Coaches mean well when they say, “Don’t worry, there is nothing to be afraid of it’s all in your head.” This kind of encouragement helps for a split second but does nothing to conquer our fears.
Let’s be honest, both you and I know this kind of encouragement doesn’t really work. Those soothing words from our coach might settle us down for that split second but the reality is that it does not eliminate our fears or even help build our confidence. For anyone that is not convinced, fear is real. It exists and plays havoc with player’s minds just before a big game.
Suggesting that fear is part of your imagination will not help the slightest. In order to conquer fear or pre match nerves we need to be able to acknowledge it. Recognition is the only way we can conquer our fears.
Most fear associated with soccer today is psychological. Gone are the days where players feared for their safety due to overzealous supporters or hooligans. So you might ask, “What do soccer players fear”?
Do these symptoms sound familiar? Stress, tension, embarrassment, nerves or even in extreme cases panic attacks. These are all symptoms of fear. But simply acknowledging fear will not help ease the symptoms or its effect on you as a player. Fear is the product of mismanaged negativity. For starters stop your imagination and control it. Why would you conjure up negative outcomes just before a game or training?
I hope I don’t make a mistake.
I hope I’m fitter than my direct opponent.
I hope I don’t mark their number 10.
I hope, I hope, I hope.
All the symptoms of fear stem from mismanaged, negative imagination. Makes sense doesn’t it. Why would you predict or foresee negative outcomes or results. Why would you allow your imagination to create fear that does not exist? Unless you’re a psychic or can predict the future, why would you dream up failure? Do you want to feel the crippling force of fear? I doubt it very much.
Listening to your coach that suggests it’s only in your head would imply that fear does not exist. But I’m here to tell you that it does! Fear is real. Fear prevents players from capitalizing on opportunities. Fear weakens you and wears down physical vitality. Fear if left unattended makes players sick. Fear closes your mouth when you want to speak or scream out in frustration.
Fear, uncertainty, lack of confidence explains why so many players quit the game before they become teenagers. Fear explains why millions, that’s right, millions achieve very little and enjoy very little in soccer.
Fear is a powerful force that could even cripple the most physically gifted player. Fear is the number reason why players don’t get what they want from the game of soccer.
So how can we overcome fear? Fear must be acknowledged and given the respect it deserves. Fear should be treated like an infection, a psychological infection, an infection capable of clipping our wings and grounding us for life.
What happens when you become sick or have a body infection? You seek medical advice and cure it using proven treatments. A psychological infection can be treated the same way with proven treatments. Why are so many players displaying the symptoms of fear or psychological infection? Surely a coach with any stature is able to diagnose a player that is suffering from fear. Then my next question is, why the neglect?
First, though, let’s establish a basic principle. All confidence is acquired and developed. No one is born with confidence or nerves of steel. Even the greatest players in the world had to obtain their confidence one piece at a time. Did they need to overcome their fears; you bet your last dollar they had to.
Players that radiate confidence, who have conquered their fears and are relaxed before a match acquired this state. It was never given to them for Christmas or for their birthday, they had to earn it. Can you do the same, absolutely?
When faced with fear, we get mired with the problem until we take action. Hoping the feeling of fear will subside is a start, but hope requires action and dedication. Put the action principle to work. Next time you experience fear, steady yourself. Ask the necessary questions. You cannot fool yourself or run away from yourself can you? Search for the answers to those fearful questions or scenarios. What kind of action can I take to free me of this fear?
Isolate your fear and take the appropriate action. Pin it down and determine exactly what it is you’re afraid of. Then counter your fear with action and solutions. Remember hesitation only enlarges and magnifies the problem so make sure you’re honest and decisive. The quicker you tackle your fears the quicker you’ll be relieved of the symptoms.