Does your son or daughter get really nervous before a game? My eldest son does and as a mom I just want to hug and squeeze him, but that’s the last thing I can do especially if anyone is looking. I’ve definitely found that being too “Mom” is not always the best solution so I’ve made a little list of the things that help calm my son, and some of these might work for your kid, as well.
1. Don't talk about it on the way
It might be your instinct to try to quell his anxiety by reminding him of a bunch of things to think about on your way to the game. Stop. I tried that and all it seemed to do was make him more tense. He told me he didn’t really want to think about every detail before he got there and he just wanted to be able to clear his mind. Besides, that’s what practice is for…working out all those details.
Sometimes silence is a really good thing. If he wants to talk, plan ahead for some topics that won’t be stressful (definitely not the game or school).
2. Play music (their music)
We may not have the same taste in music as our kids, but it’s what they like to listen to and it makes them feel good. Their music has a sense of familiarity which can be calming, and you can find songs that put him or her in a good mood. My son often wears headphones on the way to a game so he can listen to whatever he wants. This works well for a lot of athletes.
3. Stay away from caffeine
Caffeine doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, but I’ve noticed that sometimes it makes me jittery and anxious. There’s no reason to add that potential nervous-causing agent to your kid’s existing tension, so if he’s thirsty he should drink a caffeine-free beverage. Say “NO” to caffeinated soda.
4. Encourage deep breathing and stretching
This is probably obvious, but deep breathing is a great method for calming nerves and it’s also a great way to get oxygen to the lungs and tissues. Deep breathing techniques have been around for centuries and are a part of all meditation programs.
I’ve found that getting my son to the games a little early and having him stretch is also a great way for him to relax and be ready & focused. Fifteen minutes of extra stretching does wonders for the mind and body before a game.
5. Give him chewing gum
There is some research available claiming that chewing gum helps calm nerves and reduce stress. It works well for me when I get nervous during games. According to lifehack.org, chewing gum lowers Cortisol levels, also known as the “stress hormone”. It also increases alertness and blood flow to the brain, assisting with focus, because chewing warms up the brain.
Sugar-free is the best kind of gum to chew, but just make sure to have some kind of gum on hand before the game. It works!
Most players and coaches that I’ve talked to about this say that a little nervousness is good for a player. It keeps him focused and on his toes during the games. If your kid’s knees are knocking during his at-bats, he’s obviously a little too nervous and you’ll need to try different methods to find solutions that work.
Let’s leave the nervousness to the moms. 😀