This article was written by Santiago Figueyra, Rush Soccer’s Mental Health Coach.
Soccer is an amazing sport that requires both physical and mental skills. But sometimes, the mental part can be challenging, especially when it comes to anxiety.
Many of you may have experienced that feeling of unease or nervousness before a big game, and that’s totally normal! It’s what we call “pre-game jitters.”
Pre-game jitters are the butterflies you feel in your stomach before the game. It’s a normal response to the excitement and anticipation of the game. It can even be helpful in boosting your energy and focus during the game. You might feel a little nervous or excited, but this feeling usually fades away as the game begins. Pre-game jitters are normal and don’t usually affect your game negatively. So, don’t worry too much about it. Instead, try to channel that energy into your performance.
However, there’s another kind of anxiety that can affect your game, and it’s called “performance anxiety.” Unlike pre-game jitters, performance anxiety can be a negative feeling that impacts your performance during the game. It’s sense as a persistent feeling of worry or nervousness that can make you doubt yourself, hesitate, or lose focus. You might worry about making mistakes, disappointing your team, or being judged by others.
So, how do you differentiate between the two? Pre-game jitters are usually temporary and fade away as the game begins. Performance anxiety, on the other hand, persists throughout the game and can affect your performance negatively.
Performance anxiety can be a challenge, but here’s a first approach that can help calm you down:
1-Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down
2-Close your eyes and take a deep breath through your nose.
3-Hold your breath for a few seconds
4-Exhale slowly through your mouth, letting go of any tension or stress
5-Repeat this process for a few minutes until you feel calm and relaxed
Remember, feeling anxious before a game is normal, but don’t let it affect your performance. It takes practice to stay positive so instead of focusing on mistakes or negative outcomes, focus on positive self-talk. Tell yourself that you can do it, and that mistakes are part of the learning process.
Taking care of your mental health is just as important as caring for your physical health so use the pre-game jitters to fuel your excitement and focus, and if you experience performance anxiety, take a deep breath and try the exercise above.
Soccer is a game, and games are meant to be fun! Don’t let anxiety get in the way of your enjoyment of the game. Keep practicing, keep playing, and keep loving the game!
Keep in mind the importance of sharing these feelings with your coaches, reaching out to our Rush Soccer Players Development department or contacting me at [email protected]