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?
ANXIOUS DAD

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 sports 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?
PLAY ACTION

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.

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