3 ways for parents to help kids overcome first-game jitters

By Jon Buzby | Posted 12/8/2017

The first game of any season can be nerve-wracking for any youth football player, regardless of age or experience.

Here are three suggestions of ways you can help your child get on the field with less stress leading up to kickoff.

  1. The night before the game

Go out of your way not to talk about the game or throw the football around in the backyard, both which might add to your child’s nervousness heading into the first game of the season. Instead, talk about school or some other fun activity that happened or is coming up. Shoot hoops in the driveway or take a bike ride. Head to the movies or watch one at home. It often doesn’t matter what the distraction is, just the fact that there is one.

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2. The ride to the game

Try to talk about things that aren’t related to the game. I actually try to think ahead of time about questions I can ask to spark conversations that aren’t related to sports. Other times, I encourage my kids to bring electronics – something I often don’t allow on short car rides – so their minds are occupied.

3. The minutes leading up to kickoff

We never know as youth football parents what really makes our kids nervous, but sometimes it can just be the fact that we are in the bleachers and they want to “do us proud.” I eliminate this added pregame pressure by telling my sons not to panic if they don’t see me in the stands leading up to the game because I might be chatting with other people or outside talking on my phone. Then I make myself invisible so they can focus on warmups and not be distracted by my presence in the stands.

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These ideas might also help you as the nervous parent. Because let’s face it, we are often more nervous about the big game than the kids who are actually playing in it.

Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years, originally as a coach and board member with his now-adult son and most recently "just as a dad" with his 8- and 10-year-old sons. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.