Focus on the Task Ahead
Ben Askren addresses a question he received last week. How to handle pre-match nerves and specifically when it involves a youth wrestler. Pre-match nerves are a common occurrence in youth wrestlers and are generally negative towards performance. Ben has spoken numerous times about what makes for a good performance. Good performance come from being focused on the task ahead of you and not all of the extras. When you’re nervous you are only concerned about all of the possible negative outcomes and various things that could go wrong. You aren’t focused on what you need to do in order to be successful and that’s a problem.
Wording Choices Can Make All the Difference
When we are talking about nerves in relation to youth wrestlers we have to realize that kids are heavily influenced by their environment. More specifically, how their parents are thinking and acting. This could be very overt things like telling their child “You better win or I’m going to be really mad!” or “Look at that kid he looks like a wimp, you better not lose to him!” Telling that to a child is only going to cause stress and anxiety. This can have a very negative effect on the way the child performs because all they are thinking is I’d better not lose. This might not be the intention of the parent. 99% of parents are going to want whatever is best for their child. What they don’t realize while trying to motivate their child, they have done almost the opposite. There is a more common and far less overt way Ben sees parents affect their children this way. When a parent is talking to another parent and don’t realize their child is listening. They will often talk about upcoming matches and who they think might be tough. Parent’s do so not realizing their child is overhearing them and begins to worry about the match more than they should.
Parent’s Set the Emotional Tone
The other non-overt way parents can affect their children can sense their parent’s emotions. If a parent is nervous or tense a kid can tell and that will translate to that child’s own emotional state. As a parent if you can’t stay calm, control yourself, and be what your child needs in their corner you can’t lie to yourself just because you want to be there. You need to make an honest assessment of yourself and find someone else who can provide a more calm and productive environment during a match. Kids get nervous it’s common and okay but, don’t add to their stress. If you can’t provide the right environment for your kid to succeed find someone who can. Help your athlete learn over time that being nervous is going to adversely affect their performance. Being as calm and focused as possible is going to lead to the best results and an overall positive experience. Help them learn to handle those nerves and how to work around and through them.
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