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The Increasing Issue of Sports Anxiety


Anxiety in Sports

This project is a requirement of the GOA Abnormal Psychology Course. Using the process of design thinking, a challenge in the world of mental health was identified, interviews and research were undertaken, and a solution prototype was developed. Below you will find information about the identified area of concern and my proposed solution. Please feel free to provide feedback on this prototype, using questions such as “How might we…”, “What if….?”, “I wonder….”, “I like…”, and “I wish.” Keep the comments positive, please. For more information on the process of Design Thinking, click here.

BACKGROUND:

For my Catalyst Conference topic, I chose to focus on anxiety in relation to sports in teens and young adults. I have personally experienced anxiety when I am competing or playing sports and I know many other people who have dealt with it as well. I wanted to focus on this topic because I think that it is a relatively overlooked issue. Many people suffer from it (whether diagnosed or not), but I think that it does not always get the awareness that it deserves.

Sports and athletics can be as much a mental sport as they are physical. Athletes around the world suffer from feelings of anxiety during times of stress. These are usually characterized by thoughts of fear, poor concentration, loss of confidence, increased heart rate, sweating, feeling butterflies in your stomach, and/or a change in behavior (like nail biting, slouching, avoiding eye contact). Dealing with some anxiety before competing is normal, but it can easily get bigger and turn into something that diminishes an athlete’s performance. The end effect of sports anxiety is usually that the athlete does not perform at their best, which can lead to even more negative thoughts and feelings of fear.

I’ve inserted a Ted Talk here called “Sport psychology – inside the mind of champion athletes” by Martin Hagger because I thought it is a really good resource and illustrates sports anxiety well.

 

 


THE CHALLENGE:

After researching sports anxiety, I realized that there is not a lot of awareness around anxiety in sports. I know that many people, including myself, deal with sports anxiety, but it seems as if people do not seek treatment or do much research as to what they can do to help themselves. I don’t know whether people think sports anxiety is not a serious problem or they think treatment is unnecessary, but I knew that I needed to change this by focusing on awareness of this issue.


THE SOLUTION:

I decided that the best way to raise awareness is to create a resource for athletes who suffer from sports anxiety so that they can learn about other people’s experiences and see some strategies for overcoming their anxiety. I created a website that includes an interview with clinical psychologist, Dr. Guy Oram, experiences of people who have dealt with sports anxiety, as well as several tips for overcoming anxiety. I hope that this website will teach people more about anxiety in sports and will encourage athletes to use some new techniques for dealing with anxiety. Click here to go to my website.


WHAT’S NEXT?

On my website, I have also included a link to a survey for everyone to take. It asks about your experiences with anxiety and sports. I plan to publish these results on my website at the end of the Catalyst Conference to give a representation of how many people have dealt with anxiety in sports. I was unable to find this information during my research, so I think this will help give more information to anyone who is interested in learning more about sports anxiety. I have also linked my survey here. I hope that my project will encourage people to start conversations about anxiety in sports, how to deal with it, and how to minimize its effects. As for my next steps, I will be speaking with the head of the Athletics department at my school to encourage them to teach students techniques for dealing with sports anxiety and stress around athletics. I encourage everyone who reads this presentation to do the same!


SOURCES CITED:

 

Click here to view my works cited.

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COMMENTS: 15
  1. April 26, 2018 by izzy horio Reply

    i really liked you included a website you made and had comments from people who have experienced sports anxiety. i thought this was a really good touch because they’re real life examples and i think it helps people who don’t play sports empathize with people who deal with anxiety; it makes it more real to them.

    • April 30, 2018 by Annika.Singh Reply

      Thank you Izzy! That was exactly why I included those quotes.

  2. April 26, 2018 by Anne Bingham Reply

    I had not given much thought to the issue of sports anxiety at the high school level. Thanks for exploring and sharing this topic. I like the personal anecdotes you share–they make it real. I think the Tips you give would be helpful for anyone in a performance situation–whether its sports or music or drama, etc.

    • April 30, 2018 by Annika.Singh Reply

      Yes, I agree! The tips I included are applicable to most forms of performance anxiety.

  3. April 27, 2018 by Kayla Adams Reply

    Annika, I think your topic is so important and unique because I don’t think that many people focus what goes on in the psyche of athletes. In the TED talk video with Martin Hagger, he mentions how athletes get motivated through the goals that they set because those are what determines the athlete’s drive, effort, and will to perform well. However, he says that the goal of winning isn’t enough and there needs to be other subgoals set that relate to their performance. My question to you is do you think that the sociocultural atmosphere that an athlete is has much to do with which subgoals they set, and if so do you think this can hinder their performance later on because they’re working on goals that essentially were too heavily influenced by someone else? Could this be the reason why some athletes peak emotionally too early even though they’re physically still capable of performing? And could this emotional weakness lead to a decrease in motivation and an increase in Injuries?

    • April 30, 2018 by Annika.Singh Reply

      These are really great questions! I think that there is definitely outside pressure to make it your goal to win or to be the best and this can definitely affect an athlete later on. I’ve seen people be so obsessed with winning and when they don’t win it is like the end of the world. I’m sure that the pressure from trying to achieve someone else’s goals is emotionally and physically draining, which could lead to decreased motivation and increased injuries (or carelessness while playing).

  4. April 27, 2018 by Terri Nakamura Reply

    Annika, thank you for bringing sports anxiety into view. I’ve assumed there is always some anxiety when participating in anything that is viewed publicly, but hadn’t thought specifically about sports.
    Your “Anxiety in Sports” web site has valuable resources that will benefit others. Beside the interview with Dr. Guy Oram, it was great to feature interviews and tips.
    Great job!

  5. April 28, 2018 by Anna Demopulos Reply

    As an athlete who has played multiple sports from volleyball to lacrosse over the years, I have definitely experienced sports anxiety. You are completely right that this is a topic that is often not talked about and needs more attention. There should definitely be more resources available for athletes and a greater understanding about how to deal with it. Athletes who do have anxiety are often looked down upon, however this shouldn’t be the case. Great job!

    • April 30, 2018 by Annika.Singh Reply

      Thanks Anna! There is definitely a stigma around anxiety and I hope my presentation has helped decrease that.

  6. April 29, 2018 by Alex Martha Reply

    I have been been playing sports my whole life, and when I got into high school sports completely changed. I have definitely experienced sports anxiety, but I have not given much thought on the subject before. After reading your post, I agree that his subject needs more attention. I think your website is a really great step in the right direction. It has a lot of information and tips helping with anxiety. Great work!

    • April 30, 2018 by Annika.Singh Reply

      Thank you! I know I (and many people I know) felt a lot more pressure in sports in high school.

  7. April 29, 2018 by Coley Goren Reply

    I used to get sports anxiety a lot. Like Alex, I never really thought about it as a clinical issue and did not consider that it was common. I love the tips section of your website and think that this is a great way to raise awareness about an issue so many of us have dealt with.

    • April 30, 2018 by Annika.Singh Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked the website!

  8. April 30, 2018 by Abigail Reply

    This is such an interesting topic! I have dealt with sports related anxiety for a while and I totally agree that there is not a lot of awareness. I think its really great that you are trying to spread awareness, and I think the video you chose complemented your project very well. Nice work!

  9. April 30, 2018 by leilani.ahina Reply

    What a great topic – and your personal passion for exploring this comes through loud and clear throughout your presentation. I like what you said about raising awareness by sharing experiences – what a great strategy for addressing all kinds of issues!

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