Helping your child deal with youth sports fears

By Janis Meredith | Posted 10/31/2018

Today is a day of fun and entertaining fears: ghosts, goblins and haunted houses.

But fear is very real for many kids and your child may face some as they play sports. Fear of trying something new, fear of failing, fear of meeting new teammates. As parents, we want our kids to face their fears head-on with confidence. We want them to try new things and take risks. And if they fail, we want them to pick themselves up and try again.

The honest truth is sometimes they shrink back and let fear take over. Here are some tips on how can you help your child face their fears in youth sports.

Stay calm and don’t overreact

When your child cries or complains, I don’t want to play soccer,” your first step is to stay calm and not panic by not immediately pulling them off the team or by glossing over their fears and saying, Of course you do.”

Let your child explain how they feel, without belittling or ignoring their concerns. Facing fears is a normal and healthy part of growing up.

Help your child think through the fear

Encourage your child to put their fear into words. Instead of leaving it at I don’t want to play,” prompt them to be more specific and put words to their fear. For instance, ask them what scares them about playing. It may be they are afraid because they don’t know anyone or because they’re afraid kids will make fun of them. Once they recognize exactly what it is they fear, you can talk about how they can face that fear. Help them identify tangible problems that can eventually be solved with practical solutions

It’s important you don’t shame your child for their fears, but acknowledge them and then move forward, one step at a time, through those fears.

Help your child understand courage

One way to help your kids build courage to face fears is by teaching them to recognize the courage they’ve displayed in the past. Talk about a time when your child did something they were afraid of and remind them they’ve done this before and they can do it again.

Your kids need to know that feeling afraid does not mean they are not courageous. We all feel fear, but it’s what we do in the face of that fear that makes us either exhibit courage or cowardice.

Be a model of dealing with fears

Let your kids see you forge through fears. Show them what it looks like to step out and try something new or hard. Show integrity and honesty even when it hurts or it’s inconvenient. Let them see you be compassionate even when it’s not the popular thing to do. The best way for courage to be taught to kids is for it to be caught.

Tell your child it’s OK to ask for help

Although your child may hold back from asking for help to face a fear head-on, let them know it’s okay to ask a coach, parent or even a teammate for help. Better to speak up and have help then stay quiet and get stuck. It’s important your child knows when to ask for help and it is not a reason to feel ashamed.

Fear is normal and may be necessary to help your child grow courage. See their fears in youth sports as an opportunity for them to work through, learn and become a better athlete because of them.

Janis B. Meredith is a parenting coach. She provides resources to help parents raise champions. Learn more about how she can help parents Raise Champions.