Athletic Pressures Impact Performance

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Illustration by Mackenzie Smith

Molly Kennedy, Sports Editor

As students progress through grades, sports become more competitive and tend to come with more pressure. With more competitive tryouts, practices, and games, teenagers are left dealing with the high pressure of being a student-athlete. It is common to develop sports-related anxiety.

Experiencing increased heart rate, breathing rapidly, sweating, trembling, feeling weak before a game, meet, or match may be a sign of sports anxiety. According to the NCAA, 85% of certified athletic trainers believe anxiety disorders are currently an issue with student-athletes on their campus. There are many reasons people get anxiety before games, matches, or meets. There are expectations that many athletes hold themselves to. Athletes may feel the need to meet the expectations of coaches, parents, peers, or themselves. “I feel like I have to vomit because of the nerves and wanting to do well,” said Meghan Pinter, a junior who is a member of the swim team. Pinter has been swimming competitively for nine years and still struggles to calm herself down before meets.
During competitions where points are constantly changing, it is hard not to focus on mistakes. “You can’t dwell on past mistakes or it will ruin your further performance, and you can’t afford to ruin your performance, even the slightest,” said Amila Jusufbegovic, a member of girls varsity volleyball, and indoor and outdoor girls track and field. During volleyball, a fast-paced sport, it is hard for players not to overthink mistakes. In fast-paced games, it is important to constantly stay at the top of your game. Some people suffer from being a perfectionist during sports which can cause low self-esteem, and lead to messing up more because you can’t move past your mistakes.
Many athletes experience performance anxiety where they get overwhelmed with the different aspects of performing well. Performance anxiety leads to panic attacks and also can be influenced by fears of injuries, or the need to recover from injury. Many colleges have employed sports psychologists in order to help students who are struggling with disorders. Most high schools do not employ sports psychologists, however, there are still resources such as coaches, fellow teammates, counselors.
There is a difference in anxiety development in team sports such as soccer and basketball, and individual sports such as track and field, and swim and dive. In team sports, there is an entire team depending on you, along with there being the team to fall back on. As for individual sports, it is completely dependent on you. “I get more anxious for track meets as I am very confident in myself and my team for volleyball,” said Jusufbegovic. Having a team with strong bonds and friendships among members can also relieve stress because it relieves tension and allows you to communicate better.
There are also some positions that come with more pressure in high-intensity situations such as a goalie or a pitcher. “Playing goalie comes with a lot of anxiety because you can’t let in goals, or if you lose the game you feel as though it’s your fault,” said sophomore, Natalie Collins, a member of the girl’s soccer team. It is important for players to find their strengths and weaknesses and practice weaknesses in order to prevent anxiety before that play.
Nervousness or getting excited or hyped up for a game is different than anxiety. Some stress and pre-competition anxiety may be inevitable there are many ways to relieve some of it.