Performance anxiety is a normal part of organized sports. In fact, most athletes face anxiety before big games, which can have a negative consequence on their performance.
According to research, there is a direct correlation between the performance anxiety athletes face and the anxiety their coaches exhibit.
Studies suggest that officials and coaches must also factor in performance anxiety during practice. They should take the proper measures to reassure athletes and utilize strategies that decrease their anxiety.
Learn To Differentiate Between Anxiety and Nerves
Getting nervous before a big game is completely normal. It’s a natural human response to stress and excitement. However, there is a huge difference between plain old nerves and anxiety, and it all depends on the athlete’s frame of mind.
A nervous athlete might be fidgety or distracted before the game, but will get their focus back as soon as the game starts. A player who’s experiencing full-blown anxiety can display various symptoms, such as:
- Rapid eye movement
- Heavy perspiration
- Rapid breathing
- Mild to severe muscle tension
- Unwillingness to play
- Lack of focus
These symptoms directly affect their ability to play. As a coach, it’s your responsibility to identify the symptoms a player is exhibiting and identify their condition before taking any action to deal with the matter.
Acknowledge the Problem and Encourage Treatment
A good thing to remember as a coach is that you’re not a trained psychologist. At its core, anxiety is usually tied to intrusive and negative thoughts. It makes players feel alienated and misunderstood, which can destroy their performance.
The first step to dealing with an athlete’s anxiety is acknowledging that their health issue is valid and ensuring that you understand.
The next step is to practice mindfulness and being empathetic toward their situation. Try to teach them breathing techniques and positive self-talk, such as repeating a positive mantra again and again. This might help calm them down help them manage their anxiety to a certain extent.
Finally, encourage them to seek professional help, but suggest it in a way that is non-judgemental and compassionate.
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