The Betterment Project

How Athletes Cope With Sports Performance Anxiety

With any performance, whether on the field or on a stage, there can be expectations on what the person is capable of. Will they be able to showcase their full potential and skills to whoever is in the crowd? 

 

It is possible for an athlete’s anxiety to overwhelm them such that the fear of what could happen hinders them from wanting to perform altogether. 

 

What Is Sports Performance Anxiety?

When anxiety reaches high levels, it can cause an athlete to have negative thoughts and self-talk regarding their abilities and skills, comparing themselves to teammates or even allowing the fear of failure to hold them back. When this occurs, the athlete’s mental wellbeing and confidence is at stake, and this can take a toll on both their performance and their overall health.

 

Negativity can impact athletic performance, mental health, and self-confidence, and keeping these anxiety levels in check in competitive situations is key to avoiding a downward spiral that extends beyond the field. 

 

Is Some Anxiety Beneficial?

It is normal for some level of anxiety to be present in an athlete during stressful situations, such as when they prepare for a game or match that requires peak performance. 

 

Some levels of anxiety gives athletes an opportunity to expand their mental and emotional capabilities by maintaining level-headed and positive pre-competition. Being able to push your limits helps you grow as both a person and an athlete. 

 

If there is no pressure felt leading up to any game, the ease of reaching goals and achieving objective “greatness” can lead to eventual declines in performance and effort. When a person does not have a driving force motivating them and challenging them, it becomes easy to stop trying.  

 

That said, when there is too much pressure, this, too, is detrimental.

 

Student-Athletes 

These are the ages when building a healthy foundation in sports is key. When younger children are taught and given tools to support them in managing and working through anxiety, it sets them up for success in later years of their life. What they learn here can even be applied to other areas of life, not just sports. 

 

With younger children, parents have more of an active role in their sports life and athletic endeavors. Parents are the ones driving children to practices and games, and may even have signed their children up for those activities in the first place. 

 

Sometimes a parent's emotions can get involved to the point that the parent’s high and unrealistic expectations begin to burden the child. 

 

This is not a healthy dynamic and can create anxiety that carries over into sports performance, or may progress into anxiety disorders later in life. As a parent, be mindful of how you communicate with your child about their experience and be supportive to help build their confidence. 

 

Does Gender Play a Role?

You may or may not be surprised to find out that in young athletes, women have a higher rate of anxiety compared to men. Children develop their sports skills and abilities over time; therefore, it may seem normal for younger children to have more anxiety and nervousness related to playing sports. 

 

It is vital for athletes to learn ways to work through their anxiety and push past it. Whether that is listening to music before a game to get them in the zone or talking out how they are feeling with a trusted adult in order to work through the feelings they are dealing with. 

 

How Can an Athlete Can Stay on Top? 

When performance anxiety strikes, there are methods of stress management that can help an athlete cope with their feelings and perform well in spite of them.

 

Identify Anxiety 

First, a professional athlete or student athlete needs to be aware of the emotions and feelings that they are experiencing. Similarly, identifying where the anxiety stems from is crucial.

 

For example, there may be stressors relating to teammate bonding that are felt on and off the field. At any age level, team building is key whether it is at the beginning or end of the season. The stronger the relationships are among the players, the less stress there will be in the game. 

 

A good relationship between coaches and players is also key, and a good coach will listen when an athlete confides in them about anxiety and triggers — as well as where those issues are rooted.

 

Acknowledge & Normalize Anxious Feelings 

One of the most crucial coping strategies for anxiety is acknowledgment. When we call things out, we face the fear head-on and do not give it as much weight in our lives. It’s important for any athlete to realize that some level of anxiety will be normal, and to take inventory if anxiety becomes overwhelming and all-encompassing. 

 

An athlete can find someone they trust to communicate what is coming up for them and what they are feeling in their body and mind. Anxiety happens to everyone from time to time, and acknowledging its presence as a normal part of life can help reduce some of the fear that comes along with it.

