Dear Coach: My son is a terrific baseball player in practice, but when a crowd is watching, he seizes up. How can I help him?
Dear Anxious: "Nerves are a common problem with younger athletes who aren't accustomed to crowds and who may be insecure about their talents" says Jack Llewellyn, a spoils psychology consultant with the Atlanta Braves. Llewellyn suggests videotaping your son's practices so that he can watch his good at bats or fielding plays before game time. Also, help him develop key phrases that allow him to visualize positive moments, and use them during games to block out the distraction of the crowd. "Just before a pitch," says Llewellyn, "he can tell himself, 'Good swing' or 'Keep your head in.' In the field, he can visualize making the play before the ball is hit to him."
Dear Coach: I'm a starting lineman for my high school football team. Next year our school musical will be held in the fall instead of the spring. I really want to be in the show, but rehearsals will conflict with practice. What do I do?
Dear Play: The dilemma of every budding Mike Reid: an autumn of playbooks or scripts? Says Joel Fish, director of Philadelphia's Center for Sport Psychology, "High school is a time to develop the whole personality, not just the athletic. Talk with your coach and the director of the musical, and with people who know you well, then decide based on what you feel will make you happier." You should also explore potential middle ground: opting for, say, a smaller role in the musical, one for which rehearsals won't be as time-consuming, or dropping down to backup and trying to work out a reduced practice schedule.