Over the years, a number of parents have asked me to counsel children who
were struggling in athletics. Many of these moms and dads were quite unaware
of the real issues which were preventing their kids from doing well on the
court, field or course.
In some instances, these youngsters appeared to be having difficulties
in sports because they had a rather significant and undiagnosed learning disability
or psychiatric disorder.
A few of the kids who came to see me were clearly suffering from attention
deficit disorder. Some were clinically depressed. Others had difficulty in controlling
their rage. Several of the children had physical limitations which made it very hard
for them to master some of the skills required to play a sport at a competitive level.
In some cases, the kids had processing problems which made it very hard
for them to follow coaches’ instructions and also made it hard for them to sort out
where they should be and what they should be doing during the course of a
fast paced game.
Last year, I received a referral from another therapist. This case involved a young
man who had difficulty controlling his rage on the football field and at home. He was
a high school student. After talking to him for an hour, it was clear to me that he
was suffering from bipolar disorder. Once he got the right medication, he performed
better in school and his sport and his overall mood improved greatly.
When a child has these kinds psychological problems, they frequently manifest
themselves in the classroom as well as in sports. The aforementioned conditions can
also create an abundance of social problems for a youngster.
If your child is struggling and suffering in his or academic life and his or her
athletic life, the first step ought to be a thorough psychological and learning evaluation.
Your school system can be a good place to get this kind of evaluation. In many
school districts, these evaluations are quite thorough. More sophisticated evaluations are
available at hospitals like Columbia Presbyterian in New York.
Parents, teachers and coaches need to be familiar with the signs of a psychiatric
disorder or a severe learning disorder. In addition, they need some training in learning
how to communicate and help children with these kinds of conditions.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is the Founder of www.StayInTheZone.com
a site for parents, athletes and coaches.