You’re not overreacting. Seeking mental skills help for your child, especially those ages 10 to 13, is completely normal.

I frequently receive phones calls from parents who are concerned about how their children are developing mentally and emotionally while participating in [recreational] competitive sports. These children are overthinking, feeling anxious about participation, and feeling overwhelmed.

Worst of all, they often find themselves conflicted between loving the sport they play and being consumed with worry about making mistakes.

As a Mental Skills Coach, I see this more often than not. Children between the ages of 10 and 13 are competing in their sport with half of the coping mechanisms necessary for intense training and competition. At this age, they haven’t yet built the resiliency needed for inevitable failure. Although this comes with years of recreational and moderate training environments, these skills are necessary for children to overcome anxiety about their performance and participation.

There is a misalignment between children’s developmental milestones and what exactly is being asked of them at practice, according to Sport For Life. This can lead to mental and emotional turmoil for these children in the developmental stages of life.


There are, however, a few key ideas to think about when looking for opportunities for your child to participate in sports:

Consider Recreational Programs

Keeping your child in a more recreational program can be beneficial to children ages 10 to 13. This is a time of transition for them when they stop playing simply to please their loved ones and really begin to think about continuing to play competitively in the future.

The dropout rate for youth athletes at this age is a striking 70%, according to the Aspen Institute. Allowing your child to play in a recreational and fundamental program for as long as possible will grant them the space necessary decide this on their own.

Find Programs That Offer Mental Skills Training

Mental skill development at this age will help build the resilience necessary to cope with failure and turn those mistakes into a learning opportunity. This will help your child better their performance in high-intensity training and competition.

Find A Coach That ‘Gets It’

Finding a coach that values developmental milestones can change your child’s overall view on competitive, high-intensity sports. A coach that does not have a “win at all costs” mentality can ultimately change the course of your child’s sports participation for better or worse.

Do your homework to help your kids stay active – and as always – HAVE FUN!

Need more advice on mental skills training for your young athlete? Click here to contact Erika Westhoff Performance today.


  1. Aspen Institute Project Play
  2. Sport For Life [Canada]