8 Tips to Prevent Athletic Performance Pressure In Your Child

8 Tips to Prevent Athletic Performance Pressure In Your Child
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Athletic Performanc Pressure is a perceived expectation of the need to perform well under challenging situations. Athletes in particular are known for either choking or excelling under extreme pressurized circumstances. Often, fear of failure is tied to pressure and can either fuel or exhaust athletes’ efforts. A few examples of how fear plays into an athletes’ performance:

  • Fear of disappointing others (coaches, parents, fans)
  • Fear of feeling embarrassed if they blow it
  • Fear of losing their place on the team if they underperform
  • Fear of not performing perfectly; of making mistakes


Athletic Performance Expectations

Athletic Performance Pressure from Parents

While Some of you might feel like you have beliefs or expectations placed on you by parents. While some of this pressure is directly told to athletes, other expectations or ultamatums are unspoken and often unintentional. Many athletes complain that they feel like they just can’t make their parent or coach happy, no matter how well they do. They feel that if they don’t perform in their sport that they lose approval and even love. Parents, I am not saying all of this is intentional, in fact I believe in most cases it’s not. You want your children to do well, and you know that they have so much potential. You might also feel pressure on your end by other parents and even coaches. What I would like to do is give you some tips when talking with your athlete.


8 Tips for Parent’s When Communicating About Athletic Performance

1. Be a positive source of support and encouragement.  Save the critical evaluation of player performance for your coaches, they are the experts. Be an unconditional source of support. Criticism will break down parent-child bonds.

2. Be an attentive listener!  We all love to explain our competitive experiences to others, so allow your child to talk about the game. Listen to understand first, and then reply. The worst thing to hear as a child is all the bad things you did before you even get a chance to speak.

3. Along those same lines, allow your child to start conversations about their performance. Try not to get into the details of the game as your child is still dealing with the emotions of it. If this is later that night or the next morning that is okay. They may just need time to get over it. If you do feel the need to speak to them about the game then wait a few hours and then ask “Would you like to talk about the game?” This opens up the conversation on an even keel, emotions will not be heightened from a big loss, and you will prevent making statements from an emotional state that you might regret.

4. Avoid undermining the coaching staff in post-game conversations, even if you think your coaches are out to lunch. You may not always agree with the coaches, but they are the leaders of the team.  Second-guessing the coaches in front of your child can confuse him or her as to what he or she should do and ultimately may hurt performance. Also, you are undermining team chemistry and negatively affecting each person involved with that team. Coaches are real people, who make mistakes, and in most cases parents forget the time and dedication it takes for a coach to actually coach a team. They often give up time with their own family in an effort to fill a spot and coach an entire team. Keep this in mind before you go all green hulk monster after a game.

5. Following tough losses or poor performances (or riding the pine) remind your child that their worth as a person is not related to their abilities as an athlete. Helping them recognize that tomorrow is a new day and that with hard work they can overcome what is keeping them from their goals will help your child deal with the frustrations of sport. One thing we see a lot is parents getting frustrated that their child isn’t starting, they then become angry and spew negative comments in front of their child, and even to their child. This is not setting a good example for your child, in fact they might mistake your anger with a coach as disappointment in themselves.


6. Be honest and sincere. Some parents get into trouble by saying “good game” or “you did your best.” If Billy does not think this is true you are going to get a sneer or sarcastic remark back. Be supportive in your comments but do not lie or exaggerate. Children will see through your well-intentioned attempt to support. If you attempt to hide your disapproval for your child’s performance your body language will signal the truth. Remembering that the goal of sport is to have fun and improve should help you in providing positive support and maintaining positive body language. In short, just keep your cool and don’t overdue it with a utopia like comment.

7. Stick to your normal routine no matter the outcome of the game. If you go to lunch after a win, do the same after a loss. Otherwise, your child might relate the activities after the game with winning and losing. It is also important to avoid rewarding your child with food like ice cream and pizza after every win. This will create a bad habit, they will grow up thinking every time they achieve something they need to reward themselves with food.

8. Avoid comparing your child to other children even as it relates to training methods or skills. It can create hurt feelings and pressure. Out of all these tips, I believe this is one of the most important. As a young child all you want to do is prove you are good at your sport, and gain approval from your parents. When you hear your parents praising another athlete consistently, or saying “You need to hit like Jacob.” Or even worse comparing stats and achievements, “ You are still below Robby, he is hitting .700, he is awesome.” This is heartbreaking to a child. They don’t hear you telling them they did good, they hear you telling them someone else did better, and you like that person more. You might not mean it that way, but think about how a 12 year old would perceive your statements.

Ultimately you want to have a game plan for after the game. Go through this check: Cool your emotions, check your body language, remind yourself of what matters, and in a real tough situation remember they are just as disappointed if not more than you when they fail.

After this serious talk, I feel like I’m scolding parents so I would like to leave you with this video. It shows that making someone live up to your expectations and be like someone else is exhausting and can ultimately kill them. Check it out you won’t be disappointed.


  • http://www.sportsnetworker.com/2010/06/02/athletes-performing-under-pressure
  • http://www.appliedsportpsych.org/Resource-Center/Parents/articles/8tips
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_psychology
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A little more about Natasha Hawkins...

Experience: Division 1 Fastpitch Softball player at San Jose State. Degree: B.S in Marketing and Advertising Certifications: Certified Level 1 CrossFit Trainer Interests: She loves the way the brain works and how personalities and attitude can create a warrior of an athlete that will always persevere and make success for themselves. While she is not a certified nutritionist she studies and practices the Paleo diet and Zone eating. Quirk: I am an avid archer and hunter. Yup, it's true. I have shot archery since I could walk, and hunted with my Dad since I was born. I also have a sister (Cheridan Hawkins) who is a stud pitcher for the Oregon Ducks Softball Team and is on the Junior Olympic Team. My youngest sister Charli Hawkins trains with me at CrossFit and is also a catcher on the 12U California Grapettes. Follow Natasha on Twitter: @NatashaBHawkins

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