Every athlete experiences fear and anxiety, especially before big games or matches. It is normal and healthy. If used in a positive way it can help you focus and be pumped up with energy.
But for some of your athletes I am sure it causes them to freeze up and miss opportunities. I worked with a pole vaulter who was so fearful she eventually was unable to run down the track!
In this video, Craig Sigl, the Mental Toughness Trainer explains to coaches how to help their athletes overcome fear and anxiety…
How Do You Help Youth Athletes Overcome Fear and Anxiety In Sports?
The enemy of mental toughness is fear. Fear of failure. Anyone who has coached for more than about two weeks sees this in their athletes — correct? Fear is nothing more than your unconscious mind, which I was talking about before, releasing some chemicals in your body making you feel something. So we need to start breaking down and helping these kids understand what fear is.
Sometimes you’re dealing with a kid who is really in the midst of fear and you see in their mind they are totally insecure. Their whole identity is built around being an athlete – a jumper, a runner, or whatever.
They’ve got this fear, which makes them think their world is coming to an end. But if you were to explain to them, “Listen, John. You know what? You’re just experiencing some chemicals right now.” They are like, “What?”
So you explain that what happens is your body releases some chemicals that make you feel something. Have you ever felt like you’ve got butterflies in your stomach? Are there any butterflies there? No. What is it?
They are just some chemicals in your body that are latching on to the cells of your stomach lining and giving you the sensation that there are butterflies. Isn’t that interesting? The meaning you want to give them is it is just some chemicals doing their thing and it is nothing to worry about.
You know if you feel pressured, it literally feels like a vice grip is over their head. So people get headaches and they feel tight. Those are just chemicals too. It doesn’t mean anything. So I am all about helping these kids demystify what fear is for starters. That’s is critical to helping them let go of fear.
They eventually will start seeing fear as just some thing my body does, that’s all. And if you want to question them about it, ask them, What do you think it means? Generally they answer, “Well it means I am scare – scared of disappointing my coach, my parents, my teammates. I am afraid of embarrassment.”
What you are doing when you ask these kinds of questions, and I highly recommend when you are dealing with performance anxiety to ask questions, you are getting them to demystify it. Dig in. Don’t just let them say I am scared and let it hang there. What you want to do is listen for emotional words like Disappointment, Embarrassment, Failure.
I don’t let that hang out in the air. Ask them, what does failure mean? You will invariably, if you ask enough questions, get an emotion for an answer. And when you get to the emotion, guess what? You explain they are just the chemicals — signals in your body.
Here is the ultimate truth, we do fear for two reasons. One is fear of physical danger and two is fear emotions. That’s it. There’s no other reason for fear and fear of emotion can be eliminated.
We’ve got more free training on how to help your athletes overcome fear and anxiety. Click Here to get your free video training and guided visualization to discover how to perform under pressure. Also receive a free ebook: “The 10 commandments for a great sports parent”
Craig Sigl, the Mental Toughness Trainer
Do you ever wonder how you can be a mentally tough athlete? The first step is to know strengths and weaknesses as an athlete. Take our mental toughness quiz to find out your weaknesses and how you can strengthen them to become a mentally tough athlete! Take the quiz for free here: sportsmentaltoughness.com