.

“Learnt a lot from this course” Sally

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Chapter 1:

Identifying Sports Anxiety?

A lot of kids won’t say what’s making them nervous. They might not even know that they are worried.

So how can parents figure out what is going on? Sometimes it helps to talk about a subject in a roundabout way. You could tell your child about a time when you were nervous before a game or event, like when you ran a race or played softball, or about a time when you were the same age as your child. Or, use a famous athlete as an example: “Do you think Steph Curry ever gets nervous before a big game?” These kinds of questions can help kids understand and name how they feel.

Try to help your child explain what is making them worry. Do they worry that they’ll forget what to do? Letting their team down? Making a mistake? Hurting yourself? Once you know, you can help your child and/or their coach feel better about doing the same thing. You can also help them figure out how to solve problems by suggesting some of the ideas below.

Parents also need to be aware of the fact that, even when they don’t mean to, they can sometimes cause performance anxiety and stress. For example, some kids worry about disappointing their parents more than anything else. And this fear can make some people feel even more anxious. Make sure you don’t put too much pressure on your child to do well in sports.

For example, make sure to praise the person’s effort, not the results. Also, make sure the talk after the game is positive and don’t tell the kids how to get better. Unless they ask for it, you shouldn’t talk too much about what they did or what they could have done differently in the game.

Chapter 2:

How Sports Anxiety Can Impact Your Child?

Some sports psychologists agree that a certain amount of anxiety can help sports people do better. However, research shows also that Sports anxiety can impact your child in a negative way. You can help your child with sports anxiety by following tips along with professional help.
Insecurity and Self-Doubt in the Classroom:
When your child has sports anxiety, it’s a sign that he or she can be filled with doubt when it comes to doing tasks. Anxiety about sports could lead to anxiety about tests and assignments.
Anxiety about sports can cause changes in the body, like more adrenaline, more sweating, and a loss of appetite. Any of these things can make your child lose focus, get muscle cramps, or have trouble making decisions. All of these things can cause your child to not do as well as they could. This could make them less interested in sports and other physical activities.
Social Exclusion:
Your child’s feeling of insecurity and poor performance could lead to self-made social exclusion. In other words, your child may purposely cut themselves off from their friends in order to avoid situations that make their sports anxiety worse. In turn, this could make kids feel less sure of themselves on and off the sports field.

Chapter 3:

How Can You Help Your Child with Sports Anxiety?

Every child will react differently, but these ideas may help your child deal with sports anxiety. Talk about them with your child, and then tell them to try a few to see what works best.
Memorize A Mantra:
Anxiety can sometimes be caused by negative thoughts, like “I can’t do this,” “I’ll never remember my routine,” or “If I mess up, everyone will hate me.” A mantra is a positive phrase that an athlete can use to replace the negative ones. Help your child think of a meaningful phrase, like “I am strong” or “I’ve got this.” Then they can say it to themselves often: during practice, at games, or whenever they hear that “I can’t” voice in their heads.
This can go along with the mantra technique. Your child can also see himself or herself doing well as he or she repeats the mantra.
Practice, With And Without Moving:
Even though practicing skills is key to success, sometimes just thinking about them can make a big difference too. Help your child walk through their performance step by step, imagining each step in the right order. They might want to write everything down and look it over. With this method, your child can practice without the pressure of a game. A gymnast, for example, can picture each step of a floor routine even when they are not at the gym.
Set A Goal:
Talk to your child about what they want to accomplish at their next game or performance. Help them come up with a goal that is hard but not impossible to reach. Instead of trying to win, they might want to beat a certain time or get a certain skill right. If you pay attention to that, it might make the whole event less stressful.
Deep Breathing
Deep breathing or breathing from the diaphragm can help people feel less anxious and more at ease. They can practice at home, in the locker room, on the sidelines, or on the way to games or meets.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It:
Tell your athlete to put on a smile, even if they don’t feel like it.

Chapter 4:

Take Away

Parents and coaches can do a lot to help in managing sports anxiety  in children, but with the right help. A parent or coach’s job is not to be a therapist for a child who might be struggling with anxiety, but it is important to know the signs and help the child get help when needed. If you feel anxious more than once, and it often happens during the season or at high-stress times like certain games or meets, you may want to talk to a professional psychologist.

There are many articles and courses related to this topic on There is a course on Perfectionism that can also be very useful. These articles and courses can answer many of your questions and doubts. Do check them out.

"Learnt a lot from this course" Sally

51 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount