Coaching, Sports, Uncategorized

Managing Anxiety in Youth Athletes

Anxiety is common in young adults, and many teenagers experience anxiety on a daily basis. The thought of keeping up with grades and dealing with peer pressure on a regular basis can be quite stressful. However, young adults who compete regularly in sports may find themselves more stressed out than those who do not compete.

It is common for young athletes to stress themselves out before competing in an event. Pre-competition anxiety can stem from a lot of different areas and can ultimately affect the way they perform in their games. Here are some techniques that your student athletes can practice to alleviate this anxiety, and ways to help them improve their focus when it comes time to compete.


One of the best ways for teens to calm themselves down if they are experiencing anxiety before a big game is to practice meditation. This ancient technique has been scientifically proven to help people relax and re-focus their attention from negative thoughts to positive ones. Encourage your students to practice meditation before they play in a big game for optimal stress-relieving effects.

Face Your Fears

Young athletes oftentimes have irrational fears about competing. They fear losing and rejection is a common problem that many athletes will face. It is important as a coach to help them remove the fear that they experience from their minds to improve their focus. One of the best ways to accomplish this task is to make your students face their fears. This means having them play as many games as possible in skirmishes to get them to become comfortable with the thought of losing. Remind them that losing is simply an opportunity to improve and that it should not always be seen as a negative thing. Changing perspectives is key to overcome anxiety and improve their confidence as an athlete.

Nearly everyone in society experiences anxiety at some point or another in their daily lives. While some may experience it more than others, it can be debilitating if it is not taken care of. Fortunately, these two techniques will help condition your students for greatness and shape their minds to resemble that of an all-star athlete. Understanding where anxiety comes from is key to ensuring that your young athlete faces the problem head-on and develops into a better person because of it.


Essential Characteristics in Youth Players for Teamwork

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Regardless of what type of sports kids are playing, teamwork is an essential component. Although coaches and trainers generally know this information, understanding how to properly teach teamwork to a group of young people can prove more difficult than one may think. Instead of looking at teamwork as an abstract concept, leaders can provide instruction in more tangible and measurable skills.

Listening and Articulating

If team members cannot properly communicate with one another, establishing a cohesive unit is going to prove difficult. Coaches can implement short icebreaker-inspired activities, such as a game of telephone, to show what happens when communication breaks down. Then, they can take these skills to the field, court or arena.

Staying Positive and Supportive

Understanding what teamwork means is different from actually implementing its skills in a game. Training athletes to have a positive attitude and to remain supportive of one another is important. For example, some team members may blame others when a game is lost because of mistakes that these other players made. Working on self-evaluation and recognizing that even the best players aren’t perfect all of the time are two strategies that can help here.

Involving Others

Even the stars of the game need to learn how to share time in the spotlight. Encouraging children to help one another grow is important. If some team members are never getting passed the ball, instructors can develop drills that give these individuals more power. Also, during practice, coaches can instruct those players who like to hog the ball to give other players an opportunity.

Spending Time Together

Coaches may find that when their players spend more time together outside of practice and games, their performances during these important times improve greatly. Eventually, older children and teenagers are likely to start establishing their own social plans, but coaches can help here too. They may throw a party at the end of every season and plan a couple of lunches or dinners during the season so that team members are given a chance to bond with one another. Friendships on the team can make for better teamwork.

Teamwork is so important regardless of the type of sport. Players need to rely on one another, and they need to communicate well before, after and during the game. Coaches can place an emphasis on these characteristics to improve teamwork.


Tough Losses and Bouncing Back in Youth Sports

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Playing sports is an excellent way of getting children involved in the community and learning new skills. Although the games may just be for fun, kids can often get upset when they lose to another team. Although there may be a few tough losses throughout the season, there are ways of helping kids bounce back from the physical and emotional defeat.

Set the Example as the Parent

Youth athletes will ultimately reflect the behavior of their parents and will model what you say and do when they win or lose. Instead of becoming negative and making winning a priority, focus more on the development of their skills rather than how well they perform in a game. If the child is enjoying the sport and is becoming more skilled throughout the process, then it is a successful season.

Create a Routine After the Game

Your post-game routine should remain consistent whether they win or lose to ensure that they understand that winning or losing isn’t as important as enjoying one’s self. Consider going out for celebratory pizza after each game despite the outcome, which can allow the athletes to have something to look forward to, and avoid focusing so much on how they performed on the court.

