Batter’s Box Anxiety – Sports Performance Anxiety and the Mental’s to Success

Confession of a Parent Coach

As a Coach, Teacher, and Instructor in sports for over 4 decades I first want to confess as a high-intensity player and coach I have failed many times at executing many of the things I will write in this very important article. As a father who coach and instructed his own kids for years and hundreds of players for decades to embrace a No Fear, No Hurt, and No Doubt approach when they step on the field of battle, over the years I realized more and more that not everyone is built to easily overcome fear, hurt or doubt. While I still motivate, teach, and inspire athletes to work on developing a mental toughness approach toward competition, I now promote and emphasize the importance of the players’ effort more than their results. Whether you’re coaching at a lower or higher level of talent one must customize the communication to the player and team based on each individual athlete. It’s like a basketball coach who loves to play a full-court press the whole game may have to change his or her approach when they find out one year that they have a tall and slow team that is designed to get back after the shot and hunker down in a protect the paint type of zone. As coaches, we must adjust and adapt our approach to pushing our players in the right direction using what works best for them individually and as a team so they will respond and apply what we are teaching. 

Sports Anxiety is Real!!

The first step in conquering sports performance anxiety is to recognize and understand that it’s real. Anxiety is a normal human response to stress, and it affects athletes at all levels. By accepting that anxiety is a natural part of the sporting experience a player, coach and parent can alleviate the pressure associated with it. It’s important to remember that anxiety doesn’t define the athletes’ abilities. Sports performance anxiety is real for amateurs and pros alike. In recent years, stars Michael Phelps and Simone Biles and others have shared their experiences with anxiety. The pressure to perform, fear of failure, and the anxiety of letting our coach or parents down in competition can paralyze even the most talented individuals. 


Develop Healthy Mental Routines

Practicing and implementing consistent routines such as designated homework time, regular mealtimes, and making sure equipment and uniforms are ready before each practice or game. Getting to practice or games early, never rushing to stuff food in our mouths in the car, and showing up late is huge! Getting proper rest. These routines and others will help to manage and reduce pre-game anxiety and maintain focus. Healthy Mental Routines involve paying attention to the present moment without judgment. It can be as simple as deep breathing exercises or an outstanding stretching routine!! 

Setting realistic goals is crucial for athletes.

Unrealistic expectations can intensify anxiety and lead to a fear of failure. Coaches and parents should encourage athletes to focus on personal growth and improvement rather than solely on winning. The problem is many athletes spend too much time in their own heads. This can be frustrating and discouraging because they have put in all this work to develop physical abilities, but their mindset is causing them to underperform. We understand that working on an athlete’s mindset can be difficult and confusing but it’s very important to have positive things such as music, tv, and rides home from a game going into a player’s head!!

Build a Great Team Environment:

Creating a supportive team environment can significantly alleviate sports performance anxiety. Coaches, teammates, and parents play a vital role in nurturing a positive atmosphere that encourages athletes to thrive and have fun. Open communication and constructive feedback are essential elements in reducing anxiety levels.

Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity:

Perfectionism and fear of failure often fuel sports performance anxiety. Athletes should embrace failure as an opportunity for growth and development. Learning from setbacks and adopting a growth mindset can transform anxiety into motivation and resilience.

NBA superstar LEGEND MICHAEL JORDAN said it best
“ I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.
I’ve lost almost 300 games.
26 times, I’ve been trusted
to take the game winning shot—and missed.
I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.
And that is why I succeed.”

Sports performance anxiety is a challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a barrier to success. By acknowledging anxiety, practicing positive mind input, setting realistic goals, seeking professional support, fostering a supportive team environment from team, coaches, and parents, emphasizing self-care, and embracing failure as a learning opportunity—athletes can help manage their emotions and achieve peak performance on and off the court.

Build a Mental Blueprint for Joyful Success!!

You wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint – and in the same manner, an athlete shouldn’t work on their mental game without first knowing what to work on. Here are some positive ways to build a successful Blueprint toward competition that will enable all participants, coaches, parents, and most importantly players to enjoy and experience all the positive benefits and memories that sports have to offer!!

Ask the right question after practices or games. How did practice go? How did you feel about your game tonight? One or two questions show your interest, while too many can feel like you are pressuring your athlete.

Offer opportunities for your young athlete to work outside of practice. If your young athlete says no, drop it and bring it up at another time when he or she is ready to work on improving.

Be at as many games as you can. It communicates your support and may encourage young athletes to push themselves.

Offer praise for hard work. It communicates support without attaching your love to his or her performance.

As a Parent or Coach don’t let anxiety push your athlete. That will motivate him or her to perform just to make you happy. It only teaches them how to appease you. Also, it distracts your athlete from finding internal motivation.

Value the Tangible Benefits of Sports:

Physical activity releases endorphins, the body’s natural “happy chemicals,” and reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Sports are associated with lower rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and suicidal behavior. Participation in team sports reduces the risk of teen substance abuse as well as building confidence and empowerment.

Build a Positive Memory

If we look at Mental Preparation and Mental Performance in the heat of the competition as something that is supposed to be fun for all, then everyone will win regardless of the score. Winning is important and should be a reasonable goal. That said personal grown, forever friends and memories are what we are all left with when the dust settles down and they turn the scoreboard off.

In Closing, I want to say as a player and as a Coach I have been blessed by many wins and some very difficult losses, but I know I have benefited from both because either way I have been completely immersed in my passion for something I love so much.

My passion became my best friend. I talked to her, cherished her, fought with her, and got knocked on my bum by her and that is what I’m thankful for when comes to sports in my life. We must all work hard to build a positive environment that allows all athletes to enjoy their friend call competition, to thrive in the pursuit of excellence, to seek opportunities to be tested, and to have a mission that feels irreplaceable. I am so thankful. I’ve learned so many invaluable lessons about myself and about life through sports. And of course, I still have so much to learn. So, to the youth, coaches, parents everywhere, and to myself, we must realize that we have the ability to impact the future, to take charge of the mission in hand called sports, let us not squander the opportunity, let’s face it and work with a passion that will make the field of competition a joyful journey for all to experience.
God Bless and See ya at the Park!!

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