Anxiety before, during, and after a football game is common for amateurs and professional athletes. In 2021, Joe Bryan, a former Fulham left-back, opened up about his anxiety and fear. This goes to show that soccer nervousness can happen at any level!
Knowing you’re in good company can come as a cold comfort when trying to overcome soccer nervousness. Apart from that, there are practical tips that can prevent sports anxiety. What’s more, we will take you through its signs, risks, and causes.
Keep reading to get the details on sports anxiety and how not to be nervous before a football game.
Signs of Sports Performance Nervousness
There are two forms of sports anxiety, namely physical and mental. If you have ever dealt with anxiety, you understand your body’s physical reaction. These include:
- Dry mouth
- Shaky voice
- Rapid heartbeat
- Trembling knees and hands
Do any of these ring a bell?
Whenever I feel anxious, my body’s typical response is shaking, feeling cold, and having a dry mouth. I do tend to develop a rapid heartbeat too.
Let’s say you’re about to start a match, and you experience some of these signs. Do you think you’ll perform to your best? No, anxiety is one way to unfulfilled potential.
Experience these physical signs enough, and your mind will search for a solution. Enter the behavioral or mental responses that accompany soccer nervousness:
- Quitting the activity that causes anxiety
- Losing all ambition due to fear of poor performance
- Flight, meaning escaping the anxiety-producing situation
The behavioral response is likely to be subconscious, especially with avoidance. The most frustrating aspect of sport anxiety is that you become nervous, hoping for success. Yet, physical signs and behavioral reactions do everything to keep such success out of reach.
6 Causes of Sports Anxiety
Expectations and pressure run rampant throughout a soccer game. The culture is embedded in the idea of stiff competition. No matter the level, you might experience pressure to succeed, either placed on you by others, yourself, or a combination of both.
Have you ever wondered: where football nervousness comes from and what causes it in the first place? Keep reading to find out 6 common causes of sport anxiety.
1. Lack of Experience
You may be more prone to feeling the effects of anxiety on performance than your teammates. As an amateur athlete, you’re more likely than seasoned athletes to experience sports nervousness that can interfere with your performance. This makes sense due to limited experience in competition and managing feelings of being ‘pumped up.”
2. Match Location
There’s proof that if your team plays at your opposition’s venue (an “away” game), anxiety levels tend to spike up more than when you’re playing at home. But what causes the nervousness? The crowd effect is one of the triggers. It doesn’t augur well when you know most fans are against you.
3. Social Anxiety
People with social anxiety disorder (SAD) fear performance and social situations. The most common fear is public speaking. However, other types of performances, like athletic and musical, may also cause nervousness. This type of anxiety is diagnosed as SAD in its most extreme form.
4. Social Expectations
When a whole stadium sits to watch you play, it’s easy to feel like a single game may break or make your reputation. This is especially true when you consider sports a big deal. It makes the situation worse if you are the team captain.
But you are not alone. In 2022, the England soccer team captain Leah Williamson revealed she almost quit the sport due to mental pressure.
5. Helicopter Parents
In child sports, parents might contribute to plenty of anxiety. It may feel mortifying to witness your parents screaming at the referee or coach every time the opposing team scores. Even if your parents behave well publicly, you might worry about them criticizing your performance at home.
6. Lack of Preparation
As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” This reality can take a toll on you and give you nervousness during the soccer game. Even professional footballers dedicate 4-5 days to training before a match unless the fixtures don’t allow it.
5 Ways Not to Be Nervous for a Soccer Game
Performing pregame warm-ups is one of the most effective ways to prepare for a football match. You can skip, lung, sashay, stretch, or sprint. Below, we outline simple practices you can implement in your daily routine not to be nervous for soccer tryouts or games:
Many elite athletes use visualization to develop confidence, manage anxiety, and improve performance. Visualization, also known as mental rehearsal or imagery, involves imagining yourself competing at a competition successfully.
To make visualization work, close your eyes and figure out the physical movements you’d be making to succeed in the competition. Imagine yourself moving at the same speed as you’d in reality.
