Anyone who has played competitive sports knows about pressure. Especially how it always seems to show up when a game is on the line.

Anyone who has played competitive sports knows about pressure. Especially how it always seems to show up when a game is on the line.

Why is it the basketball hoop seems to be the diameter of a soda bottle when attempting that game winning free throw, or the catcher's mitt seems to be a million miles away when attempting to throw that perfect strike in the last inning?

Your child has probably experienced pressure while competing in youth sports.
Most pressure is self-imposed.

No supernatural force demands that an athlete become nervous in heightened athletic situations. Pressure actually develops from our unique individual perceptions of situations, meaning that situations perceived as filled with pressure can also be perceived as challenging.

It is important when talking to your child about pressure that you help her understand this fundamental point: While some fans may think players who perform well under pressure (i.e. Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant, etc.) were born to handle just about anything, that ability has little to do with genetics. Instead, it has to do with how these athletes perceive (and actually welcome) pressure-filled situations. In other words, it's all in the mind.

If your child sees pressure situations as challenges, his focus and attention will stay on task and his body will experience a healthy, positive level of arousal which allows his mind and body to work in synchrony. On the other hand, negative perceptions will narrow his focus and attention and eventually become nervous energy in his body.