Sports Anxiety and What to Do About It
We all face sports anxiety from time to time. However, it can play a significant role in sports for some of us. When we are anxious, we don’t play our best and as that is always the goal. So it’s good to think about what causes us anxiety. It’s impossible to address a problem if you don’t know the cause. Once you know what is bothering you, you can devise a plan of action and move forward. The thoughtful player is the successful one. Athletes, just like everyone else, and perhaps even more so, have to be in touch with their emotions. Unfortunately, anxiety can be a common one. But it’s not impossible to tackle.
When Does Sports Anxiety Strike
There are two main periods in every season when athletes get the most anxious. The first is right in the beginning: tryouts. This is, of course, a very important time of year. There are always some people who know they will make the team, some who are praying to make it, and some who are on the fence and could go either way. These are the folks most likely to face anxiety. It’s a difficult position to be in because for athletes on the fence, performance in tryouts is made or break.
So what are we anxious about? Mainly it comes down to making a mistake that might show the coaching staff that you are not suited to play on the team. Here’s what you need to remember: first of all, coaches are looking for a lot more than a player who never makes mistakes. They want work ethic, intelligence, and good teamwork too. So focusing on those things is just as important as playing your position well. Secondly, one mistake is never enough to get you cut. The problem comes when you are so worried about making a mistake that you continually mess up. So don’t worry about an error or a bad pass. Just stay in the moment, chances are the coaches didn’t even see you mess up.
The other big time for anxiety is in the playoffs. Everything you’ve worked for the entire season comes down to a handful of games. It’s good to remember that although the playoffs seem like a different animal entirely, a game is still just a game. The rules haven’t changed, you’re not playing on a new surface. There is added pressure, yes, but your job is the same: go out and play your best.
How Can Coaches Help?
As a coach, one of your roles is to help your players to be comfortable and confident when they take the field. If you have the infamous “practice player” who shoots the lights out during scrimmages but can’t convert during the real thing, it’s partly on you. You need to be able to inspire your players and show that you have confidence in them. Not every athlete is born with confidence. Sometimes it needs to be instilled. So give your players chances to shine and tell them you know they’ll come through in the clutch.
Rely on Teammates for Help With Sports Anxiety
Unless you’re playing singles tennis, you must remember to rely on your teammates. There’s a reason there are eleven players to a side of soccer. Everyone is needed to get the job done. So if you’re feeling under pressure and worried you’ll mess up, remember that ten other people are working with you with the same goal in mind. You don’t have to stand out on every play. Just do your job to the best of you ability and trust your teammates will do the same.
Conclusion on Sports Anxiety
So if you’re feeling anxiety, the first step is to ask where it is coming from. Are you worried about not making the team? Are you scared you’ll make a mistake in a critical moment? Maybe you’re the star player, and you feel as if everything is riding on you. Whatever the cause of your anxiety may be, you have to get to the root of it and figure it out now.
In my four years in high school, we had a kid on our basketball team who should have been our top scorer. He drained threes in practice, couldn’t be stopped going to the hoop. But in games, he always sought to get rid of the ball instead of attacking the basket. We figured he would eventually gain the confidence to play in games the way we knew that he could. But he never got to the root of his anxiety and no coach was ever able to help him. So instead of being the star of the varsity team, he would come off the bench for a few minutes a game, even though he was still beating up on everyone in practice.
So if you are experiencing anxiety, just know that it’s normal and you can deal with it. There’s no better time to start than right now.