Supporting Our Children Who Struggle with Anxiety: Soccer Resilience and Dr. Brad Miller - Soccer Parenting
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Supporting Our Children Who Struggle with Anxiety: Soccer Resilience and Dr. Brad Miller

Dr. Brad Miller
Soccer Resilience

Skye Eddy
Founder, Soccer Parenting

Anxiety, specifically performance anxiety, is a real problem for many youth players. The good news is parents can help. Clinical psychologist and former college player, Dr. Brad Miller, has some practical tips to help children. 

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About Dr. Brad Miller:

Dr. Brad Miller, Psy.D, a licensed clinical psychologist, has spent over 20 years helping youth and adult athletes grow their ability to control their performance anxiety and stress, to persevere and improve their overall sports performance. Brad played at Wake Forest University (1989 ACC Champion), and as a lifelong soccer player, coach and parent, he knows a thing or two about the game.


You know that your son or daughter has some anxiety, and that's absolutely going to impact them when they're playing in a training. And you want to talk to the coach and you don't quite know how receptive the coach may be.

Some coaches are open and receptive and maybe even have their own kids who've gone through some struggles and so they can be very helpful. Some are not, and may directly just go to your son or daughter and say, "So, you get anxious, huh? Don't worry about it. You're a good player, you're fine." And that's just not going to be helpful. So I think you just want to really know.

But as far as talking to the coach, if you have a coach who's receptive, then I think it can be very helpful, and just explain to them. You can start with asking the coach and say, "Do you know much about anxiety disorders? Is that's something you're familiar with or not?" And if they're not, then say, "Here's some things," and you help educate them a little bit on what that is.

And then saying, "This is how it affects my daughter," and say, "You may look at my daughter and never notice. She may look calm, composed, no problem. But inside she really is going to overthink, she's going to think things a lot. So it just means if you give a negative comment to her, she's maybe someone who really latches onto it and is going to think about it over and over and over, and when she goes to bed and when she wakes up. So, I want you to still coach her like the other people, but just be aware of the words you use. And she may really respond better to encouragement.


A parent can talk to their son or daughter, and just to really talk to them almost like you would if the teacher was doing those things. Just say, "Hey, I noticed during the game when you made a mistake and your coach yelled. What did you think about that? How'd that feel for you? Do you think your coach had any other things he could have done differently? Why do you think the coach said that to you?.

Sometimes, even as adults, when we get upset and we flip our lid we sometimes say and do things that aren't really helpful. So your coach wants you to do well, you work hard in practice, and sometimes he or she can get really frustrated. So you know that's not about you, right? That's about your coach, that they're just having a tougher time. Sometimes adults have challenges with their emotions just like we do.

And the parent might say, "Is there a signal I could give you, just like a thumbs up, that lets you know that I'm with you and everything's okay, and I know your coach is really not being as helpful, but I love you and I'm with you and I think you're working hard out there?"


When you have a deep, meaningful purpose, we know that you will outlast, outperform those who don't. Your team needs you, your team needs you to keep trying, your team needs you to do this. When you really harness that purpose, it helps that player not be as stressed and overwhelmed. 

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About the Author Skye Eddy

Founder, Skye is a former All-American goalkeeper, professional player and collegiate coach. She holds her USSF “B” License and USSF National Goalkeeper License and is an active youth coach, soccer parent and coach educator.

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