The Kids Coach: How to reduce football stress

What should you do if your child worries too much before playing football or gets too worked up after a game? The Kids Coach Naomi Richards offers some advice.

Before a football game your child can feel stressed and after a game they can do too.

Pre-match your child may worry about their own performance or about the strengths of the other team. They may worry they are going to let their team mates down, worry they may get injured or about who is watching them play.

After a game they may feel stress because they did not play as well as they had anticipated.

We all know some stress can be healthy, but what if your child gets worked up too much before a game? That is not so good.

We can help our child de-stress before a game in a number of ways:

1. Get them to visualise themselves playing well

2. Work though the ‘what ifs’ – what if the other team are stronger? What would that mean? How do they know the other team are unbeatable? What is the evidence?

3. Get them to visualise themselves on the pitch thinking about the one thing they love about playing football – the crowd, the cheers, getting the ball past their opponent

4. Help them to relax – do something different so they aren’t sitting around waiting – read a book, watch TV, listen to music etc.

5. Get them to do some deep-breathing exercises or muscle relaxation (where you tense the muscles of the body and then release the tension)

6. Change the way they think about competitions – think about having a good time and doing their best

7. Change any negative thoughts into positive ones – change that ‘can’t’ into a ‘can’ and ‘I won’t’ into ‘I will’

8. Focus on past successes – what they did well in the last couple of games

9. Remind them that there are many aspects of a game that are out of their control – what they can control is their own performance and preparing for it

10. Remind them they are part of a team and they win and lose as a team so they are not letting anyone down

As for after the game, remind them that they did the best they could and get them to focus on the best parts of their game and talk about how they could improve their weaker moments (I mentioned this in an earlier article: Keeping the belief going).

It is important that our children only feel healthy stress so I hope these tools will work for you and your child.

Naomi Richards is The Kids Coach – a life coach for children. Her first book, The Parent’s Toolkit, shares key life tools for you to help your children successfully navigate their own childhood problems and grow up into happy, confident and resilient young adults.

The Parent’s Toolkit was described by The Sun as “clear and to the point… a must-read for parents”. It is published by Vermillion and is available to buy on

Put your questions to The Kids Coach

If you are a parent or coach and would like Naomi’s advice on any issue that might affect a young footballer, then please leave a comment below and it could well be addressed in next month’s column.

Alternatively email [email protected] or tweet @thekidscoach.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Other articles by The Kids Coach:

* Keeping the balance
* What if my child wants to quit?
* Does your child respect their peers?
* Keeping the belief going
* Football crazy, football mad
* It’s the taking part that counts
* Giving young players confidence to try new things
* Parents: To shout or not to shout?
* Young footballers must see respect to show respect

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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1 Comment

  1. Kevin Hall on April 23, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Hi Naomi,

    Share experience from previous soccer, athletics and cricket coaching.

    Sometimes that stress is as a result of parents, our culture or our kids insecurity.

    However tell kids we need to get nervous before any competitive “engagement” as that makes us try our best. It is normal and good to be nervous as it gets our focus and bodies ready.

    Give them examples of this in other activities such as examinations, athletics, acting and soccer with stories about top performers, ourselves, their older sisters/brothers/ friends who all fretted beforehand. Even Derby winning racehorses fret on race day.

    They all did their best.

    Post game is best treated by deferring any comment about the game until next training session…when emotions/tensions evaporated.

    The only thing I said to my kids or team mates was “Oy! You lot! Is it home, Mackers or a mates place?”. If they ask about “today” I’d reply “Yes I was pleased with some good in bits and I got some ideas how to improve the other bits. Lets deal with that on Tuesday …now is it home, Mackers or a friend’s place?”

    Then on Tuesday “Right kids….so what do you think we should do for training today?”

    They have had time to reflect and usually with a wry grin suggest various skill areas. Then again a positive kidology response is “Ah yes you are right. I remember young Hazard had that problem when he was same age as you and he overcame it by doing these 2 drills….”

    The kids will see a double positive that will reduce their anxiety because they are going to do stuff that a hot shot player obviously did to be where he is today. He learned from a game that he needed to improve a particular skill. We all learn from our games how to do it better next time.

    A pathway is established.

    “But kids Eden practised this for 11 weeks… work at it, be patient. Any other skills you think we should do?”

    “OK Lets get started”

    Away from the group situation you individualise your reassurance to various kids as some handle pressure with no drama and your respect for that trait must be recognised verbally to them. It is showing them respect for that aspect as well as other skills.

    But others need that one on one reassurance “Hey you’re gradually getting better…You’re a good kid, you’ll get there in your own time…I am so glad you’re in our team coz of your xyz qualities”…

    In my experience with kids thru to old teens at club and Rep/State/etc levels is getting their mind set tuned in positively as much as developing their skills.

    I used to go to school in Maple Rd Whyteleafe and was the worst soccer player ever. Teacher thought I was my older brother and couldn’t understand how I was suddenly an utter gumby.

    Guess I did a bit better later in other sports in NZ and OZ. If you see Richard Butts please say hi….

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