8 Ways To Help College Athletes Deal With Mental Stress

Stress and pressure are perceived differently by everyone. As a coach or a parent of a young athlete, how you perceive these two factors can either make or break your athlete. If you leave it unchecked, pressure will build until it becomes unmanageable and unsustainable, and connection will become difficult. 

Your athlete should understand the pressure and strive to minimize it. As their well-wisher, you should ensure that you promote positive behavior, health, and lifestyle when you are looking for ways to reduce pressure and stress. College athletes, just like adults, can fall prey to outlets that change their lives and their behaviors for the worse.

Below are eight tips and strategies that athletes can use to manage sports stress and pressure. 

1- Introduce them to a sports psychologist

The more unprepared an athlete is, the more pressure they will feel during their performance. Stress can be reduced, dealt with, or relaxed only when they learn to deal with it. As a parent or a coach, you must break the vicious cycle of pressure. Pressure makes one more likely to commit mistakes. The more mistakes they will make, the more stressed and pressured they can become. From there, things get worse. In the event that your strategies or tips don’t seem to work, consult a sports psychologist.

These professionals are masters in sports psychology and can help teen athletes learn to deal with pressure and not self-impose it based on expectations. They can help athletes see how stress increases when expectations aren’t met, so they can overcome obstacles and reach their full potential.

2- Be in the zone

Being “in the zone” is a common sports terminology. It is a psychological concept coined by the Hungarian psychologist M. Szentmihalyi, in which the performer is deeply involved, fully enveloped in the game, and enjoys the process.

Playing in the flow is a trademark of successful athletes. They don’t anticipate the play; they just go with it, relying on their skills. When the thinking is clear, the performance is solid. In contrast, being under pressure disrupts the flow, negatively impacting the coordination and focus. It is a common problem among teen athletes. The best advice here is to help players relax and not think about what’s at stake. Help them concentrate on the game at hand. They will lose focus if they start thinking about who will win the championship.

3- Get to the root of stress

It is possible to alleviate or resolve stress if you understand why they feel pressure. Dig deeper and find the root of the problem. Are they afraid of disappointment, fear embarrassment, not prepared enough to play, or do they have too many expectations that diminish their self-confidence? You can help your athlete understand the pressure, why it occurs, and overcome it if you can pinpoint the problem.

It’s common for teen athletes to experience nerves and pressure, but the better they understand why, the easier it will be for them to cope. While a bit of jitteriness is acceptable, excessive pressure is not. Stress can make you lose concentration and coordination. There are ways and outlets you can provide your teen athlete to reduce or manage the stress they feel, so they can stay focused and in the game. Having a clear focus is crucial to being in the flow.

4- Enjoy the game

When playing for the team, the element of fun is often overlooked. Mostly because coaches consider fun a weakness, something that is not conducive to success, it is difficult for your athlete to relax under pressure. Consequently, mistakes occur. 

Having fun helps them stay in the right frame of mind. Do you remember doing something so exciting that time flew by? Also, you might have that memory etched in your mind. 

When you can play without fear of consequence or pressure, you’re having fun. It also means fun helps you stay in the zone. As a coach, you must make practice enjoyable so that games can be taken as fun and reduces the pressure.

5- Practice makes perfect

Athletes need to practice and train a lot to become proficient. The better they become at their sport, the more skills they’ll gain. As a coach, your primary focus must be helping your athletes improve their skills. They will have a better experience playing if they have better technique. 

You create self-confidence and focus and reduce stress and pressure by creating proficiency. This helps athletes perform at the best of their abilities. There is no need to put pressure on your teen athlete to perform at his or her best because of their superior skills. It is often said that the world’s best athletes perform best when they believe they have nothing to lose. Their confidence in their abilities enables them to succeed.

6- Reduce expectations

Pressure can take multiple forms. It can be in the form of unrealistic expectations parents or coaches set upon the teen athlete. In all honestly, the more the teen athlete is under pressure, the more likely they are to make mistakes. You must set realistic goals and reduce pressure for them to perform at an optimum level. Because if expectations are not met, pressure increases, and as discussed, performance drops. It is important that your teen athlete learns how to handle pressure without self-imposing it because of unrealistic expectations.

7- There will always be opportunities

Do not criticize or be hard on your athletes if they make a mistake. You will make them nervous. Show them how to stay in the moment. Pressurizing a mistake can ingrain it in the athlete’s brain, which can lead to more pressure. Avoid placing excessive pressure on mistakes. Don’t let the small mistakes discourage athletes from achieving their best. If you dwell on the past, it will affect their chances of playing well in the present and the future. Get them back on the horse and let them go.

Previous mistakes are behind us. We can’t change them. Concentrating on the mistake takes their attention away from the present situation and what they need to do to succeed. They must understand if they want to get better, they need to play better. Even if they do err, they will have plenty of chances to make things right to create the spark.

You don’t want your athlete to make mistakes, but mistakes help them learn how to handle pressure so that they are not afraid to repeat the same mistakes; teach them how to correct their errors. 

8- Practice these Relaxation techniques with them

These relaxation techniques may help your athlete deal with stress and pressure in the game. Contact a skilled professional if you need help understanding the practices.

  • Meditation

During your athlete’s warmup, ask them to take seven deep breaths through the nose. It helps release extra tension and will only take a few minutes. 

  • Muscle Relaxation

Muscle relation is best during warmups. Give your athletes a good shake out of their joints. Start with their hands, arms, and legs shaking out each one. Do it quickly with flexibility. 

  • Breathing

During breaks, keep an eye on how athletes are doing. If they feel their heart rate or breathing shallow, encourage them to breathe deeply through the nose down into the belly. 

Conclusion

Performance pressure and stress are common among teen athletes. Since they are just starting, they need help, focus, and proper guidance. You can help your teen athlete deal with pressure and stress positively by following these steps.

You can also try something positive and joyful to make them laugh or smile. Laughing with them helps reduce the pressure and lets them know there’s nothing serious about competition. In order to break away from negative feelings and thoughts, it is sometimes best to do the opposite. Often, a small thing can change anything and turn pressure into motivation and inspiration.

If you cannot reduce pressure, control it by working with a sports psychologist. They have the qualifications and skills to deal with teens in a healthy way, bringing about positive change. 

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