“Block the player,” and “hustle” were some of the words that hit my ears as I entered the court to watch my daughter’s basketball game. I felt the sensation of stress. There was the coach on one side of the court with some of the players waiting for their turn to join the game and parents were watching from the other side. Whereas the coach was guiding the players and helping with the game, some of the parents were also playing the same role. The best player on the team was constantly being yelled at and criticized by her father. She would stop in the middle of the court to answer him back or sometimes just roll her eyes. The coach yelled at one of the players — “What did you just do?” — after she made a wrong pass.
On the other side of the court, I could see the players anxiously waiting to be called by the coach to join the team. I wondered what is going through the minds of those players. When will I be called? Will I perform well? Will I play bad and coach will call me back? How long will I play for? One by one, all the players on the side bench were called. They were all given chance to play for some time and were called back soon. The rest of the team remained the same.
I wondered what was the fun part of the game. The coach, players, families, all of them were stressed. The losing team will be disappointed. Would they feel guilty that they let the coach and their family down? And how will be their confidence level when they play their next game.
Sports have significant importance in one’s life, kids or adults. One learns important skill sets, including leadership, team building, and working as a team player. In addition, when one has to balance their academics, they learn to organize and prioritize, which is helpful in all aspects of one’s life. Physical activity is crucial to one’s physical and emotional well-being. Knowing all this, the question that arose to my mind was how much pressure is good pressure for the kids?
Kids nowadays are suffering from anxiety. The pressure to perform can affect them in both positive and negative ways. We as adults need to analyze ourselves when we want our kids to excel in sports and put them under undue pressure. What is our aim, and how does that affect our children? Are the kids feeling pressured to perform well to please themselves or their families? When do we tip it in the direction that kids start experiencing anxiety and depression?
As a psychiatrist, I can see these patterns continue in adult life when patients suffer from worthlessness and low self-esteem. Some become people pleasers and get in difficult relationships not knowing how to handle any stress as they were conditioned since childhood. They develop a fear of rejection from their loved ones if they do not meet the expectations. Constant criticism leads to self-doubt and indecisiveness. These patterns can lead to depression and anxiety. My adult patients continue to have similar experiences at work and in their family life. It is at times difficult to direct them to therapy, as they are not aware of what led to their current situation. They consider it normal.
The patterns are hard to treat, but if there is a willingness to accept that there is a problem, then it’s easy to address and treat it.
As a society, we need to be mindful of the impact our words and actions create on others, especially our children.
Sirosh Masuood is a psychiatrist.
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