Skip to content

The Pressures of High School Athletics

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Pressures of High School Athletics

On the surface, sports participation might seem like an ideal solution to the digital addiction crisis. After all, kids who play sports simply cannot watch television at the same time. They also learn important lessons about discipline and teamwork, and make new friends. While high school sports are admired, there are some dangers parents must watch for to protect their student athletes.

Stress Management and Performance Anxiety

Sports are, by their very nature, stressful. In a competition, both sides are working hard to move toward victory, and when the game is over, one party is bound to be disappointed.

Adults may be accustomed to dealing with performance stress on a regular basis, as they’ve learned to handle the pressures of work and home. But this might be a very new experience for teens, who simply might not know what to do when the pressure rises. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that teen athletes are injured in rates similar to those seen in professional athletes. They also found that teen athletes feel a pressure to play, even while injured. Teens might see leaving a game as a sign of weakness. They might also feel as though winning is the most important goal, and often lose sleep or feel anxious before a game.

Parents can help their teens adjust to the pressure by providing a supportive, open relationship with sports. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips:


  • Focus on improvement, not on winning or losing.
  • Recognize that puberty brings along physical and mental changes, and that performance might dip and swell as a result.
  • Find more things to praise, when compared to items worth criticizing.
  • Encourage exposure to different kinds of sports.
  • Let the child choose the sports to play, and let the child quit if burnout occurs.

Some teens manifest stress in ways that are easy for parents to identify. These teens might seem uneasy or nervous, with symptoms escalating before a big game. Other teens display their stress through physical complaints. These teens might claim that they have headaches, stomachaches, or breathing difficulties. These teens may benefit from learning stress management techniques. Some stress management techniques include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, and deep breathing exercises. If these don’t bring about an improvement, it might be best for the teen to take a break from sports. The teen might be ready to handle the pressure in the following year, with the added benefit of age and distance.

Enhancing Performance With Drugs

Anabolic steroids, synthetic versions of testosterone, can help boys bulk up their muscles. They might need to visit dealers to obtain these drugs. Those who wish to bulk up without showing disregard for the law might turn to creatine or steroid precursors. These can also improve muscle mass, but are sold in over-the-counter formats at some health food and vitamin stores.

Steroids are typically used to help people recover from devastating illnesses, such as cancer and AIDS. When used properly, under a doctor’s supervision, these drugs can provide a significant amount of relief. At very high doses, steroids can be quite harmful for human health. Steroids don’t cause a rush of euphoria, but can cause addiction. People who take steroids might feel symptoms of withdrawal when they attempt to stop taking the drug. They may also keep taking steroids even when the drug use impacts their friendships, family relationships, and finances.

While the signs of use and abuse vary depending on the substance, parents can watch for these symptoms:

  • Sudden increase in muscle mass
  • Appearance of severe acne
  • Needle marks on the arms or legs
  • Bursts of rage or mood swings
  • Increasing breast size in boys, or decreasing breast size in girls

Teens who have been taking high doses of steroids for long periods of time may require treatment professionals. Treatment programs will allow their bodies to adjust to functioning without the presence of drugs. They will also help resist the temptation to return to drug use post treatment.

Moving Forward

Raising a teen is never easy, and supporting a teen who chooses to participate in sports brings about its own set of special challenges.

It’s important for parents to keep open lines of communication with their children, discussing their concerns and their thoughts on a regular basis. Some teens may simply need an adult to listen to them, and provide them with advice they can use to overcome the stress and fears they face. Teens who develop serious problems due to their sport participation, including addictions and mental health disorders, may need help from experts. Counseling sessions can provide these teens with real lessons they can put to good use in order to manage the rest of their lives, whether or not they choose to include sports in those lives.

Expert Treatment for Your Teen

At Newport Academy, we would like to help you, if you have a troubled teen. We specialize in providing help to teens who have an addiction issue as well as an underlying mental health disorder. We use innovative approaches such as equine therapy to break through denial and reach out to teens in need.

If you’d like to find out more, or you need help in getting your teen enrolled in a program like ours, please call Newport Academy today.

Photo courtesy of unsplash.