Stress and the Young Athlete: The Child’s Perspective

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Daniel Gould
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Charles Gene Wilson
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Suzan Tuffey
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Marc Lochbaum
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This article examines psychological stress in children’s sports by presenting results from a panel discussion held with four young athletes ranging in age from 11 to 16 years. The discussion focused on stress and its sources, consequences, and how to cope. Results validated existing research on youth sports stress by showing that most young athletes are not placed under excessive stress. Rather, certain children in specific situations experience high levels of competitive state anxiety. Consistent with previous research, the stress of sports competition was also found to be no more anxiety provoking than other childhood evaluative activities. Future research directions identified from the panel’s responses included the need to identify strategies for coping with stress and ways of teaching these to young athletes, as well as ways to educate parents and coaches on how to improve communication skills. Finally, based on the panel’s remarks, practical implications for facilitating the youth sport experience are discussed.

Daniel Gould, Suzan Tuffey, and Marc Lochbaum are with the Dept. of Exercise and Sport Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27412-5001. Charles Gene Wilson is with West Frederick Middle School in Frederick, MD 21701.

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