Kids experience all kinds of stress: good stress, like the excitement of trying out for the basketball team, and bad stress, like dealing with bullies. Thankfully, mindfulness techniques can help your child manage his stressors, good and bad alike.

In Mind Over Basketball by Dr. Jane Weierbach and Dr. Elizabeth Phillips-Hershey, Tuck benefits from Coach Watson’s tips for dealing with his parents’ divorce, trying out for the basketball team and dealing with a bully.  Your child might also benefit from the mindfulness techniques Tuck learns to apply to stressful situations on and off the court.


Breathing deeply and slowly helps both the mind and the body. With every deep breath, your lungs put oxygen into your blood and take carbon dioxide out. More oxygen to your brain helps you think more clearly. More oxygen to body helps muscles relax. Breathing slowly also slows the heart rate, helping you feel more calm.

To breathe mindfully, put your hands on your chest, take a deep breath in, feeling your chest expand and filling up with air. Concentrate just on your breath, coming in and filling your chest. Let the breath out slowly, feeling how your hands move as the air moves out. This breath calms the body and the mind, allowing you to do your best.


Visualization is a way of practicing something in your mind. Imagining yourself, in detail, doing a challenging task well lets you practice the skill before you do it. This is a common approach for athletes. If you watch the winter olympics, you can see skiers and snowboarders, with their eyes closed before their run, visualizing their performance.

Visualization takes practice. Close your eyes and take a deep breath, focusing on your breath. Picture yourself in a video doing your challenging task well. Imagine the beginning, middle, and end. Pay attention to the details. Ask yourself “What am I doing well? What am I saying to coach myself? What parts of this picture should I change so I could ace it?”  Now, edit your video to make improvements and then play it again in your head. Repeat often.

Positive self-talk

We all talk to ourselves. Sometimes we just walk ourselves through a process, like reading a recipe in our head, but sometimes we tell ourselves we can’t. We’re not good enough. We should have….  This negative self-talk causes stress and makes you feel bad about yourself, which can impact your performance.

Coach yourself with positive self-talk. For example, “I’ve done this in practice many times and my skills are strong. I can do this.” “Everyone feels a little nervous when meeting new people. Once I start talking with someone, I’ll relax. I will ask questions and listen carefully to get to know people.” “This is hard for me now, but I know if I take my time and keep working at it, I’ll get better.”  Positive self-talk can allow your child to coach himself to success instead of focusing on what went wrong.

You and your child don’t need to be athletes to use the strategies for success. Indeed, learning to coach yourself and practice these mindfulness techniques are great life skills, useful on and off the court.

Adapted from Mind Over Basketball: Coach Yourself to Handle Stress, by Jane Weierbach, PhD, and Elizabeth Phillips-Hershey, PhD. 

by Eileen Hanning

This Article's Author

Eileen Hanning, M.Ed., has spent more than twenty years designing reading curriculum for underserved kids and training for their parents and social service providers about reading and child development. Her passion for children’s books and hands-on learning has lead her to review children’s books, and learn, research and write about education, child development and toxic stress. She has created her own consulting company, ReadLearnReach, where she serves a variety of clients with their curriculum, children’s book, and writing needs.

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