Young athletes play sports for fun. As they mature, they become aware of their thoughts, emotions, feelings, and sensations. This can either be constructive or interfere with their play. You don’t have to worry about the positive ones so much. The negative aspects like anger and frustration need to be managed. Anger and frustration can lead to lashing out, hurting someone else or your young athlete hurting. Learning to manage anger in sport will not only make your young athlete a better player, but it will also develop their skills off the field to make them a better person
How to Cope
There are many ways to teach your young athlete how to cope and help them understand their feelings. But let’s look at the three essential things to develop the foundation first, for all the other coping mechanisms to work effectively. First, it is necessary to teach young athletes how to control their feelings before their feelings start to control them. The best time to do this is when the situations happen. Therefore, it becomes essential they have good role models and coping strategies to guide them properly.
1. Express don’t suppress.
It is ok to express anger in a non-threatening mature way. When young athlete expresses anger, they need to know why they are angry. Sensitivity is different in everyone, so it is hard to say what is correct and incorrect. However, teaching them how to express it maturely is ok. When situations happen, you can structure or restructure their feelings and thoughts. They have to understand it is not the end of the world, that their feelings are real, and that adaptation and moving on is most important.
Rational thought and logic trumps anger. When you have logic and rational thought, it leads to positive problem-solving ability and better communication. Suppressing anger leads to more and deeper exacerbating anger.
Sometimes there is no solution. It is just about coping because it is often about action-reaction and consequence or cause and effect out of our control. Young athletes must understand that these situations will happen more often. And the better they can cope and stay in control, the healthier their mind, body, and spirit.
2. Teach them about their feelings.
When you teach young athletes about their feelings, they are less likely to lash out. Remember, they don’t have the emotional maturity to logically and rationally deal with issues. You can simply help them by labeling their feelings. First, you need to show them how to hash it and not lash it. As the feelings arise, have a plan in place to deal with and cope. Understand it will take practice and repetition to accomplish this. But when you do, it will be a natural process without the steps involved. For example, if a player takes a cheap shot, don’t get angry. Brush it off, stay positive and play hard.
3. Use humor.
Humor is an excellent way to bring your young athlete back to balance and diffuse their frustration and anger. Being angry and losing their temper causes irrational thoughts and behavior. And sometimes, you have to bring your young athlete back into reality first to address the issue. Try to use humor, not sarcasm, to relax their mind. Once relaxed, it is the perfect time to let them know they are responsible for the consequences of their anger, even if provoked. Show them how laughter or humor is a powerful tool to help them think before they react.
Try to follow these three things when teaching your young athlete about their feelings. You want to create control, so follow the steps. Over time, the step-by-step process will become a positive health coping strategy.
1. Identify the problem.
Identify what is making them angry.
2. Create solutions and choose the best action for the solution.
Once you know the cause, you can help them formulate solutions and choose one without consequences. This will help them think about how they would act before doing it.
3. Consider the outcome, the consequence of the action.
How will the result make them feel? When the cause is created, an effect leads to an outcome. Therefore, the result needs to be as positive and constructive as possible.
Activities to Help Young Athletes Express Their Anger
If you watch your child’s behavior, you will see signs of anger or frustration. However, they can do some things to express their anger constructively.
- Run some laps around the field.
- Jump around.
- Kick a ball.
- Breathe deeply.
Don’t forget one of the best things you can do is be a role model. Remember, your young athlete is constantly observing and monitoring you as their teacher does when taking a test, ensuring they don’t cheat. So, set a good example for them to follow. If they see you lose your temper, they will too.