Effects of Pressure on Youth Athletes

One of my takeaways from the Chicago Bulls, I mean Michael Jordan’s Last Dance documentary, was the effects of pressure and constant attention on athletes. The need to “get away” from it all was apparent. Of course, every athlete handles it differently, but there is no doubt the resulting player behaviors are rarely positive ones from pressure overload.

If that occurs for professional players, think of the consequences for youth players. Youth coaches should realize that most youth athletes have enough pressure already. When they add additional stress to already existing self and parent pressures, an overload causes many kids to act out negatively or simply want to quit.

Along with keeping the fun in sport, coaches must help parents understand that a solid effort and burnout avoidance will only come by having reasonable demands. Here are some things coaches should review with parents to help keep players motivated and lessen the effects of pressure with the knowledge that many parents will do what they want anyway.

  • Only play travel ball with one sport, especially when the seasons overlap. Exhausted kids’ effort will be compromised in both activities.
  • Stress the importance of other interests outside of sports, especially hanging out with friends. Having team get-togethers that do not involve play is excellent.
  • Do not overload schedule with games and few practices. Player development should always be more important than winning.
  • Make certain days off are built into the schedule, especially after tournaments.
  • Limit the months of play and practice based on the age of players. Extending your off-season practices because that is what other teams do is not necessary. Quality, focused practices over a shorter period is better than more months of training.
  • Remind everyone that the pushing phase of their development will come more appropriately for those with the talent to play into high school and college ball, if not professional.


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