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Welcome to Fremont Soccer Club in Fremont, Nebraska

Fremont Soccer Club Fremont, Nebraska

Helping Your Child Get Over Mental Hurdles


Does your child get stressed or anxious before a game or a big performance? Here is some information to help your child get past those pre-game jitters. The best part is that this can be applied to all aspects of life!

The reason we have training sessions and play in the league is to improve and become better soccer players. All the coaches at FSC have been told that the club's philosophy is "W.I.N." (What's Important Now). The meaning behind the acronym is that our role at the club is to help players develop by focusing on their current development and the process of becoming better players and better people. This allows players to be more focused on the actions that it takes to be a winner(methods-based development), rather than on the results of the games (results-based development). As a collegiate coach, I can assure you that when I am meeting with prospective student-athletes I do not ask them how they did in their state league when they were 15 years old or how many tournaments they won by the time they were 13. What matters to me is the finished product that will join my program after they are done with high school.
In my experience with youth sports, I have seen players that had a lot of potential and ended up never fulfilling it because of their mentality and the way their brains responded to stressful situations. Before I talk about how to help your child deal with this kind of stress, it is important to understand what causes it and what happens to someone's brain when they perceive a stressful situation.
The Science.
Our frontal lobes in the front part of our brain give us the ability to process information and be calm, this is considered our "human side." We use our frontal lobe in our daily activities, and this is what gives us our consciousness. When we are put under a lot of stress or the conscious activity in our brain is too much to handle for our frontal lobe then the amygdala takes control. The amygdala is what releases stress hormones that put us into fight or flight mode and can cause us to act purely on instinct and do things without thinking. The release of these hormones is what causes us to experience fear, anger, anxiety, and aggression. Both of these parts of our brain serve a purpose: one is to help us function and have control of what we do (frontal lobe), and the other is to be able to protect ourselves and be ready to respond to any inherent danger to our lives (amygdala). However, a lot of people begin to perceive situations like competing in sports, public speaking, and other daily activities as life-threatening. This is what causes anxiety and clouds our ability to perform when we need it. Having these types of feelings is normal because it is our nature as humans to place high levels of importance on the things that matter to us the most. Someone who loves the game of soccer or is passionate about something will begin to stress when things aren't going right. The following paragraphs will explain how you as a parent can help your child frame their performance in games, practices, and other aspects of life into the right mindset.
The Solution.
Obviously, we are not fighting for our lives when we are competing in sports but if you have a child that struggles with performance anxiety/stress then you will know that to them it is the end of the world when something goes wrong with something they care about deeply. This is all due to the mindset that people have about competing in sports. Fortunately, your mindset is something that can be improved! This is something that can and will help someone in all aspects of life when they face a stressful situation. The first part of building that emotional intelligence is to only concern yourself with things that you can control. Things that players can control are attitude, effort level, amount of time working on skills, attention to detail, how they react to things, etc. Examples of things they cannot control would be the score of a game, mistakes that they make (because no one goes out to a game and tries to mess up on purpose), mistakes others make (teammates, referees, etc.), and things others say/do. Basically, the moment they can focus on things that they can control will be the moment they develop the emotional intelligence to deal with those tough situations.

The role of the parent in their child's emotional intelligence development revolves around the words that parents use when speaking about performance. Word choice matters! For example, children who receive affection or are given praise when they win a game will begin to associate results of performance as a value of their self-worth. They will begin to think that winning is what determines if they are worthy and will begin to only seek the result (winning) and not the process (development). They will begin to see things in terms of risk and will shy away from challenges because "what's the point if we're going to lose?" They will lose and say, "I didn't care or try anyway" or they will blame the ref or someone else because if they tell themselves that it wasn't their fault then their self-worth remains intact. Another common thing that parents and coaches do is tell their players things like, "you are such a great player" or talk about things that focus solely on talent or on the fact that they are doing things well. Players that are around parents and coaches that tell them these things will grow up being afraid to take risks because if they put themselves out of their comfort zone and fail they think they will lose the title of being "such a great player" or "being so good" because the adults in their life told them these things when they didn't make mistakes and played the perfect game. This also happens to players that at a young age dominated because they hit their growth spurt before everyone else and now that everyone is the same size, they no longer "dominate."

It's been proven that when children who are competing in sports are told things like, "I'm so proud of your effort" and are praised for trying something new(even if it didn't work out), they are less inclined to be scared to perform (look up Carol Dweck's growth vs fixed mindset). This is what is considered a Growth Mindset, people with this mindset are free to compete, and if things don't go their way, they are perfectly fine because they know that they did everything they could to the best of their ability. Players with a growth mindset know how to deal with the nerves and know that if they keep working hard and training the right way, they will get better and rise to the occasion in their next attempt. Oh, and most importantly, they have fun!

Hopefully, this is something that you are conscious of when speaking to your child about performance and competing in sports. At the end of the day, the club and you both want to help your child be as successful as possible and that is something that will happen if everyone is on the same page!
Understand that regardless of age, your mindset and outlook on life and competing in sports is something that can always be changed! For as long as we are breathing, we have an opportunity to live life worry-free if we focus on the things that we can control and are mindful of the words that we use when speaking to others.
Please feel free to reach out if you have any further questions or want to know more about performance psychology.

-- Luis Pulido, Club Director

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Fremont Soccer Club

Christensen Field Rd & N Ridge Dr Fremont NE 68025 
Fremont, Nebraska 68025

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