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May 26, 2022

3 Tips to Help Your Youth Athlete Overcome Competition Anxiety

Marika Dasbach

3 Tips to Help Your Youth Athlete Overcome Competition Anxiety

No one enjoys feeling nervous or anxious — especially before a big event. As a parent, it can be even harder to watch your child feel this way, especially before sports or events they normally love, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

To help get your Jiu Jitsu athlete in the right mindset before their match, we offer three tips to manage their pre-competition anxiety.

Emphasize the experience, not the outcome

While it’s great that your child wants to win, the outcome can oftentimes become a big cause of anxiety for them as well. Remind them that win or lose, the most important part of the day lays in getting to participate in a sport they love in a competitive setting. Don’t let them forget that this is for fun. 

Try to remain neutral about the outcome as well – you don’t want your athlete to stress, thinking they will disappoint you if they lose. If they lose their match, that doesn’t make them a loser; it just means it wasn’t their day. With every loss comes an opportunity for improvement, and that offers an important experience as well.

Remind them, nerves and anxiety are normal

The last thing you want is your athlete worrying that the pre-comp jitters are abnormal. Make sure to tell them that everyone gets nervous before a big event. Share a story with them about how you get nervous before a presentation at work, and how you handle it.

Call upon some of their role models and favorite athletes to make them feel more at ease; if you asked Steph Curry or Abby Wambach if they got nervous before their games, I bet they’d say yes. The more you can remind them they aren’t alone in feeling this way, the more you can help ground their nerves.

Try a breathing activity

Breathwork makes for a great opportunity to help your athlete quiet their mind before a match. Their nerves are heightened by so many thoughts — about the match, the outcome, their opponents; it can be a lot for them to handle. Using a breathing exercise can help ground them in the present moment, and less in their head.

A simple breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 breathing method. To perform the 4-7-8 breathing method, inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat as needed.

Take time the day before their match to chat with them about some of these things, or when you notice their nerves starting to kick in. Don’t add pressure to the situation by focusing on the outcome, listen to their worries and talk through them, and remind them how inspiring they are just by competing.

Most importantly, be the most supportive parent you can be before, during and after their match. Cheer loud and proud!

The Art of Breathwork in Martial Arts


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