Anxiety is specific to a particular situation. It is feeling of fear or a perception of threat.
It is recognised in professional players as influencing playing performance.
Heavy playing schedules, competition for team places, the media and fans as well as the pressure to win trophies all play a part in players developing high stress and anxiety levels.
Even experienced players can suffer from pre-match anxiety. Developing ways to control this is important in order to prevent players from ‘falling’ apart. Possible symptoms of anxiety are nausea, loss of composure, reduced motor coordination and aggression, Potential stressors are the climate-temperature/humidity, circadian body rhythms-maximum effort is harder in the morning jet-leg, playing environment-stadium, spectators, surface, game officials and final stress created by oppenents or between players and the coach.
The intensity of these influences on stress depend on the individual perception or inner experience of the player.
Which players are alert and relaxed, they make better, quicker decision during a match. An over-anxious player will often make incorrect decisions. Athletes can as well be more motivated when they realize that they can control their anxiety and are then free to play at their top level.
To know a player well, a coach can sometimes diagnose why he is over-anxious.
However, it may be difficult to get through to players suffering from anxiety thus much discretion is needed. A coach can look for various signs such as moments, of anger or loss of confidence and players who no longer utilise their skills correctly. Players can as well become isolated and hide away from their team mates or become aggressive and blame everyone else for their problems.
Muscle relaxation exercise as well as mental relaxation through modalities such as meditation or listening to music can control anxiety.
Practice for perfection is necessary but as we talk about anxiety control, too much practice can actually lead to overpressure which obviously leads to anxiety beying the optimal level necessary for the given tasks.
In addition, self doubts regarding one’s performance and a desire to impress others will create a high level of anxiety which leads to ‘choking’ as the athletes’ focus on the game is lost as is his/her physical control.
Athletes that maintain a proper combination of showing their physical skills and developing their mental game are able to adopt to any unfamiliar situation that they encounter.