7 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Team Sports Tryouts

Team tryouts can be mentally and physically challenging for young athletes. Kids may feel nervous, unsettled or feel pressure to perform well. This anxiety and nervous energy can have negative effects on an athlete's performance.

Many kids and teens are crippled by a fear of failure or embarrassment. Kids may compare themselves to their peers, which isn't healthy for an individual's self-esteem. Some young athletes may worry about impressing a coach or parent, while others sabotage their performance due to a lack of confidence.

Overcoming these mental setbacks can help an athlete have a better experience at tryouts. Here are seven tips to help kids perform their best.

Let Go of Fear

In sports, athletes may be afraid of getting hurt, or they may experience psychological fear based on their perception of the importance of their performance.

Most of the time, athletes worry about poor results or negative outcomes (losing a game or not making the team). Kids sometimes fear the negative consequences of their performance and worry about aspects of the game that they can't control.

The first step to overcome this fear is to identify the concerns and expectations that can change the way an athlete performs. When a child or teen feels fearful, it can cause him or her to be overly cautious or timid.

Help your kids identify their fears and reassure them that you'll be proud of them for their effort regardless of the final outcome.

Play Hard, Don't Hold Back

During mental toughness training, I teach my students about two mindsets that contribute to success in sports. The first is the training or practice mindset. Great athletes know the value of training, and they constantly strive to improve. They have a strong work ethic and a tremendous amount of motivation, which helps them practice hard to master their skills.

The second aspect is the trusting or performance mindset, and it's equally important to be successful in sports. Trust is the ability to let things happen instinctively and rely on practice instead of consciously directing movements. The performance mindset gives an athlete the ability to rely on training and allow their skills to flow without excess thought.

The bottom line: Encourage your kids to practice so they can improve, build confidence, and rely on their training to help them perform intuitively.

More: How to Motivate Young Athletes to Get Better

How to Deal With Intimidation

Although some athletes purposely try to play head games or intimidate an opponent, the majority of intimidation in youth sports is self-induced.

The level of competition, a particular venue or big event like tryouts, can cause a young athlete to feel intimidated. Also, kids who lack confidence often look to others to help them feel self-assured. These same athletes, however, can intimidate themselves by paying too much attention to others. Most self-induced intimidation comes from an athlete giving too much energy to other competitors, making comparisons, or doubting their own ability.

Remind your son or daughter not to worry about other competitors. Encourage them to have faith in their own abilities and to always try their best.

More: Top 5 Books for Parents of Young Athletes

About the Author

Award-winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and youth sports psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, "Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes."

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