Coping with stress in sports - Mind Games EURO 2024


EURO 2024

As we dive into another thrilling week of the tournament, let’s talk about something we all face, whether on the pitch or in our daily lives: stress. In the high-stakes world of competitive sports, the pressure to perform is immense, especially in a prestigious tournament like EURO 2024. With the eyes of millions watching and the weight of expectations from fans, coaches, and sponsors, the stress can feel overwhelming. The intensity of such competitions can create highly stressful situations for athletes, making effective coping strategies crucial for maintaining performance and mental health. Concepts Stress occurs when a substantial imbalance exists between the physical and psychological demands placed on an individual and that person’s response capability under conditions in which failure to meet the demand has important consequences. The stressors particular to competitions include the fear of injury, performance slumps, the expectations of others, crowd noises, external distractions, failure, and critical points in the competition. Coping can be defined as ‘‘constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person’’ (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984) Coping with stress is a dynamic and recursive process that involves interactions between a person’s internal (i.e. beliefs about self, goals, and values) and external (i.e. situational) environments (Lazarus, 1999). Athletes potentially have many coping strategies at their disposal to deal with stressful situations. Researchers have identified coping categories that discriminate among different coping strategies based on their function and intention. Coping Categories • Problem-Focused Coping: Altering or managing the problem causing stress (e.g., seeking information, planning, setting goals). • Emotion-Focused Coping: Regulating emotional responses to the problem (e.g., seeking emotional support, relaxation, meditation). • Social Support Coping: Seeking assistance and emotional support from others. • Avoidance Coping: Disengaging from stressful situations. • Approach Coping: Confronting the source of stress to reduce it. • Appraisal-Focused Coping: Re-evaluating the situation to reduce its importance. Practical Coping Strategies Research by Lazarus and others has shown the effectiveness of various coping strategies in sports: 💭 Thought Control: Blocking distractions and using coping thoughts like “I can do it.” 🎯 Task Focus: Narrowing focus on specific tasks. 🗣️Rational Thinking and Self-Talk: Taking a rational approach to oneself and the situation. 🌟 Positive Focus and Orientation: Believing in one’s ability. 🤝 Social Support: Encouragement from coaches, family, and friends. 🧘‍♂️Precompetitive Mental Preparation: Mental practice, precompetition routines, and relaxation. ⏳Time Management: Making time for personal growth and daily goals. 🏋️‍♀️Training Hard and Smart: Applying work ethic and taking responsibility for training. Real Time Event Robin Gosens, excluded from Germany's Euro squad by Julian Nagelsmann, openly shared his disappointment. Speaking in a ZDF documentary, he said: "It felt like s**t. (…) When you subordinate everything to it, when it's an absolute childhood dream that then just disappears into thin air... to have that certainty, it pulls everything out from under you.”. Gosens faced immense disappointment after receiving a call from his coach and shared how talking to a psychologist helped him cope. Gosens, who holds a degree in psychology, called for a higher status for psychology in professional football and society, criticizing the stigma around mental health. Highlighting the pressures athletes face, Gosens mentioned his own tension before big games and the emotional toll of poor performances. He advocated for better mental health support to help athletes manage these challenges effectively. Conclusion Just like professional footballers at EURO 2024, we all face stressful situations that challenge us. But by adopting effective coping strategies, we can turn these challenges into opportunities for growth. Remember, stress is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to control us. Whether you’re on the field or off, you can use these techniques to stay focused, resilient, and positive. Weekly Challenge This week, try to implement one coping strategy in your own life. Maybe it’s using positive self-talk before a big meeting or seeking support from a friend when things get tough. Share your experience and how it helped you manage stress in the comments section below. Let’s thrive together! 🌍⚽

P.S. For 2 months, the ScoutDecision team collected testimonials from scouts in our network about their jobs, the tools they use, etc. Now you can read the results for free here: Football Scouting Survey 2024

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