Every player has gotten nervous before a tryout or game and many get nervous every time.
In my experience there are two types of players:
- Players that get nervous before playing but quickly become confident once they start playing. I’ve known players that stay calm under tough situations during games but throw up before every game.
Players whose nervousness translates onto the field. They become less effective because they worry about making mistakes.
If you fall into the second category focus on improving your confidence.
This article will provide some tips on reducing pregame or pretryout nerves. Follow these tips and the time spent before big games and tryouts will be less stressful:
1. Calm yourself through meditation
To meditate, sit down comfortably. You can sit on the ground, on your bed, in a chair, on a locker room bench, etc.
Stare ahead and focus on your breathe. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Let go of any thoughts that come up.
This is the best technique I’ve used to reduce anxiety.
Prayer is another form of meditation that works. I’ve known many players who pray before games to relax.
2. Visualize success
Visualizing helps you get in the zone.
It’s practiced by most highly successful athletes and public speakers.
To visualize, find a peaceful, quiet area (if possible). Close your eyes. Imagine successful scenarios.
For example, if you are a soccer forward imagine beating a player and shooting the ball past the goalkeeper.
Try to visualize with as much detail as possible. See the beads of sweat and the look of fear on the defenders face. Hear the crowd cheer.
Try slowing things down in your mind to get a better picture. However, don’t imagine impossible scenarios like the goal exploding after you score. Realistic visions will motivate you to do similar things in a the real game.
Think positive. If you start seeing negative visions stop, relax, and try again.
3. Put things in perspective
I get it. The game or tryout can seem like the most important thing in the world.
Always give it your all (and have fun) as you never know if this could be the last time you step on the pitch.
Having said that, your life doesn’t revolve around this game or tryout.
I remember being extremely nervous for games and tryouts that did’t matter a year later.
Making mistakes won’t end your career. Getting cut from a tryout isn’t the end of the world. In fact, you often learn more from your failures than successes in soccer.
Again, always try your hardest. But put things into perspective – the game or tryout isn’t as important as you think.
The pressure you feel is in your head. No one can force you to feel pressure. You control your own mind.
Think about how many games and tryouts are being held around the world. Think about how many tryouts and games you will get to play in your career.
In a year you probably won’t even remember this game or tryout. So don’t worry. Look forward to playing the beautiful game.
4. Use affirmations
“Affirmation” is a fancy word for a positive statement.
For instance an affirmation could be “I will give it my best today.” or “No one will get by me. I am a brick wall on defense.”
Before each game think what you will contribute to the team. Create a positive affirmation stating what you will accomplish on the field.
Say the affirmation out loud as loudly as you can. You can also say it in your head but it won’t be as powerful.
It sounds silly, but try it. You will become determined and motivated. You will forget about being nervous.
5. Talk to teammate(s) or friend(s)
Some players stay calm by focusing on the game or tryout ahead alone.
Others distract themselves from their nerves by talking with friends or teammates about unrelated subjects and goofing off.
Personally, I liked to talk privately to another motivated teammate (or two) about what I wanted to accomplish during the game and how we could work together. Other players prefer talking seriously (or goofing off) with big groups.
Some players like to text friends or a girlfriend/boyfriend before a game or tryout.
Some players like to give a speech to the team.
Some players like to talk about how nervous they are to others. Talking about being nervous can actually reduce how nervous you feel.
Find out which works best for you. Communicating with others may greatly reduce how nervous you feel before a game or tryout.
6. Develop a ritual
A ritual is a set of steps you perform before every game or tryout.
Your ritual is up to you. I recommend putting in at least a few of the techniques discussed in this article.
Here’s an example of a good ritual to perform 30 minutes before you take the field:
- Put on socks, shin guards, footwear, and other equipment if applicable.
- Sit in silence. Meditate for a few minutes to clear your head.
- Visualize some positive plays you will make in the game.
- Repeat a few affirmations.
- Bang on the lockers and yell “lets go!” before exiting.
Your ritual could be completely different. Find what works for you.
You can combine multiple rituals. For example, you may have ritual where you eat a pregame meal and snack then watch videos of professional players hours before a game and a separate pregame ritual.
You Don’t Have to Be Extremely Nervous
It’s impossible to eliminate all nerves, and you wouldn’t want to if you could. Being a little nervous can help you get pumped up and excited to play.
Implementing these tips will take time, but they are worth it. Follow them and a the once painful pregame or pretryout will become something you look forward to.