How does a young athlete handle national television exposure?

(AP Photo)

In this section, Dr. Sharon P. Misasi and Dr. David Kemler of Southern Connecticut State University will answer questions about sports psychology and how it relates to our athletes, and the games we play.

Q: The kids from Westport went from normal, 12 and 13 year old Little Leaguers to playing on ABC in front of a national audience. How does a young athlete handle that kind of pressure?

The long and short of the answer depends on how each individual player handles the pressure. There are some players who like Alex Rodriguez are better seasonal players than playoff players, and there are other players such as Reggie Jackson who step up during the playoffs.

The best way to answer this question is to introduce the inverted ‘U’ hypothesis, which simply states that there is an optimal level of excitement for every activity. Too much or too little excitement can cause us to be over stimulated and invoke a flight response or a sleep response. Either way our performance will suffer.

If your child is like an Alex Rodriguez then expressing to him/her that this game is just like any other game in the season, that it is just another game. If your child is like Reggie Jackson then you can talk up the game to a certain extent so that his or her excitement is a little bit higher than it is in the regular season.

Although having people watch us puts pressure on us as we perform we often need to remind ourselves that no matter how many people are observing us our performance is mostly controlled from within. We need to work on staying focused; reminding ourselves that we have practiced this skill all season long and nothing has changed that is within our control.

 

Have a question for Dr. Kemler and Sharon Misasi? Ask it here.

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