Playing a High-Pressure Position in Youth Sports


Even in team sports where all the positions rely on each other to win, there is oftentimes a more high-pressure position; the pitcher, the quarterback, the goalie, for instance. As a pitcher or quarterback, a huge portion of the game rests on your shoulders. After all, it doesn’t matter how great your receivers are if your quarterback can’t throw decent passes, right? And if a pitcher just keeps walking batters it doesn’t matter if they have the best shortstop in the league. Although soccer goalie might not be moving around as much as a mid-fielder, when it’s their turn to make a play if they screw up the end result is a goal for the other team. In a typically low scoring game like hockey or soccer, even missing one or two shots can result in a loss.

If your child routinely plays one of these high-pressure positions here are 3 ways you can help them manage that pressure during play:

Remind them that they are not alone.

Especially if they are a goalie, a player might feel as if they let their whole team down if theyPlaying a High-Pressure Position in Youth Sports let the opposing team score. But the goalie is really the last line of defense! As sports dad blogger Stats Dad pointed out to his daughter, “If the other team scores a goal, I know that that ball had to go through 10 other players first before it went by me.” Even though they are in the high-pressure spot it is not their job to save the team from itself. Even the best soccer or hockey goalie is going to let a few goals in if they are getting shot on every 30 seconds. Even a passionate player can only handle so much action without a team to support them.

Focus on the moment.

A huge part of handling pressure in sports is not getting caught up in what happened last play (or 5 plays ago) and not worrying what is about to happening; it’s all about focusing on the moment at hand. A pitcher has to reset themselves for each pitch. A quarterback stars fresh with each new play. A goalie worries about each shot on goal as it happens. If you get caught up in what happened or what might happened you’re not focusing on what IS happening. This kind of mental strength is critical for any youth athlete, but especially for those that are constantly in the spotlight. Warrior mind coach Greg Swanson suggests;

 Focus on what you can control.  So often we focus on all the things we can’t control, i.e. the appointments, the ref’s, the condition of the field, who’s watching, etc.  When we focus on what we can control, i.e. our thoughts, emotions and performance (behavior) we then being responsible for our results.

Ask the coach to give them a break when possible.

If you suspect your child is burning out and about to crack under the pressure of their position, take your concerns to the coach. No coach wants their best pitcher/quarterback/goalie to lose their edge, but even the best players need a break. Maybe they can play a different position in the next game to give them a change of pace and much needed mental break, or even just spend less time at that position (1/2 the game instead of the whole game). A little change of scenery might actually rejuvenate them and make it easier to manage that high-pressure position.