Most people play a sport for the thrill of having fun with others who share the same interest. But it's not always fun and games. There can be a ton of pressure in high school sports. A lot of the time it comes from the feeling that a parent or coach expects you to always win.
But sometimes it comes from inside, too: Some players are just really hard on themselves. And individual situations can add to the stress: Maybe there's a recruiter from your No. 1 college scouting you on the sidelines.
Whatever the cause, the pressure to win can sometimes stress you to the point where you just don't know how to have fun anymore.
Stress is a feeling that's created when we react to particular events. It's the body's way of rising to a challenge and preparing to meet a tough situation with focus, strength, stamina, and heightened alertness. A little stress or the right kind of positive stress can help keep you on your toes, ready to rise to a challenge.
The events that provoke stress are called stressors, and they cover a whole range of situations — everything from outright danger to stepping up to take the foul shot that could win the game. Stress can also be a response to change or anticipation of something that's about to happen — good or bad. People can feel stress over positive challenges, like making the varsity team, as well as negative ones.
Distress is a bad type of stress that arises when you must adapt to too many negative demands. Suppose you had a fight with a close friend last night, you forgot your homework this morning, and you're playing in a tennis match this afternoon. You try to get psyched for the game but can't. You've hit stress overload! Continuous struggling with too much stress can exhaust your energy and drive.
Eustress is the good type of stress that stems from the challenge of taking part in something that you enjoy but have to work hard for. Eustress pumps you up, providing a healthy spark for any task you undertake.
When the stress of competition starts to get to you, try these techniques to help you relax:
When sports become too stressful, get away from the pressure. Go to a movie or hang out with friends. Put your mind on something completely different.
If sports make you so nervous that you get headaches, become nauseated, or can't concentrate on other things, you're experiencing symptoms of unhealthy stress that’s becoming a pattern. Don't keep such stress bottled up inside you; suppressing your emotions might mean bigger health troubles for you later on.
Talk about your concerns with a friend. Simply sharing your feelings can ease your anxiety. Sometimes it may help to get an adult's perspective — someone who has helped others deal with sports stress like your coach or fitness instructor. Here are some other things you can do to cope with stress:
It's possible that some stress stems only from uncertainty. Meet privately with your coach or instructor. Ask for clarification if his or her expectations seem vague or inconsistent. Although most instructors do a good job of fostering athletes' physical and mental development, you may need to be the one who opens the lines of communication. You may also want to talk with your parents or another adult family member.
If you're feeling completely overscheduled and out of control, review your options on what you can let go. It's a last resort, but if you're no longer enjoying your sport, it may be time to find one that's less stressful. Chronic stress isn't fun — and fun is what sports are all about.
Recognizing when you need guidance to steer yourself out of a stressful situation doesn't represent weakness; it's a sign of courage and wisdom. Don't stop looking for support until you've found it.
Winning is exhilarating! But losing and some amount of stress are part of almost any sports program — as they are in life. Sports are about enhancing self-esteem, building social skills, and developing a sense of community. And above all, sports are about having fun.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: September 2013
|BigSoccer.com This site features soccer links from around the world, chats, and more.|
|Women's Soccer World Women's Soccer World offers info on female soccer athletes, news, and teams near you.|
|National Softball Association (NSA) This site contains information about tournaments, the world series, and equipment.|
|National Basketball Association (NBA) This site gives you a glimpse of NBA players through live chats, interviews, and new releases.|
|WNBA.com Visit the Women's National Basketball Association's (WNBA) site for information on the best female players on the court.|
|USA Basketball This site features the latest news and articles about the USA basketball teams with world championship, teen, and youth information.|
|Swimming World Magazine This swimming site provides championship results, a swim shop, articles and current news.|
|American College of Sports Medicine This site has tips on staying safe while playing sports and exercising.|
|Connecting With Your Coach Get the most out of your chosen sport by building a strong relationship with your coach.|
|Are Steroids Worth the Risk? Will using steroids transform you into the most powerful athlete your coach has ever seen? Read this article to learn the facts on steroid use.|
|Sports Center This site has tips on things like preparing for a new season, handling sports pressure, staying motivated, and dealing with injuries.|
|Stress & Coping Center Visit our stress and coping center for advice on how to handle stress, including different stressful situations.|
|Stress There's good stress and bad stress. Find out what's what and learn practical ways to cope in this article.|
|A Guide to Eating for Sports You've prepared for the game in almost every way possible: but now what should you eat? Read about performance foods, nutritional supplements, and more.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.