Showdown: Sports Anxiety vs. Roswell Students


Mady Agostini

Varsity football players and coaches discuss their game plan during warmups. Photo credit: Mady Agostini

Claire Mulkey, Director of Communications


Athletes of all ages know the feeling: shivering, difficulty breathing, fatigue, a racing heart, maybe even a few tears. These are all typical symptoms experienced before games, races, meets, and competitions when dealing with nerves, anxiety, and pressure. But why do athletes and competitors have these feelings at all?

Sometimes, the need to excel can cause increased nervousness in athletes. It is natural to desire success, and fear failure. Phoebe Rathbun, 11, thinks that parents and coaches can also add to this stress. There are additional sports-related factors that can lead to negative emotions and side effects, like injury, overtraining, and failure. Sophomore Jackson Smith says that he gets nervous because he wants to do well. Many athletes juggle external and internal stressors like these. Often, good athletes are high-achieving people who are not comfortable with losing or performing poorly. The fear of these outcomes can be difficult to handle.


Sports can be a stressor, but can also be an effective way to strengthen mental health. The endorphins released while exercising can be beneficial to increasing mood, outlook on life, and reducing anxiety. Exercise is often recommended by doctors as a natural way to cope with depression and other mental illnesses. Read more on the benefits of sports for high school athletes here! (link rachel sandstrom’s article)

Rathbun, who plays Roswell High School soccer and club soccer, also shares some ways she calms herself down before soccer games: “I listen to music and think about what I’m going to do in the game.” Though many adults feel that phones contribute to anxiety and stress, sophomore Mike Ehrhardt feels that his phone “helps to calm nerves through music.” Many students, including senior Michael Parnes, agree that listening to music is a good way to deal with negative emotions before competition. Junior Emma Martin is an active member of Roswell’s Theater program and though an experienced performer, still has moments of nerves before performances. She controls these emotions by converting them into energy for her performance.  


The youth sports world is not the same as it was when Gen-X parents were growing up. Gone are the days of little league, replaced by year-long travel teams. Excessive practice and competition may be a contributing component of anxiety in high school athletes, especially those who are attempting to earn a scholarship to continue their athletic career in college. “It’s definitely stressful doing college recruitment as an athlete, especially right now, because the pandemic limits us in so many different ways,” says collegiate athlete hopeful Bailey Oetinger, 11. “You are trying so hard to put yourself out there and stay in front of the coaches’ eyes. It gets to be a lot, especially with everything else we have going on. It comes down to how much you want it,” Oetinger explains. The sports world has changed, but that does not mean students’ happiness and wellbeing must pay the price.


Many athletes, like the girls’ cross country team, find meditation an effective way to combat anxiety.

Photo cred: claire mulkey