Your Child is Experiencing Performance Issues in their Sport… Now What?

You notice that your son or daughter has lost some of their joy related to their sport participation or is no longer performing at their best in their sport. It’s not just a one-time thing, and the issues continue to worsen with time. Maybe it’s a mental block, they are afraid of getting injured, or their nerves are getting the best of them when it's time to compete. You talk to your child and the coach, but no one seems to know what to do. Sound familiar?


As a parent or caregiver, you’re probably concerned and looking for support. Maybe you’ve started googling “mental blocks” or “athletic mental coaching.” We often talk to parents who need to find someone to help their child, but they simply don’t know where to begin, what questions to ask, or who will ultimately be the best fit. Hopefully this information will help!


Signs: If you and/or the coach notice one or more of the following issues on a consistent basis and your child’s performance is suffering, it may be time to find a professional. Your child is/has:

  • Doing well in practice but not in competition
  • Openly negative, extremely hard on themselves, or lacking confidence
  • Visibly nervous prior to competition
  • Trouble controlling emotions in practice or competition
  • Performance slumps or inconsistencies
  • Decreased motivation
  • Difficulty coping with injury and/or return to sport
  • Difficulty with sport transitions, such as from high school to college

Who can help: These are all performance-related issues best suited for a Mental Performance Coach or Sport Psychologist. What's the difference?


A Mental Performance Coach, also sometimes known as a Mental Skills Coach or Mental Performance Consultant, has either a Master’s or PhD in Sport/Performance Psychology and focuses on the educational side of sport psychology where they help athletes build mental skills to improve themselves and their performance. These types of professionals most often hold the CMPC (Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology) credential, meaning they have completed necessary graduate-level coursework, mentored hours doing applied work, and passed a qualifying exam, indicating competence to work with athletes. This is how we practice!


A Sport Psychologist has a PhD or PsyD, should have taken coursework in Sport/Performance Psychology, and is a licensed Psychologist. While they often can help athletes with performance-related concerns in sport, they are uniquely qualified to provide counseling or clinical services for athletes. This means they can help your child with mental health concerns related to mood/anxiety, body image/eating disorders, trauma, identity, multicultural concerns, and more. These professionals may or may not hold the CMPC credential.


Specifics to consider:

  • Your child’s age. Some professionals will only work with youth athletes once they are a certain age (for us, it’s 14), and some choose not to work with youth athletes at all.
  • Your personal preferences. Consider whether your child would work best with a professional of a certain gender, age, experience level, educational background, sport background, etc.
  • Sport experience. Some professionals specialize in working with athletes in certain sports, while others are more generalists. Even if professionals specialize, it’s likely they have experience working with a variety of sports.
  • Cost. The majority of Mental Performance Coaches do not accept insurance, as this service is more like specialized, one-on-one coaching. Some Sport Psychologists do depending on their competencies and how they have structured their practice. Cost per session varies based on the practitioner's experience, education level, and location, typically ranging from $75 to $250 per session.
  • Timeline. Learning and applying mental skills takes time. Due to this, you’ll find that many professionals structure their work with athletes in packages (e.g., 5, 10, and 15 sessions). This helps to ensure that we will see an athlete more than once or twice in order to build a professional relationship and begin to make a positive impact. It is not unusual for a professional to work with an athlete throughout the pre-season and season, or for more than one season in a row.
  • Location. Consider if your child would be more comfortable meeting a professional online (e.g., via Zoom) or in person. Some professionals see clients online only, some have online and in-person availability, and some offer in-person sessions only. Also, while some professionals have offices, others work on-site at training or competition facilities or locally out of coffee shops and other public spaces.

Next steps: Once you’ve researched practitioners in your area, reach out to see if they offer a free consultation. This is a common practice that’s helpful for you and them! It helps the professional to learn more about your child's goals, needs, and concerns and see if working together would be beneficial. It will also give your child an opportunity to talk with the professional and see if they would feel comfortable working with him/her.


If you have further questions about finding a professional that can best support your child, feel free to email us at info@intrepidperformance.com

Abby Keenan is a mental performance coach located in Atlanta, GA. She mentally prepares athletes to perform at their best when it matters most. To learn more about the coaches at Intrepid Performance and see if working with us would be a good fit for your child, schedule a free consultation.