So, you’ve enrolled your child in a sport and have talked it up for weeks. Excitement has been building as you look forward to the first game, but now that the big day has arrived, your child is expressing a little bit of panic. That’s ok! First day jitters are perfectly normal. Here’s how you can help your kid deal with them and have a good experience.
- Talk through the feelings. Anxiety before an important event is part of the human experience. Learn to recognize signs of nervousness in your child, so that you can have a conversation about it. Ask your child what they are feeling, and then offer reassurance, helping to normalize these jittery feelings. You might use the phrase “butterflies in your stomach” to help your child understand that this is a universal feeling. There are so many different emotions that can come into play, and while new adventures are fun, they can also be overwhelming and confusing for a child. Make sure to stay positive and upbeat, talking about the fun of playing and reassuring that your love and pride won’t waver, no matter the outcome of the game.
- Reframe the jitters. In truth, much of pre-game anxiety is just an adrenaline rush. Help guide your child to use that nervous energy as fuel for the game. Research indicates that when kids can reappraise their anxiety and tell themselves that it’s actually excitement, they can embrace their feelings before the competition and have a more positive experience.
- Teach methods for calming the nerves. Sometimes, just taking a deep breath can help. If you can teach your child to breathe and refocus when nerves strike, you’ll be instilling an important life-long skill. Part of this is learning how to engage in positive self-talk, reminding oneself to be confident. Something to consider: some people need to be still for a little while to calm down, while others can only get over a case of the nerves by being active. Learning what works for your child will be extremely beneficial to both of you in many situations.
- Listen to some music. On the way to the field, crank up the tunes! Let your child pick the playlist, choosing music that’s energizing and inspiring. The right music can psych kids up and get them excited for the game. Try our awesome i9 Sports® Gameday playlist!
- Visualize success. Talk your child through the game, encouraging him or her to think about past successes while imagining how well this game will go. When kids picture themselves running fast, playing their best, cheering on their friends, and having fun, they can pump themselves up and boost their own confidence. Reminding them all of the anticipation that has gone into this can also help them feel more sure of themselves.
- Set your child up to succeed. Kids can and should be responsible for their own water bottles, sports gear, and so on. However, as a parent, you can make sure everything is packed and ready to go in plenty of time to allow for a stress-free departure. Rushing around hunting for gear can compound anxiety, so do what you can to smooth the way and make it easy to get ready. Be sure that your child gets enough sleep the night before a practice or game and eats a healthy diet to provide energy and mental clarity. Get some ideas on our gameday snacks blog post.
- Teach your child to focus on the things he or she can control. The other players, the weather, the condition of the field, and all the other variables that are beyond anyone’s control need to be released from your child’s mind. Instead, encourage kids to think about doing their best, following the coach’s instruction, and supporting their teammates. Practicing good sportsmanship is something all players can monitor for themselves: reminding your child of that may help promote feelings of being more in control.
- Remind your child that the goal is to have fun! At the end of the day, isn’t the point to get exercise and have fun?
At i9 Sports®, we believe in a focus on play, not on competition. That’s because we believe youth sports shouldn’t just be about skills and scores, but also about developing player character. We want to help kids be better people as well as better athletes, so we focus on teaching sportsmanship values, promoting teamwork, and celebrating our players. We integrate sportsmanship values into practice and game play across all age groups, because we know that helping kids grow into people of strong character is more important than scoring goals and winning games.
We don’t hold tryouts, and our young athletes get equal playing time regardless of their level of talent. They’re able to try different sports and different positions within a sport, and they can play with their friends through “buddy requests”. Having a familiar face on the team can help your child feel more comfortable on the first day, and save you $10 on your next registration, if you refer-a-friend!
i9 Sports® promotes a positive culture on the field which begins with a positive culture on the sidelines. That’s why parents and coaches are required to prioritize fun and building a love of the game, acknowledging that these things are more important than the score. We encourage kids to show up for each other as teammates, be good sports, and make the most of their abilities. Kids get into sports to have fun, and we believe that’s the way youth sports should be®.
If you’re looking for a fun experience for your kids in which they can develop athletic skills, build self-confidence, and learn good sportsmanship, i9 Sports® has the program for you.