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Advice Jun 27, 2019

Tips to help players deal with stress and emotions of tryout season

By Dr. Tiz A. Arnold
Certified Mental Performance Consultant (CMPC)

It’s a stressful time of year to be a travel soccer player. Here are five big things that can get in players’ when it comes time for tryouts and some advice for how to deal with the stress of youth soccer tryouts!

  • Maybe you’re frustrated because you’re being forced to jump through the hoop of trying out for a team that you’re already on, even though you’ve been told not to worry, “your spot is safe”.
  • Maybe you’re worried because you’re not sure that you’ll even make the team you’re already on despite all the talk of team loyalty and the several seasons of time you’ve already put into this team.
  • Maybe you’re considering making a change to a new team and feel guilty because you think you’re betraying your current team.
  • Maybe you’re feeling pressured into staying where you are because you’re clearly the star player, need to move on to bigger challenges, but don’t want to let down your friends.
  • Maybe you’re feeling panic because you’re still deciding what to do, and considering your options, but you’re being forced to make a quick decision about committing to a team under a threat of your “spot” being gone if you don’t.

Each of these youth soccer tryout situations is immensely stressful and can leave an athlete feeling emotionally overwhelmed. The anxiety that comes with this time of year can easily get in your head, consume your thoughts, erode your confidence, and rob you of your ability to focus.

So if you’ve found yourself experiencing lingering or overwhelming negative emotion at this time of year (or any time), what can you do to stay in control and still perform to the best of your ability?

Tip #1: Designate time to let yourself feel emotions

Because you’re human, you are going to feel emotions, and there’s nothing wrong with emotions. Many people go to great lengths to avoid feeling certain emotions, but when you do that it’s like telling the emotion that it can have control over you instead of you having control of it.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should show any emotion you’re feeling any time you’re feeling it, but it does mean that if you’re feeling a negative emotion you should designate a little time to let yourself feel it. You don’t have to fight it, change it, or talk yourself out of it… just feel it and accept it. Feeling your emotions is an essential step in coping with hard things like your upcoming youth soccer tryouts, and should help you deliver stronger performances on and off the soccer field.

Tip #2: Focus on What You Can Control

In any hard situation life will ever throw at you, such as all the emotions surrounding youth soccer tryout season, there will be so many factors you can’t do anything about.

If you’re stressed out, make a list of everything you’re worried about.

Once the complete list is on paper, go back and cross off the items you can’t actually control.

What’s left on the list at the end will be the things you can do something about and, because of that, are worth giving any of your mental and emotional energy to.

It might even be helpful to go through a symbolic letting go of the things you can’t control. One method is to write something you can’t control on a piece of paper and then crumple it up and (add any theatrics here that feel authentic to you) throw it in the trash as a sign that you’re not wasting another minute worrying about it.

Tip #3: Only Compare Yourself to You

While it’s all too easy to get caught up worrying about what team you’re on or who your coach is or how much playing time you get or how many goals you score, your primary focus should be on your continuous developmentas a soccer player.

Instead of comparing yourself to others, compare yourself exclusively to yourself.

Did you get a little better at today’s practice? Are you better today than you were last year or last month? If you screw up in practice, that’s okay, because making mistakes is part of the learning process, and learning means you are working to get better. Showing a coach you can quickly learn from a mistake is a big part of what they look for in a player.

If you focus 100% on working hard to get better than you were at the start of each day’s practice, each and every day, the performance improvements during tryouts and games that count will come.

Tip #4: Treat Every Challenge as an Opportunity

With any luck (because it’ll indicate you’ve lived a good, long life), this is one of many, many times in your life that will be hard. Think of this challenging soccer tryout time of year as an opportunity to practice, to learn, to develop skills that will make you successful for the rest of your life, both in and out of soccer.

Shifting your perspective from viewing tryouts as threatening and intimidating to thinking of them as an opportunity is a SMALL mental shift that can make a HUGE of difference, allowing you to stay positive and confident, rather than worried and fearful.

Youth soccer tryout season might be stressful or nerve wracking or frustrating. The process may even feel unjust. Peer pressure, fear of letting people down, and fear of the unknown can all contribute to stress that can snowball into such a big distraction, that it can negatively affect performance just when you want to be at your best. But a few small, deliberate changes in your thinking can help you navigate they sometimes crazy world of youth soccer tryouts and come out stronger on the other end.