You should view the scene (the field, the crowd) as if you were physically there- not watching yourself compete.
Do whatever you can to ensure that the imagined experience seems realistic. For instance, you may go to an empty football pitch and sit on the bench to make the imagined experience more lifelike. If the crowd’s noise distracts you during a competition, see if you can put on your headphones and play audio while you visualize the event.
Consider putting in earbuds and listening to soothing tunes. Music can reduce sports anxiety before, during, and after a game. That is why you see professional footballers on headphones before a match. It is not a swag!
Ensure you imagine what you hear, see, taste, feel, or smell. Use all your five senses to help create a powerful image that seems realistic.
Meditation can decrease sports performance anxiety. When it comes to meditation, you’ve plenty of types to choose from. The quickest method you can try out now is focused attention meditation.
Give it a trial by following the following simple steps:
- Grab a nearby object like a pant.
- Focus your mind on the pant. Examine the smell (if you’re brave enough), texture, and color.
- Keep your attention on the pant alone. This can be more challenging than its sounds since anxious minds easily wander.
- If your thoughts drift, don’t give yourself a hard time. Shift your mind back to the pants.
This approach can help reset your focus whenever your mind jumps into an anxious future.
Focused attention meditation can be helpful when you compete in solo sports without time pressure, such as archery or gymnastics. So, meditate before the big match rather than meditating while on track.
3. Take a Healthy Diet
As an athlete, it’s critical to subscribe to a healthy diet. It may appear absurd to relate anxiety to the food you eat, but the foods you eat affect your mental health.
Scientifically, there is a link between improper eating and high levels of stress and worry. Get tested to see if you’ve any food allergies that may cause anxiety.
High doses of Vitamin C help reduce stress. For instance, Vitamin C can lower stress levels if you take 3000 mg daily and is linked to anxiety management.
So, keep calm during your soccer game by eating fruits or taking a prescribed pill version of vitamin C. You can start with fruits like grapefruits, strawberries, and oranges.
You can also include herbs in your diet. There are herbal supplements that serve as a cure for unsettledness or anxiety. You don’t have to depend on chemical-laden drugs to reduce your football nervousness. Try all-natural herbal medications instead.
Several studies have found a significant link between chamomile supplementation and valerian root and decreased anxiety. Try one of these vitamins before turning to stronger drugs.
4. Talk to a Teammate or Friend
You can stay calm by focusing on the match or trying out ahead alone. Plus, you can distract yourself from your nerves by talking to your teammates or friends about unrelated subjects. You can text a friend before a tryout.
Additionally, consider giving a speech to the team. You can also talk about how nervous you’re with your teammates. Talking about nervousness help reduce how anxious you feel. Find out which works best for you. Talking to others can significantly reduce nervousness before a soccer game.
5. Seek Professional Support
We all feel anxious, but extreme nervousness can eventually hurt your mental health. Consider seeking professional support if:
- You notice sudden mood swings
- Your heart rate increases even during rest
- You find yourself wishing you’d get sick or injured not to play
- You experience panic attacks, which may involve extreme symptoms like chest pain and muscle weakness
Remember, therapy is confidential. So, you don’t have to tell your teammates or coach about getting support unless you want to. Though, it doesn’t hurt to open up about your thoughts.
Keep your head up! Don’t look down, especially after making a mistake, because it can trigger negative thoughts.
The Bottom Line
Sports performance anxiety is common, even among professional soccer players. Some causes of nervousness before a football game include social expectations, limited experience, location of the match, lack of preparation, and pilot parents.
The anxiety can reflect physically or through your behavior. The primary physical signs include dry mouth, sweaty hands, trembling, shaky voice, and rapid heartbeat. Emotional symptoms of nervousness before a game can be quitting, avoidance, or loss of ambition.
You can overcome sports anxiety through focused meditation, visualization, taking a healthy diet, talking to a friend or teammate, or seeking professional help. There you go, all the strategies you need to overcome nervousness before, during, and after a soccer game.