It’s much more than just the specific sport; it’s about reinforcing positive attitude and lessons for life.

Anxiety Disorder Signs

Is your athlete showing excessive avoidance in terms of participation in activities/sport or attending school? Is he easily upset and is his distress out of proportion to the situation? Do you spend a lot of time comforting and urging them to participate? Is their family functioning being disrupted by the child’s fears and worries? The physical symptoms that accompany these feelings include heart palpitations, trembling, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea.


  • Help athletes to maintain good physical health and regular routines. Ensure a balanced diet, good sleeping habits, and fitness through exercise. Set time aside for leisure and relaxation.
  • Be patient and reassuring. Talk to them and be positive about their ability to handle the anxiety-provoking situation. Keep the lines of communication open.
  • Reward their coping behaviour. Praise their “brave” behaviour and recognize and praise successes, even partial successes; the focus should be on their efforts in confronting and managing their worries.
  • Manage your own anxieties and don’t allow your worries in the situation to influence the child. Be a model and show him how you do everyday things without being fearful or anxious.
  • Instead of avoiding the issue that is causing fear or anxiety, reinforce exposure. If your child is afraid of spiders, you can start to read a book about spiders. If your child is afraid of speaking out in front of a group, perhaps he can talk about his favorite toy at the next family gathering. Give your child opportunities to work through his fear, by reinforcing exposure and allowing small victories along the way.
  • Teach your child positive “self-talk”. Like the little engine that could, teach your child to repeat positive phrases that will help her face her fear. “I know I can do this” or “I’m brave and I’m not afraid” can help them be strong when they are feeling afraid or anxious.
  • Teach your child to imagine being in relaxing or pleasant places, places where they feel safe. Distraction can work wonders when trying to deal with anxiety-provoking situations. Children can also learn how to manage anxiety by learning how to calm their breathing and how to reduce tension in their muscles; techniques for learning these are easily available through the Internet (see websites below).
  • Children can begin to feel insecure and anxious if there is conflict between their parents. Difficult conversations between spouses should happen when children are not present.

Social Anxiety Strategies

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps people overcome social anxiety through a variety of cognitive and behavioral techniques. Techniques used in CBT include:

Cognitive restructuring

Learning to think in a different and more positive way about other people and about oneself. Many people with social anxiety feel that they are not good at anything and that they will always fail, so there is no point in trying.


Gradually and repeatedly exposing the person to the feared situation, until the person is no longer afraid of the situation. For example, someone who is afraid to talk to teachers might start by talking to the teacher after class, privately, and then work up to being able to talk to the teacher during class with others around. Exposure is done using a ‘hierarchy’, a step-by-step
approach starting with easy behaviours and working up to more challenging behaviours.

Role play

Where a person practices new ways of responding to situations that are scary. For example, a child who is anxious about talking to other children might practice a pretend situation with a family member or therapist.

Social skills training

Where a person is explicitly taught the steps and rules of effective social interaction. Because individuals with social anxiety avoid social situations, they often do not have the same opportunities to learn social skills as others might have. Thus, it may be helpful to explicitly learn what to do.

Problem solving

Working together with the child to figure out what problems are getting in the way of the child. The individual is taught how to solve problems systematically by brainstorming, estimating the advantages and disadvantages of various possible solutions to a problem, and planning the steps involved in implementing the best solution. It is important for the child to learn how to go through this process whenever he or she faces a problem, not simply to learn how to solve one immediate problem.

Anxiety is an unpleasant feeling of worry, unease or apprehension

Expand the Reach is a web based resource for coaches, athletes of all levels, parents and community organizations to support Mental Wellness, and early intervention for better performance in sport & life. 

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