 

Create an Anxiety Game Plan 

What tools and strategies can an athlete apply to better their performance in and out of the arena? Evewryone copes with anxiety in a different way, and creating a game plan of how you will manage anxious feelings about sports performance can help you know exactly what to do in the moment. 

 

Some athletes want to be alone before a performance to practice their own rituals and prepare for the main stage. Others may turn to their teammates to hype themselves up before playing.

 

Another option is to practice positive self-talk to pump up yourself and your teammates. Encouraging one another and building confidence are key before any performance. 

 

Implement Tools

It is one thing to have all the tools in front of you, but the trick is using them. We all know the saying practice makes perfect — implement your tools during practice time, too, even when you are completely off the field. 

 

The more familiar you become with your tension relief strategies, the more natural they will feel when you need to use them to your advantage. When your body and mind begin to get affected by anxiety, it can sometimes take a lot of effort to turn things around — especially if you can’t seem to remember any strategies on the spot.

 

Get into the habit of making use of your stress relief tools so that it becomes second nature to get you in the zone and manage that anxiety. That way, when game day rolls around, you know exactly what to do without having to think about it. 

 

Coaching Strategies 

Coaches play a large role, similar to parents, in the sense that they can notice things that an athlete may not. A coach may be able to help athletes practice visualization, deep breathing, or other wellness practices when athletes show signs of competition anxiety, or may be able to bring in a mental health professional like a sports psychologist to help.

 

How Can Supplements Support Overall Performance? 

Sports performance anxiety can impact many aspects of life in the days leading up to the game. 

 

If you have trouble sleeping the night before a game, ASYSTEM Sleep Gummies can help you get the rest you need. 

 

 

With L-Theanine, Chamomile Extract, and Holy Basil, our gummies can support your body and mind by reducing anxiety, improving sleep quality, and allowing you to wake up refreshed the following day. Feeling rejuvenated after a good night’s rest can improve your overall mental and physical well-being. 

 

Any athlete is all too familiar with the aches and muscle tension that come with the territory. Feeling sore and tense from all those hours spent practicing? ASYSTEM Radical Relief Gel Roll On can help reduce inflammation, enhance joint mobility, and aid in relief for any sprains, stiffness, or arthritis. 

  

This product features high-quality hemp isolate CBD, Menthol, Methyl Salicylate, and Arnica. We recommend massaging the gel into any sore areas of the body. Feel free to reapply three to four times a day for best results. 

 

For a little extra support, ASYSTEM Radical Relief Anti-Inflammatory Pills come in a 30-day supply to provide ongoing relief from stiffness, headaches, stress, inflammation, and poor joint mobility. Our product is clinically proven with the key ingredient Turmacin, which is a derivative of turmeric, and full-spectrum hemp CBD. Quality is vital, and we prioritize it.

 

 

Sports performance anxiety can take a toll in various ways, and ASYSTEM is here to help you show up for both yourself and your team.

 

Summary 

Anxiety can be a normal part of the sports performance experience — but when stress and anxiety levels skyrocket, it can be detrimental to your mental and physical health, not to mention your performance on the field.

 

Without a small dose of pressure, athletes wouldn’t feel the drive and motivation that can lead to greatness. At the same time, too much pressure can dampen athletic performance. There are many ways to manage this performance stress and can assist an athlete in dealing with anxiety in other areas of their life more effectively. 

 

Sports can be a highly effective means of burning off feelings of stress and tension, but when sports performance anxiety strikes, this can be counterintuitive. From finding what helps you get in the zone to practicing pre-sports rituals and confiding in a trusted coach or teammate, many strategies can help you ease your anxiety before the big game. 

 

When stress gets you down, ASYSTEM can help. Our cGMP-certified gummies include clinically-proven, natural ingredients that support your overall wellness so that you can be your best self, both on and off the field.


Sources: 

How to decrease performance anxiety in young athletes | CHOC - Children's Health

5 Tips for Overcoming Sports Performance Anxiety | Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Coaching Strategies for Helping Adolescent Athletes Cope with Stress | JOPERD 

Meet our Experts

This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.

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