The Sport Information Resource Centre
The Sport Information Resource Centre

When kids are asked why they want to play sports the most common answer is “It’s fun!” At the same time many children find themselves in sport situations where they feel overwhelmed, under pressure and/or anxious. As children get older and the level of competition increases stress levels can also increase. Research does suggest that kids can experience stress at many levels of sport.

So what can parents and coaches do to help their young athletes? The most important thing to remember is that we shouldn’t be putting the players under additional stress. Some practical tips to help your youngsters include:

  • Using relaxation techniques like deep breathing can help those who are anxious before games.
  • Focusing on positive thoughts that are simple, specific and targeted to the task at hand.
  • Communication. Find out from the athletes what is stressful for them and involve them in the process of deciding what coping skills work for them
  • Expected stressors are much easier to deal with than unexpected ones, so help athletes to think ahead about potential sport and life stressors and how they can be planned for.

Remember that everyone is an individual and what might work for one, may not work for another. Trying out different coping skills helps each child learn what works for them. Teaching coping skills is one of the most important things we can do to help our young athletes deal with the pressures, stress and anxiety in sports. Not only is this a good skill for sport, it can be a very valuable life skill.

Find resources like this one in the SIRC Collection.

Source: Tamminen, K. & Neely, K. (2010). Help Kids Cope with Stress in Sport: Practical Tips for Coaches and Parents. Fitness Informer, Winter 2010, p.23.

Online resources:

  1. Handling Sports Pressure and Competition (
    The Stress of Youth Sports (
  2. The Nature and Function of Adolescent Sport Friendship Qualities in Managing Stressful Sport Transactions: Summary Report ( Nature and Function of Adolescent Sport Friendship Qualities in Managing Stressful Sport Transactions: The Experience of Competitive Swimmers. Summary Report (
  3. Crocker, P.R.E. & Hadd, V. (2005). Stress. In D. Levinson & K. Christensen, Berkshire Encyclopedia of World Sport. Great Barrington, Massachusetts: Berkshire Publishing Group. (
  4. Crocker, P.R.E., Hoar, S., & McDonough, M.H., Kowalski, K., & Niefer, C.B. (2004). Emotional Experience in Youth Sport. In M. Weiss (Ed.), Developmental sport and exercise psychology: A lifespan perspective (pp.197-222). Morgan Town WV: Fitness Information Technology.(