Managing Stress as a Youth Athlete


All athletes are affected by stress, from the youngest players to elite competitors. Stress is experienced both before a competition and, even more so, after experiencing a loss.

Athletes participating in individual sports like tennis experience more stress than athletes playing team sports.

Pressure and stress can lead to negative outcomes for young athletes, such as fear of failure, feelings of not being good enough and guilt. Even feeling physically sick without a physical cause.

Some of this is actually controllable, such as making an error or needing to improve stamina, while others are not, like a refereeing decision. Stress often can come from unrealistic expectations from coaches or parents. It can also come from the pressure to always perform at a high level. No one is perfect. No one can play the perfect game every day, even among the elite competitors.

The problem with stress is, it can lessen the satisfaction and enjoyment of sport, and can lead to burnout..

P.E.R.F.E.C.T. is a way to calm performance anxiety and the resulting need to beat ourselves up after a poor performance. Using these skills can also help with general stress in other areas of life, which can lead to a better quality of performing and living.

Positive Self-Talk

Why is it important to build yourself up? Because it boosts your confidence. It is widely believed that confidence is a main requirement needed to achieve success.

As a fundamental part of sport psychology, telling yourself, ‘You’ve got this,’ or ‘No problem, keep going,’ after a misstep helps athletes reduce nerves and performance anxieties. It can even help an athlete improve his or her overall performance.

Embrace Adversity

It’s important to keep in mind that excellence requires effort, and to keep pushing when training gets tough — those are the moments when we improve.

Reverse Engineer

Recall moments when you performed at your best and then work backward to uncover simple behaviors you can employ in the future. What made you feel confident? Was it wearing your lucky shirt? Saying a certain phrase? Remembering awesome performances? Pick your ideal outcome and then work backward to find steps you can take to get there.

Focus on the Now

“Focus on the now, not the past or the future. Be in the moment; everything else can wait.” You hear athletes say it all the time: ‘I’m just focusing on today’s game.’ Distracting yourself with your team’s shot at the tournament or the last four shots you missed or the exam you have on Monday can put you off your game. Keeping your thoughts in the present requires consistent effort. Be mindful of your thoughts as you train and focus on steering your attention to the task at hand.


Trying new things and continuing to grow is important. If one area of your performance or life isn’t going particularly well, it’s not the end of the world. Keep learning, growing and evolving.


After a big performance, your body needs both physical and mental restoration. We saw examples of this during the Summer Olympics when athletes like Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps would complete qualifying heats and retreat quickly to their trainers for massage or cupping or simply to listen to music. What’s most important is finding something that rejuvenates you personally, whether it’s meditative breathing, yoga or reading a book — something that allows you to mentally reset.

Talk It Out

When in doubt, talk it out. Sport psychologists, coaches, counselors or friends can help guide you through your struggles. Parents, too. Sometimes just getting things off of our chest can be a huge benefit!

So the next time you are facing sports-related stress or anxiety, remember: You don’t have to be perfect; you only need to think P.E.R.F.E.C.T!

Get in touch through social media and let us know how P.E.R.F.E.C.T! Has helped you! Also, check out our website for more posts like this. If things ever get too much and you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondBlue on 1300224636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.

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