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3.If you’re on deck in same situation, do you want your teammate to win game or do you want a chance to get to plate?
4.Would you prefer your teammate make last out of game so that you don’t have to bat with game on line?
5.Do you want to pitch?
6.Would you want to come in with bases loaded and your team has a one run lead in championship game? Projection of Parents, Friends and Relatives – Projection is one of defense mechanisms identified by Freud and still acknowledged today. According to Freud, projection is when someone is threatened by or afraid of their own impulses so they attribute these impulses to someone else. For example, a parent or grandparent who is so nervous about outcome of a game can project their own insecurity and stress onto a child when child isn’t bothered at all. For example, I know some grandparents, who are admittedly risk averse themselves and protective of their kids (no matter how old they are) are now at least as protective of their grandchildren. They have a grandson who is an excellent pitcher and loves to pitch, but they still feel that he’s under too much pressure and maybe he shouldn’t even be playing baseball. This is an example of projection of their feelings about child rather than actually finding out how he feels. I know many parents who prefer their child not come to bat in a tough situation just in case their kid makes last out. While this is very easy to understand since we all want to protect our children, it often isn’t kids feeling pressure, but rest of us.
Dealing With Pressure – Webster’s Dictionary defines “Pressure” as “the burden of physical or mental distress”. Even that definition is interesting because it neglects possibility that people can perform well and even thrive under pressure and stress. One misconception though with performing under pressure is that stress always has a negative connotation. Many times, "the stress of competition may cause a negative anxiety in one performer but positive excitement in another". That is why one frequently hears how elite players' thrive under pressure, when most others would crumble. As individuals, our nervous systems differ; however, according to Richard Dienstbier at University of Nebraska, we may be able to modify our physiological reactions by learning coping skills. Not surprisingly, exercise and sports participation are commonly considered as activities to reduce stress from other areas in life. However, if a child is feeling pressure while playing sports, here are some solid stress relief techniques they can employ: 1.Visualization – Before a game, visualize yourself in stressful situations and dealing with them successfully. Put yourself into that place mentally so that you can deal with it better when it happens in reality. During game, you can remember back to how you’ve already dealt with this situation and are mentally prepared for it. Just so you know where I’m coming from, visualization is simply a shorter version of meditation.
2.Breathing – If a kid is feeling stressed during a game, feeling less anxious can often be as simple as taking a few deep breaths. Deep breathing is a very effective method of relaxation. It is a core component of everything from 'take ten deep breaths' approach to calming someone down, right through to yoga relaxation and Zen meditation. It works well in conjunction with other relaxation techniques such as Progressive Muscular Relaxation, relaxation imagery and meditation to reduce stress.
Conclusion - A lot has been made of impact of pressure in youth sports and negative impact, but much of this is simply projecting a parent or relative’s individual beliefs on situation. While you can argue that I’m doing same thing, but in reverse, I in fact take a different position which is: 1) to acknowledge that pressure does exist, but 2) to determine how each individual child can deal with situation. Only by knowing each child can you determine if situation is, in fact, distress rather than an adrenaline producing pressure moment which kid loves.
Ken Kaiserman is the president of SportsKids.com, a leading youth sports website featuring games, sports news, sports camp and league directories, community features, and the www.sportskids.com Superstore with over 150,000 products.
Ken coaches youth football, basketball and baseball. He also serves on the local little league board of directors as well as the Park Advisory Board.