Many of us put our children into sports because we believe it will be “good for them.” Beyond the physical movement it buoys their spirit and gets them out of the house. We see how finding a passion is good for the soul. Keeping commitments and exercising discipline prepares a youngster for the demands of college and beyond. And being part of a team teaches how to cooperate with others, share the spotlight as well as how to win and lose appropriately.
Sometimes, however, the stress of balancing school and sports can be too high. Or the demands of cooperating with a perceived ornery coach or being on a losing team can bring out the worst in our youngsters. They have not yet learned how to manage disappointment and we see their performance decline.
When is it time to seek out professional help?
This is of course a personal choice, but a conversation might nonetheless be warranted. If your child is losing the joy in their sport and you sense they are not trying anymore, an intervention is required. There are no gains in giving up or staying and having a terrible time. Athletics ought to be a place to exercise our competitive spirit, to let loose and fight our hardest in a beautifully controlled setting.
When your child stops learning, it’s time to take a break and reassess.
The great thing about sport psychology is that many see gains quickly. Often children find hope in the first session that things can and will turn around. In fact, they see that they have choice and control over their own perceptions and interpretations. They learn usable techniques that they practice day 1.
In my experience, coaches have been very receptive to their athletes doing sport psychology and have been collaborative in the working through process. The young athlete tends to feel relevant again and is able to put forth a renewed effort. This, of course, helps them love their sport, be a great role model, and take away the learning that challenges are to be overcome, as opposed to obstacles that hold you back.
Interested in how a sport psychologist can help your child? Listen to this interview with Mom Ryan about how working with a sport psychologist/mental game coach helped her son.