April 27, 2006
Contact: Jerry Carey
Phone: (856) 566-6171
Psychiatrist Warns That Sports Can Cause Stress in Young Athletes
STRATFORD—With a new round of youth sports blooming on area ball fields, a psychiatrist at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine is reminding parents that child and adolescent athletes can suffer emotional injuries that may not be as easy to see as the normal bumps and bruises of athletic competition.
"Professional athletes are mentally conditioned to accept and adjust to occasional failures," said Dr. Geetha Kumar, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. "But children who are in the early stages of their athletic experience may have great difficulty coping with the stress of failure, even those children who also reach some level of success."
According to Dr. Kumar, the emotional stressors for young athletes include:
Parental expectations. Children who feel that they aren't meeting their parent's expectations may experience emotional stress.
Socialization. Children who have difficulty socializing with other kids or interacting in a larger group might not be able to perform.
Anxiety. Having to perform in a public setting can heighten the social anxiety common to many teens.
Attention deficit disorder. Kids who have attention problems might have difficulty following directions during a sports activity.
Conflict with coaches. Teenage rebellion may affect an adolescent's ability to listen and interact with authority, which could lead to problems.
Depression. Teenagers can become depressed and have mood swings, affecting their ability to perform.
Body image. Adolescent girls who play sports that require certain body shape and weight may develop eating disorders.
"The single best antidote for stress is a healthy parental attitude towards athletic competition," Dr. Kumar said. "Remember your children are not competing for you, and your role is to encourage them and to help them learn to cope with both victory and defeat."
Dr. Kumar offered these tips for parents of young athletes: Be available and supportive. Encourage their participation, but make sure sports don't dominate their lives. Let children know that they can play sports just for fun. If your child has a bad experience during a game or practice, talk about it, but don’t blame other children or the coach. Do not interfere with coaching. If your children are unable to play sports, identify and cultivate other strengths they have. If your child is having a difficulty socially or emotionally, seek professional help.
April is National Youth Sports Safety Month. To request an interview with
Dr. Kumar, please contact Jerry Carey at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.