Stress from Athletics

Making you AWARE of stress from athletics....

Athletics can be a great way for young people to use their talents in a team sport or a sport that relies more on individual performance. Athletics also provide an outlet for young people to benefit from the physical fitness and life lesson aspects related to the various sports they play.

However, the reality is that athletics also can produce stress for young people as they encounter the ups and downs of sports. Young athletes get an opportunity to learn about how to deal with failures and losing. They see how it feels to walk away when the scoreboard doesn't show a good result. The good news is, they learn about stress and how to cope with it that will pay dividends in their athletic, professional, and personal lives for years to come.

The stress associated with athletics can come from various sources. Once you can identify where the stress is coming from, you are better able to develop skills for learning to reduce the impact of stress in the moment.

1. Internal Stress - Is the pressure you are feeling a result of being too hard on yourself or setting unreal expectations? It is easy for young athletes to compare themselves with the college or professional athletes they watch on TV. Remember that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning weren't two of the best quarterbacks in the history of football when they were 14. They got to the top of their sport through hard work and a path of development.

It is also easy for young athletes to be too hard on themselves when they don't play well or their team loses. Failure is part of all sports. It is one of the reasons that athletics truly does teach you life lessons. Learn to take the losses or less than perfect performances and turn them into motivation for self-improvement.

The next play is an opportunity for you to make a play and be successful. Each play and game is a fresh start that can lead to success if you learn to reduce the stress when things go wrong.

2. Stress from Coaches - Are you feeling pressure from a coach to succeed? The truth is, young athletes do feel stress at times based on how their coach or coaches react to losses or poor team performances. Coaches want the best from their teams. Each coach is different in the way he or she handles the complex job of having a team of young people.

Remember that coaches are people too with their own struggles in dealing with stress. They know that building a relationship with their players helps break down the communication walls that lead to some of this stress. They also figure out how different players respond to their style of coaching.

If you think a coach is being too hard on you, just keep this in mind. Many coaches have said that they are hardest on the people they know have the most potential. The stress you are feeling could be because you don't see this as an effort to get more out of you than you see in yourself. Take a breath and know that your coach wants you to be successful so the team can succeed.

3. Stress from Parents​ - Are you feeling stress from your parents or other family members? You aren't alone if you have this feeling. Parents want the best for their children and sometimes this creates stress within the family when the performance on the playing field doesn't match expectations.

Young athletes and their families need to remember the reasons they participate in sports. Young people need to be out there participating because it is something they want to do. The investment of time and effort is too large to play if the only reason a kid plays is to satisfy a family member's desire for the child to play.

Remember that family can be the most important support system in a young person's life. If you are feeling stress from a family member related to athletics, it is time to talk about the issue and the impact on your life...both on the field and off of it.

4. Stress from Over Scheduling - Are you feeling stress from having too many things going on in your young life? Many student-athletes feel pressure as they become more active in multiple sports and other extra-curricular activities. Athletics and the many school groups offering great programs are all valuable. However, there are only so many hours in a day or week.

If you are feeling stress from too many activities, take a look at a week within your schedule and examine if you have made too many commitments. When you don't have an opportunity to get adequate rest or take enough time on academics, it impacts the quality of your life. You should talk to your parents about how you might deal with your commitments and possibly back away from a thing or two.

Just remember that young people involved in athletics are student-athletes. You have to take care of responsibilities related to your academics first. Start this philosophy early in your high school career. Far too many high school athletes don't take academics seriously as freshmen, and find a new kind of stress during their senior year. If you want to play a sport in college, you better take care of academics throughout your four years of high school.

How can you anticipate stress?

If you have played a sport before and know the routine, you know where you can expect stress to come from in the offseason, during preseason workouts, at team camp, during practice and in games. You can prepare yourself to deal with these stress producers and help teammates deal with them as well. Be a leader.

Your class schedule changes from year to year and even from one semester to another. Your routine from the last semester might not be a good one for the classes you have this semester. Your teachers let you know when tests are coming or a big project is due. Take steps along the way to prepare for these academic events. Keep yourself from feeling the stress the night before a big test or due date. It simply takes a little planning to ease this potential stress.


Keep up with family obligations. You are still part of a family that has its own set of expectations. Stay in tune with the big events happening with your family. You should be able to avoid a stressful situation with a parent or coach simply by communicating the schedules.​

Remember that you are part of a team. You aren't alone if a stressful event hits your entire team. Just remember that your coaches, school counselors, and administrators are available if something happens. However, having trusting relationships on the team can help teammates be in a better position to help each other. Learn to lean on one another before the hard times come, and when they do, you will be better prepared to deal with those as a team.

Prepare for interviews if they come your way. It is not unusual for high school athletes to have opportunities for interviews with newspapers, radio stations, or television stations. In most cases, your coach will tell you in advance about an interview. You can anticipate some of the questions you might be asked about the last game, the next game, your teammates, or coaches. They aren't going to try to stump you with a question, and they aren't going to ask you about your views on climate change or politics. It is going to be about your team and your performance.