In this section we look at pressure on players to perform; pressure from supporters, media and within your club and how it can affect you.

“I first broke onto the county scene at 19. I had a great minor career and was asked up for a trial. At first it went well, but then I was coming under a lot of pressure with starting college and trying to play and train with my club. While all the lads were nice to me, I felt a bit out of place, being the rookie in the dressing room. I had some problems with the manager and my game started to slip. I started to dread training and wished I hadn’t come up to the panel so soon.”

— Fictional Example; Part 1

Facts About Fear, Anxiety & Panic: 

Pressure to perform well physically can have a negative effect on your mental health, and when you feel frightened or seriously anxious, your mind and body work very quickly Some of the things that might happen are:

  • Your heart beat gets very fast — maybe it feels irregular
  • Your breathing gets very fast
  • Your muscles feel weak
  • You sweat more
  • Your stomach is churning or your bowels feel loose
  • You find it hard to concentrate on anything else
  • You feel dizzy
  • You can’t eat
  • You get hot and cold sweats
  • You have a dry mouth, and tense muscles

These symptoms occur because the body, sensing fear, is preparing you for an emergency, so it makes blood flow to the muscle, increases blood sugar and gives you mental ability to focus only on the thing that’s scaring you. 

In the longer term anxiety and panic may also lead to:

  • A more nagging sense of fear
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Developing headaches
  • Trouble getting on with work and planning for the future
  • Sexual problems
  • Loss of self-confidence

“It all got too much for me and I had a panic attack during a training session. I had to explain to the manager what was going on but I couldn’t explain what I was so scared of. He looked at me like I’d gone crazy and told me see the doctor. Really he just wanted me away from the others. I spoke to the doctor and he recommended therapy. It’s been working well and I got a chance to explain properly with the doctor what was actually going on. They are supporting me now through the therapy. Things are getting better.”

— Fictional Example; Part 2

What You Can Do to Help People Learn  to Feel Less Fearful and to Cope with Fear

Here are some suggestions for how to do it. 

Face Your Fear
When people avoid situations that scare them they might stop doing things they want or need to do. It’s better to test out whether the situation is always as bad as expected, rather than miss the chance to work out how to manage fears and reduce anxiety. 

Know Yourself
Each person should try to find out more about their particular fear and anxiety. Keep a record of when it happens and what happens. Set small, achievable goals to face your fears. 

Learning relaxation techniques can help with the mental and physical feelings of fear. Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation. It’s very common for people to drink when they feel nervous. Some people call alcohol ‘Dutch courage’. But the after-effects of alcohol can make you feel even more afraid or anxious. 

Non-Medical Therapies
Some people find complementary therapies help, like massage or herbal products. If you are spiritual, this can give you a way of feeling connected to something bigger than yourself. It can provide a way of coping with everyday stress.

“I started to feel anxious and had a sense of fear about everything. I felt I had made my family unhappy but I took it out on them. I didn’t know anyone I could talk to about things. My performance started slipping and I spent a few games on the bench. I started to have real panic attacks — fear of not playing, fear of playing and performing badly. Drink was the thing that calmed me down but then, next day, the anxiety would be worse. I began to feel I had no control over life on or off the pitch.”

— Paul Gascoigne