Performance Anxiety on the Pitch


Ten minutes before you step onto the field, you feel butterflies in your stomach and you’re stuck in your head thinking about the mistakes you’ll make. Fortunately, you’re not alone. Many athletes, probably some in the locker room with you, experience performance anxiety.

That feeling of nervousness about an upcoming game is typically called nerves, pregame anxiety, or performance anxiety. Nervousness around a match often arises when you don’t know how the game will go and aren’t feeling sure of your abilities.

Mental training, especially focused on mindfulness, helps in these situations. Mindfulness teaches you to notice and accept what’s happening, making it possible to ‘let go’ of future worries. Recognize that you can’t know how a game will unfold.

It’s an exercise in accepting the unknown - being okay with not knowing until it’s all done. What you can know, however, are the skills you have, your decision-making abilities, fitness, and what it is about you that make you an effective player. For example:

A soccer player is worried she’ll get beat every play. She recognizes that she can’t know whether or not - or even how often - she’ll get beat. She accepts mistakes will happen. The player recognizes the best thing she can do is rely on her skills and abilities at reading an opponent to make the best plays possible. She knows thinking about what could go wrong as a play unfolds pulls her focus away from making a good read.

Recognize where performance anxiety comes from and build skills for acceptance through training mindfulness in your mental game. You’re welcome to reach out for 1-on-1 help (michael@staceyandassociates.com). If you’re more of a video tutorial with exercises kind of person, I organized a performance anxiety course with Win Your Warm Up here. Good luck this season!