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Childbirth / Mama Drama / Motherhood

Mama Drama: Competition Quakes

Dear Mama Drama:

My daughter, age 8, signed up for a team sport this summer. We counseled her about the level of commitment it would take and were assured that she was up to it, even eager for it.

My daughter enjoys the practices but gets too nervous for the competitions! The first week she did it, but it took a lot of cajoling. She did feel good about it at the end. But the second week, no amount of cajoling would get her onto the field.

What are your ideas on handling her commitment? If she quits mid-season, should we make her responsible for some of the fees we paid? How do we help her to have a stake in this, without it being seen as punishment?

~ Questionning Commitment

(photo credit)

Dear Questioning:

Your daughter’s eagerness to join the team and actively engage in practices shows that this is an activity in which she wants to participate. Regardless of what she initially agreed to, however, she may have had no idea how anxious she would feel about playing in front of an audience in a competitive situation. Pressuring her or punishing her for being anxious is not going to make the situation better.

I suggest allowing her to continue on the team for the summer, thus following through with her commitment. Talk with her coach and make arrangements that meet your daughter’s needs. She can attend the practices and has the option of playing in the games. If she is too anxious to play, she can still attend the games, cheer on her teammates, and possibly support the team by having a job such as managing the line up. It will be important for the coach to be understanding and work with the team to be supportive as well. Your daughter will improve her skills and increase her confidence by continuing to practice and be part of the team.

Once she knows that you will give her a choice to play without pressure, give her the opportunity to talk about the thoughts and fears she experiences when thinking about the games. She may be afraid of getting hurt, letting down her teammates, being ridiculed, or doing something wrong. Validate her fears, they are very real for her, while giving her some perspective on how you may have felt in a similar situation. Her coach may also have some ideas that may help her.

Many of us experience mild to moderate anxiety and are able to work through it. However, many people experience severe, debilitating anxiety and panic attacks over which they have no control. Their responses often seem unreasonable or irrational to others, but they are very real to the person experiencing them. Your description of your daughter’s response tells me that her anxiety response is more than average stage fright or pre-game jitters and that she needs a lot of support working through this.

If her anxiety continues to be to this extreme or worsens, seek mental health support for your daughter. Learning to identify and manage her anxiety now will make a huge difference when facing other challenges as she gets older.

Many people also find relief from anxiety with Rescue Remedy®, a Bach Flower Essence combination, which supports nervous tension in crisis or stressful situations. Our family has found it very effective in calming nerves and facing fears and it is safe for children and adults.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

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  1. Great advice to just ease her into it! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids who freak out and they never return again. I don’t think that is teaching them anything. Hopefully the coach is understanding and through this process, her anxieties will subside.

  2. I had never thought of using Rescue Remedy on kids. Good idea, and great advice.

    But what if the coach says you can’t train if you don’t compete?

  3. If the coach isn’t willing to be flexible, they may need to find a different team and/or less competitive league. If it’s all about the winning, then it probably isn’t the team/league for a child with significant anxiety.

    The YMCA and many city leagues have a non-competitive philosophy that supports kids in learning the skills and gaining confidence in their abilities. It is tragic that some children get so “freaked out,” as Amber has seen, that they never return to the sport.

  4. Yes, a less competitive league may be the way to go. Kids can easily be intimidated and competition isn’t something a coach should be able to force upon them.

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