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Young Athletes’ Mental Health | Youth Sports Psychology

mental health in young athletes

Help Kids Cope with Uncertainty

It’s tough for sports kids during the COVID-19 crisis. Either they aren’t playing sports at all–or if they are, they’re worried about their sports being canceled due to COVID-19.

Such uncertainty creates anxiety in sports kids, says Rebekah Roulier, director of the Champions Network and a former NCAA Division 1 student-athlete. She’s also a college soccer coach who now has a degree in counseling. With the Champions Network, she’s working to teach coaches how to address mental health challenges in young athletes.

“In just the youth sports community in general, I’ve heard that their seasons are being taken away–or if they are back on the field, they don’t know if COVID will cancel the season. It translates to a great deal of anxiety,” she says.

To help kids cope with uncertainty, parents and coaches can show young athletes, through modeling and conversation, how to reduce their anxiety. Explain to kids that no one their age has ever been through a pandemic before, and it’s a challenging situation. Encourage them to take walks or call friends.

“Talk through a plan with them,” Roulier says. “Perhaps you can’t train on a trip with your team, but what can we do together in the backyard? There are practical things a parent or coach can do for kids.”

Young athletes who are accustomed to getting exercise won’t feel right in their bodies, she adds.

They may not possess the communication skills to express that they don’t feel right. Parents, coaches and teachers should check in with sports kids and offer to help them structure their days so they can get exercise.

The answers aren’t always so simple for kids in low-income families. Their families are facing loss of income and housing instability. Working parents are unable to supervise their kids during online classes. “The stressors are enormous,” she says.

Parents, coaches and teachers should watch for signs of stress in these young athletes and be sure to open up the lines of communication.

“Be a good listener, nod your head, maintain eye contact,” she advises. Be sure to use a non-threatening tone of voice. Coaches and parents could also share YouTube videos about athletes who have overcome challenges.
Adults should also contact mental health professionals if they’re worried about their kids’ mental health.

Coaches can play a critical role in helping kids identify and cope with mental health challenges. “Coaches are on the front lines in terms of being able to reach out to kids. They are trusted adults,” Roulier says.

In youth sports, you can help teach your sports kids how to deal with adversity–in sports and life!

Listen to the Ultimate Sports Parent Podcast

Help Your Young Athletes Succeed

In The Ultimate Sports Parent 14-day CD program, you and your young athlete will learn how to cultivate confidence, focus, and composure in sports! Improve your sports parenting skills with this program.

The Ultimate Sports Parent

It’s difficult for sports parents to watch their kids under-perform in sports and lose self-esteem due to fear, doubt and tentativeness. It’s hard to stand idle and watch.

solutions are not obvious. However, you, as a parent, can learn how to
respond to your athletes’ fears, doubts, and frustrations. You can develop happy, successful kids who are “mentally tough” in sports – and life!

A child or teen athlete may possess all the talent in the world. But if he can’t “get his head in the game” and realize his potential, his performance will suffer and he will be unhappy.

What are Parents and Coaches saying?

“The Ultimate Sports Parent program is well designed to help parents and athletes come to terms with developing well rounded student athletes. This workbook will help give athletes and parents the competitive edge.”
~Mike Maveus, athlete & youth sports coach

“I just listened to The Ultimate Sports Parent CD program on a drive back from North Carolina. Every parent should be required to listen to it! I thought it was great.” Thank you.”
~Rita, Sports Parent

“Dr. Patrick Cohn and Lisa Cohn are to be congratulated! Together, they offer a wealth of knowledge, information, and practical mental tools for sports parents on the substantial “mental game” challenges and pressures facing today’s young athletes.”
~Marc D. Anderson, LCSW, MGCP, Mental Game Coach


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