Tuckahoe Sports Psychologist Alex Diaz Has 3 Tips For Young Athletes—And Their Parents

Kids in sports need role models on the sidelines as well as on the field.

As the ground thaws, young athletes will once again be heading outside and onto the fields for their chosen sports. But what are you teaching them with your behavior on the sidelines?

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“Children’s participation in organized sports has seen an increase in its emotional intensity levels,” says Alex Diaz, PhD, a sport psychology consultant who practices in Tuckahoe. “As wonderful as this experience is, watching children compete becomes an emotional rollercoaster for parents. They show frustration with their children, coaches, referees, and even other parents.”

Here, Diaz gives parenting tips for children who are active in sports.

Give children time to decompress after a match.

“Just like an adult would not be in a good mood to discuss his or her lousy day at work, young athletes are emotionally tuned out after a disappointing loss,” Diaz says. “They need time to digest what just happened.”

Instead of post-game quarterbacking about what went wrong, Diaz says it’s better to let them know how great it was just to watch them play.

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Normalize your children’s emotions—and your own.

“Children either feel the pressure to win or the fear to lose,” he says. “Let them know jittery feelings are normal pre-game experiences. Then, check your own emotions and be a role model by calming yourself down.”

Diaz also recommends practicing breathing relaxation techniques with your children so everyone can remain positive.  

Remember it’s a learning experience.

“Expressing frustration for an apparent lack of effort, or criticizing the coaches or other players go nowhere in the child’s eyes,” Diaz says. “Young athletes’ motivations start with having a sense of ownership in their learning. Allow them to assume responsibility for improvement. Encourage them to seek advice from the coach. The more [a child embraces] their passion, the higher their self-esteem.”

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Related: The Psychology Of Youth Sports With Alex Diaz

Alex Diaz, PhD, practices sports psychology in Tuckahoe.

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