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Featured Post: The Pressure to Perform

How do you handle pre-game nerves? What helps you mentally approach the rivalry game? Do you listen to music or sit quietly in silence before the most important match of your life?

Players have routines, specific meals, traditions, and very creative approaches to handling the stress that comes with playing at high levels. Yes, soccer is the beautiful game, and it is a privilege to play the sport. But the battle on the field is intense, and the mental gymnastics can be exhausting.

As a goalkeeper, I think I tried everything in terms of preparation before games: watching videos, reading inspiring quotes, taking a shower, eating a Snickers bar (switched to Power Bars when I learned more about nutrition), picturing saves in my mind, repetitive routines, even getting a quick nap in the locker room.

In college, a new experience for me was the pre-game chapel. Most professional sports in America have this option (NFL, NBA, MLB, etc), but I had no idea what to expect. Would it be weird and awkward? I realize not everyone wants to connect with God, but it far exceeded my expectations.

In my junior year at Dartmouth College our team made the NCAA tournament, and we won our first round game in a shootout. After the game I remember a friend of mine prayed for me to have quick reflexes that day. Even as a professional, I included the time with God before every game.

Chapel time before games can also be filled with false assumptions and be very damaging too. Here are some landmines to avoid:
1) Don’t assume that just because you pray, you will win your game. God is not a good luck charm.
2) If you go to chapel, don’t act like you are more spiritual than the rest of the team. Self-righteous pride stinks in any locker room.
3) Whoever goes to chapel together probably shares a spiritual bond, but don’t try to be an exclusive ‘holy huddle’. Connect with the entire team, not just people who hold your same beliefs.
4) Practice hard during the week and attend all team meetings. Chapel is no shortcut and should not cause any conflict with the team’s schedule.
5) Pray beyond just winning the game. Pray for your character on the field and your reactions during the game. Many people claim to walk with God but then don’t represent Him well on the pitch.

What have been your experiences regarding faith and soccer? Has chapel time before games been helpful for you? What would you add to the list above?

There is pressure to perform in soccer. Playing in the big games was one of my favourite parts of the sport, but it came with stress too (I don’t think it is the reason I’m bald now though). Managing the adrenaline, fears, intensity, and emotions on the pitch is a key to success. What you do before the game, can have a profound impact on your 90 minutes on the pitch.