Offer Encouragement

Make encouragement a priority to ensure that the child understands what they did well during the game and feels better about themselves. Talk more about what they did well, whether they defended the goal or made a shot so that they feel praised and don’t allow their mood to be influenced by the outcome of the game. In the same regard, you can discuss what they can improve on in the future to allow them to continue to develop their skills.

Avoid Making Their Athletic Ability Their Identity

Many parents make the mistake of making their child’s athletic performance their identity, which can affect the child’s view of themselves, harming their self esteem and putting too much pressure on them during games. Remind them that failing is a part of life and that they are skilled athletes despite how well they may have performed in the game. Don’t place so much emphasis on how many points were scored or plays they made. Focus more on their characteristics and who they are as a person.


Connecting Youth Basketball with the NBA

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The NBA is bolstering its commitment to youth and basketball with innovative strategies to improve and increase youth involvement. The most recent high-profile effort was the league’s first Jr. NBA World Championship held in early August 2018 in Orlando. This tournament featured girls and boys divisions with American and international teams. The NBA secured an agreement with FOX Sports to cover the event for three years. The tournament is evidence of the league’s amped-up approach to youth sports under the guidance of Commissioner Adam Silver, an outspoken proponent of the NBA’s increased involvement in grass-roots basketball.

The 2017 Simmons National Consumer Study found that basketball is the leading team sport among American youth with over 20 million children participating. As the numbers continue to grow, the Jr. NBA program demonstrates the NBA’s focus on enhancing the basketball experience for young athletes, coaches, and parents. While the league has always implemented programs for children to connect with them and help them learn the game correctly, it has stepped up its efforts to ensure that everyone involved in youth basketball is having the most positive experience possible.

The NBA has collaborated with USA Basketball to draft rules and health standards for encouraging participation and making the game more attractive to youth. Currently, about 26 million youth around the world are playing in the Jr. NBA program, and more are anticipated to join. The league is not working to replace AAU and other youth travel sport programs; it hopes to partner with those groups to cultivate and protect the kids who play sports. The NBA is striving to provide guidance and improve the caliber of coaching.

In May 2018, the NBA held a Jr. NBA leadership summit in Chicago with over 300 attendees that included NBA team representatives along with tournament and program directors from many youth basketball associations. The meetings addressed management challenges such as building better programs, developing best practices, and ensuring that the USAB and NBA guidelines are applied properly. Participants also discussed and learned about running practices with excellence and managing issues that impact children regarding wellness.

The NBA is increasing efforts to connect with pre-collegiate basketball as well. Considering the league’s recent strides in youth basketball, it will be no surprise if the NBA employs the same methods to the higher, elite levels of youth basketball. The league is currently involved in intense discussions with the NCAA and other influential figures to determine what more can be accomplished there.


Understanding Different Age Groups When Coaching

The job of a coach is simple: allow the players to learn the basic, fundamental aspects of the game while improving their individual weaknesses and capitalizing on their strengths. How the coach does that is up to them, but the process changes dramatically depending on the ages of the players they are coaching.


7-10 Years

The game is still relatively new to children in this age bracket, so it’s important to focus on learning the basic techniques that a coach will be able to build on later. In basketball, for instance, the coach should focus on teaching correct shooting form, ball handling, passing, and defensive techniques. For baseball, coaches should focus on footwork on infield drills and batting stances. As the students progress through the ranks, they should still revisit these basic instructions periodically just to refresh their memory on how it should be played.

10-12 Years

Kids are more advanced by this stage, and will most likely have the basic skills necessary to play the game, no matter what it is. From here, coaches should emphasize more streamlined versions of their game, such as cuts and one-footed layups (in basketball) and directional bunting (for baseball). Also, strategic maneuvers and situational awareness should be implemented as well to allow the player to begin to see the game from a high-level position.

12-14 Years

Scrimmages are a great teaching tool at this stage to allow the students to get the most real-world experiences playing the game. Furthermore, the game should also be practiced at a quicker pace and under more direct pressure. When coaching basketball, teach the basics of screening and when to implement them, as well as different types of passes and coordinating plays in the face of a stiff defense. Never forget to revisit some of the more basic forms that the student learned in their earlier years, especially if their form begins to get sloppy.

The job of a coach is never done. There will always be something to build on and something to teach, so make sure that, as a coach, you are discerning in your approach to the player. Within these groups are individuals that will play either above or below their level, so it’s vital that you spend individualized time with them as well to maximize their efforts.

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