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Young Athletes With Performance Anxiety

junior golfer and parents

Does your child experience performance anxiety? If so, I strongly encourage you to question yourself.

We don’t learn to become a parent, as they say: ''We learn it on the job.'' The education we give our children is linked to what our parents share with us, like knowledge, beliefs, values, fears, ambitions, and even unfinished dreams. And we, as parents, will mostly repeat the same patterns or do something different if we don't like the way it’s going.

Recently, two teenagers were guided toward mental coaching with me. We agree that in both cases it was the parents who directed their children to me. In both cases, parents had excellent intentions to help their kids develop their mental strength and strategies to perform better in their sport, which will also be reflected in other areas of their lives. In the case of the first teen, the father flatly told me: “I want my son not to choke like I used to in competition. I said to him: “Do you see that wall kiddo? There are no medals or trophies. Do you want to be like your father?’’ At first glance, the father projects his unfulfilled dreams onto his son, and the pressure on his son to do things differently. During our conversations, the young athlete told me that he plays better when he’s not playing with his parents, especially when his father is not there. Hmm…interesting isn’t it?

With the other young athlete, at his first meeting, his mother introduced her son to me in this way: ''Hi Michel, here’s the victim!'' What a great way to put your son at ease and increase his self-esteem, don't you think?

Performance anxiety largely comes from one's environment: parents, family, friends, coaches, teammates, social networks, etc. I’m very aware that we can’t control everything for our children. They have their lives to live, their experiences, whether pleasant or not. On the other hand, as a parent, how can you help your child achieve their goals, dreams, and ambitions without transferring your unfulfilled dreams and harming their self-esteem and self-confidence?

young anxious athlete

An important point to consider is the pre-frontal cortex. It’s the region of the brain that’s involved in the processes of reasoning, decision-making, and personality. This region reaches its full maturity at the age of 25, without forgetting that a large majority of young people are not connected with their emotions and physical sensations, which creates questions and discomfort.

Be kind, listen to them, and discuss what THEY want at the moment. Everything can change in an instant. If your young athlete has talent and wants to reach the next level, and 90% of his motivation comes from them, their chances of success will increase. Their anxiety will decrease, their level of pleasure and well-being will increase, and they will be able to develop their full potential with the support of their loved ones.

Encourage them to engage in their process, develop a taste for effort, surpass themselves, recognize their emotions and regulate them, have discipline, adopt good lifestyle habits, put their focus on progress, on looking inward to move forward, and find pleasure even in difficult times.

If your child is doing well in school, in sports, in activities and everything else seems easy for them, I suggest you set them up for failure and learn to face adversity. To challenge them with adversity while being supportive and listening, to help them find THEIR strategies so that they can move forward with courage and face their problems to find solutions. Life is full of personal and professional challenges. If they learn how to cope when they are young, they will develop the tools to grow out of it.

Make them independent as early as possible and help them develop social skills so that they can surround themselves well for a successful life.

Michel Dubord

Mental Coach

CPGA Professional


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