Monday, October 4, 2010

Controlling emotions takes a lot of work

James is a youth tennis player who is under a lot of pressure to succeed.  He is being pressured by his parents to do well so that he will get accepted to get into a tennis academy for the gifted.  While James is supremely talented all of the stress is starting to affect his play.  If James doesn’t get help he will burn out if he doesn’t get a hold of his repeated stresses. He needs to learn how to control his emotions, and manage the stress in his life.   As his coach I need to help him, not just on the court to be a better player, I also need to help him to enjoy the game and to relax so he will continue to play later on in life.
The problems James is facing are that his parents are putting undue stress on a child to perform so that he can be sent to a private tennis school.  This extra pressure to succeed razes his arousal during competition pushing it past his optimal level, this then leads to a decrease in performance.  Since James is talented he needs to be challenged, but not at the expense of his enjoyment of the game especially at his age.  Pressure to perform will take the focus away from a good goal of quality practice and good performance that will lead to victories for James.
James needs to learn how to manage all the stress he is undergoing, this will not only make him a better player but it will also help to prepare him for later in life.  First I will try to limit some stress by asking his parents to try to back off some on the must win attitude.  Next I will have James meditate before every practice to help him to let go of some of the extra pressure.  Meditation is a metal exercise to relax the mind so the body can perform at its best.  My goal is that by doing this he can let go of all outside pressures and get back to his normal level of arousal.  Gill & Williams (2008) suggests finding a quit place and relaxing focus on breathing, and wile exhaling to repeat a non stimulating word to stay focused.   
Another way to help James to not get over aroused is to work with breathing exercises.  As with anyone when James gets aroused there are several physical signs including increased heart rate and breathing rate.  While it is difficult to slow the heart rate directly a trained person can easily slow their breathing pattern.  This will help James when he is feeling over aroused to slow down and perform better.  By just taking the time to take a few slow deep breaths he will slow his breathing pattern and perform better.  I would suggest that he do this before every serve because he has both time and it is the time that he needs to be his most focused. Gill&Williams (2008)  Many performers mistakenly believe that high arousal is necessary, but the optimal state for most sport and exercise activities is one of relaxed concentration.
My biggest concern as a coach is that James is having fun and that he performs up o his expectations, however as the coach of a young child other people also have expectations.  My worry is that his parents push him to hard and he burns out.  Burnout is the result of stress over a prolonged period of time.  I fear James is at risk do to the amount of stress he is under, but with these stress management techniques hopefully he can continue to enjoy tennis.
                James has problems with stress it is causing him to be over aroused during competition.  Hopefully by adding meditating and breathing exercises will help him to control his arousal.  With these strategies I hope that James can cope with the stress he encounters and he will not burn out.  Stress will be a part of his life forever but by using these aids he should be able to deal with stress for the rest of his life
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008) Psychological Dynamics of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008) Psychological Dynamics of Sport and Exercise pg196. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

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