Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.
What is anxiety in teens?
Anxiety on the field
Communication and Support Strategies
We hope you find this toolkit helpful in understanding and managing these mental health issues that could affect your young soccer player.
Note: Always consult your healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. This information should not be used for diagnosing or treating health problem or disease; anyone seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed professional.
Understanding Player's Anxiety: A Soccer Coach's Guide
Hello, dedicated coaches! The team at PCOM is here to help you. We would like to delve into a topic that is crucial for any coach to understand: player anxiety. Let's contextualize it within a scene on the soccer pitch.
Set the Stage:
It's a cool evening, ideal for a match under the lights. As your team gets into formation for a pivotal game, you notice Jordan, usually your most assertive midfielder, is constantly wringing their hands and taking deep, uneven breaths. Their eyes dart around frequently, and their usual pre-game rituals seem exaggerated, almost frantic.
Sideline whispers among teammates go like this:
"Jordan's been practicing that penalty kick non-stop. They're terrified of missing it in a real game."
"They mentioned they had nightmares about this match. It's all they've been talking about."
“Coach, Jordan might need a pep talk or something.”
Once the whistle blows, Jordan's apprehensions become even clearer. They shy away from the ball, are hesitant in making passes, and second-guess their every move. When handed a golden opportunity to score, they freeze, looking like a deer caught in headlights, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment.
That perpetual state of heightened alertness, the paralyzing overthinking, the physical symptoms like rapid breathing? That's anxiety.
Seeing a player so consumed by their worries that they can't harness their skills, their internal battle making them second-guess their every move? That's witnessing anxiety in action.
As a coach, understanding the manifestations and triggers of anxiety is vital. Soccer is as much a mental game as it is physical, and anxiety can hinder a player's true potential. By recognizing its signs and offering support, coaches can help players like Jordan navigate their anxieties, ensuring they play their best game both on and off the field.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is our body's primal response to perceived threats or major challenges. Historically, this "fight or flight" reflex helped humans confront immediate dangers. In modern times, its triggers are often situations like public speaking, high-stakes decisions, or, in the case of your players, significant moments in a soccer game. Anxiety isn't merely pre-match jitters. It's a more persistent worry or fear that can impact a player's ability to engage with the game.
Signs of Anxiety in your Players
Overthinking: A player might continuously focus on past mistakes or possible future scenarios.
Physical Symptoms: Observe for signs like excessive sweating, rapid breathing, or even stomach issues before a match.
Avoidance Behavior: They might avoid taking on specific roles or responsibilities on the field or even shy away from certain team interactions.
Coaching Tactics to Support Players with Anxiety
Open Dialogue: Foster an environment where players feel safe to share their feelings. A simple check-in can make a difference.
Focus on the Process, Not Just Results: Emphasize the importance of effort, growth, and enjoyment over winning.
Incorporate Relaxation Techniques: Consider integrating brief relaxation or breathing exercises before practices or matches to help players calm their nerves.
WHEN TO PASS THE BALL
If you notice a player's anxiety is consistently impacting their well-being or performance, it might be time to discuss with their parents or guardians, suggesting they seek guidance from a mental health professional.
TEAM UNITY IS KEY
Anxiety doesn't just affect the individual; it can ripple through the team. By addressing it head-on and fostering a supportive team environment, you ensure that each player can showcase their skills and passion without being held back by anxiety.
Your influence as a coach extends far beyond tactics and drills. By understanding and addressing player anxiety, you're ensuring the mental well-being of your young athletes, setting them up for success both on and off the pitch