Let’s say your child wants to start playing youth sports. Maybe they want to be on a team with their friends, maybe they want to try something new or maybe the Olympics have inspired them to become sports superstars—whatever the reason, seeing a child get interested in youth sports is a good thing in our book! However, what can to-be sports parents do when their future athlete is shy or a perfectionist and have anxiety about being the “new guy” or not being good enough for the team, especially if they are going to be playing with friends that have been involved in youth sports for a couple of years. How can parents handle beginner’s anxiety and make the transition onto a new team successful?
1. Help your child choose a sport/league suited to their age AND ability.
Most sports organizations separate their leagues based on age, not necessarily size or ability, so that is something to consider if your child wants to start playing youth sports. Younger players, say 5 or 6 years old, won’t be too far behind their teammates and should be able to pick up the fundamental skills easily enough. However, if your child has never skated before, joining the local U-12 hockey league might be a little too much for them to handle right out of the gate even if they are the right age. Maybe your community has an intramural league your child could join so they can learn the fundamentals and try a new sport without feeling like they are way behind their teammates. This takes some of the pressure to perform right away of their shoulders and they can learn at their own pace.
2. See if you can join a team one of their friends belongs to.
It’s a lot easier to try something new when you have a friend by your side to help you through it. If your child is nervous about not being able to make any friends on their new sports team, see if you can join a team where they know at least one of the other players. It doesn’t even have to be their best friend, but a familiar face (like a classmate) can go a long way in reducing anxiety. Youth sports teams are a great place for your child to make new friends, but meeting new people is always a little intimidating, especially if your child is naturally shy. Having a team buddy makes it a lot easier.
3. Practice with them at home.
You may not be the greatest basketball player ever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play a game of HORSE after school with your child. A little extra time on the court/field away from the watchful eyes of their coach and teammates can help build your youth athlete’s confidence in themselves. Plus, it’s a good way for you to get introduced to the sport (if you never played it much yourself) and get your family active.
Above all else, you don’t want your child to feel like they are being pushed or pressured into playing youth sports. It’s much easier to get over your anxiety of not being good enough and have a good time when you’re having fun!