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The Star Mentality Post

  • Writer's pictureRifat Hussein

Overcoming Performance Anxiety: Strategies for England's Quarter-Final Against Switzerland

England V Switzerland Sports Psychologist

As England gears up for their crucial quarter-final match against Switzerland in the Euros, managing performance anxiety becomes paramount. Anxiety is one of the most common issues athletes face and a prevalent challenge addressed by sports psychologists. It can manifest from fear or doubt about a future competition, leading to stress and decreased performance on the field.

This blog will dive into effective strategies to help players overcome performance anxiety and be at their best, especially when it matters most.

Understanding Performance Anxiety

To manage performance anxiety effectively, it’s first crucial to understand what it is. Anxiety doesn’t indicate something is inherently wrong; rather, it stems from uncertainty. You might feel unsure about an upcoming match, question your performance, worry about the results, or concerned about others' opinions. These uncertainties can lead to overthinking, rumination and catastrophizing. Anxiety can also be triggered by high expectations (whether self-imposed or external), fear of failure, and the pressure to succeed.

Further, it's important to acknowledge performance anxiety can affect anyone, regardless of their skill level. There isn’t always a direct correlation between skill level and the intensity of their anxiety.

Phil Foden Sports psychology

For England’s players, minimising anxiety is vital. Unchecked anxiety can lead to avoidance behaviours, playing it safe, rushing shots or passes, experiencing tension, and displaying negative body language. These are significant factors that can hinder performance. Recognising these elements and how they impact play is the first step towards overcoming anxiety.

Acceptance: Embracing the Anxiety

One of the fundamental strategies in dealing with performance anxiety is acceptance. Fighting anxiety often makes it worse, creating a vicious cycle of stress. Constantly battling with your thoughts and feelings wastes valuable energy and resources, leaving you feeling drained on the pitch.

Instead, players should acknowledge their anxious thoughts and feelings without judgment, letting them come and go like clouds in the sky. This approach reduces the emotional impact and allows players to refocus on their performance.

Harry Kane Sports psychology

For instance, England’s forward, Harry Kane, might recognise his pre-match nerves, accept and reframe them as normal responses to a high-pressure game. He then can shift his focus back to his game plan. By doing so, he conserves his mental and emotional energy, channelling it towards executing his strategies on the field.

Mindful Meditation

Mindful meditation can help football players stay present in the moment and stay on top of their anxiety. Here’s how to practice it and fit it into your pre-match routine:

1) Find a Quiet Space: Sit or lie down in a comfortable position where you won't be disturbed.

2) Focus on Your Breath: Pay attention to your breathing. Notice the sensation of air entering and leaving your nose, and the rise and fall of your chest.


3) Acknowledge Thoughts: When thoughts arise, acknowledge them without judgment. Gently bring your focus back to your breath each time your mind wanders.

4) Body Scan: Slowly shift your attention through different parts of your body, from your toes to your head. Notice any tension and consciously allow it to release.

Saka using a sports psychologist in london

Practicing mindfulness daily can help players like Bukayo Saka maintain focus and calm during matches. This routine helps footballers stay grounded, improving their overall performance.

Visualisation Techniques

Visualisation involves mentally rehearsing successful performance scenarios. This technique helps the mind feel more reassured, thereby reducing anxiety by increasing the capacity of both your external and internal resources. When athletes visualise their performance, they create a mental blueprint of success, which can translate into improved confidence and performance on the field.

These feelings of heightened confidence come from strengthening feelings of preparedness. By visualising various scenarios, footballers can anticipate potential challenges and mentally practice their responses. This provides a sense of control and predictability, key factors in reducing anxiety. This rehearsal helps build internal resources such as self-efficacy and focus, as well as external resources like tactical awareness and strategic thinking.

Bellingham Real Madrid England Sports psychologist

Jude Bellingham can use visualisation to enhance his game readiness. He might find a quiet space before a match, close his eyes, and see himself dribbling past defenders with ease. He can imagine the precise movement of his foot as he shoots the ball and see it soaring into the net. By engaging all his senses, he makes the scenario feel real, reinforcing his confidence and managing anxiety.

Creating a Strong Athletic Identity

Creating a strong athletic identity through a "Game Face" can be incredibly effective in managing performance anxiety. A Game Face represents a footballer's optimal mental state and the attitude they want to display during the match. Here's how to develop and use one:

1) Identify Optimal Mental State: Reflect on your past best performances and pinpoint the mental state you were in during those moments. Think about how you felt, your confidence level, and your overall mindset.

2) Action-Based Words: Choose action-based adjectives that capture this optimal state. For instance, words like "Powerful" and "Relentless" might describe how you want to perform and feel on the pitch.

3) Narrate the Inner Story: Develop a narrative that reinforces these adjectives. For example, "I am Powerful and Relentless in every action and responsibility." This narrative should become your mental mantra, repeated every time you step onto the pitch. This helps in solidifying the Game Face and aligning your actions with this inner story.

4) Visualise the Game Face in Action: Before matches, take a few moments to visualise yourself embodying your Game Face. See yourself executing plays, making decisive moves, and maintaining your optimal mental state throughout the game. This pre-game visualisation helps reinforce your Game Face.

5) Reinforce During the Game: Use your Game Face as a mental reset button during matches. If you feel anxiety creeping in, if you make a mistake or you’re facing a challenging moment, remind yourself of your action-based words and the narrative you’ve created. This mental reinforcement helps maintain focus and resilience under pressure.

6) Post-Game Reflection: After the game, reflect on how well you embodied your Game Face. Consider what worked well and what could be improved for the next match. This continuous improvement cycle ensures that your Game Face evolves with your experiences.

Foden sports psychologist near me

By integrating your Game Face with the technical, tactical, and physical aspects of the game, you create a cohesive approach to your performance. This technique ensures that your mental state supports your overall game strategy, helping you manage anxiety and perform at your best. For example, Phil Foden might adopt a Game Face of "Creative and Fearless," reinforcing his role as a dynamic playmaker on the field.

Communicate and Support Each Other

Communication is crucial in managing performance anxiety. Sharing feelings and experiences can alleviate stress and build a supportive team environment. When players openly discuss their anxieties, it fosters trust and camaraderie, allowing the team to function more cohesively. For instance, English players can hold team meetings where they openly share their fears and concerns, creating a culture of mutual support and understanding.

England football team sports psychology

Moreover, players can provide positive reinforcement to each other, which boosts morale and confidence. Encouragement from teammates can be incredibly powerful, helping individuals feel valued and supported. Whether it's a pat on the back, a few words of praise, or vocal support during the game, these gestures can significantly impact a player's mindset and performance. By maintaining open lines of communication and consistently encouraging one another, the team can collectively manage anxiety and enhance their overall performance.

Take Home Message

Performance anxiety is a significant challenge that can damage England’s performance. However, with the right strategies, England's players can manage it effectively. By practicing acceptance, utilising visualisation and developing a strong Game Face, they can enhance their mental resilience and perform at their best against Switzerland.


For more insights and personalised sports psychology services, contact Star Mentality. We specialise in helping athletes overcome performance anxiety and achieve their full potential.


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