The Anxious Athlete – Total GAA Coach

Feb 12, 14 The Anxious Athlete – Total GAA Coach

The term anxiety is from the Latin word anxius, to choke. Every athlete and individual gets worried, anxious or stressed from time to time. Some athletes get anxious more than others and anxiety may lead to performing below par more than often. In the worst case scenario, if the performance anxiety is severe enough it may cause the athlete to withdraw from performing altogether depending on the importance of the sporting event.

Just like the emotion of excitement, anxiety or worry is similar only that it is accompanied by the fear of failure, fear of self-doubt and a type of uneasiness before an event. Without an intervention the athletes’ performance anxiety disorder becomes persistent and habitual over time. It is like most things we do in life, the more we practice them the better or worse they become.


Irish Rughy Coach Joe Schmidt has recently stated that anxiety will be high amount Irish players at expectations grow higher - Picture by

Irish Rughy Coach Joe Schmidt has recently stated that anxiety will be high amount Irish players at expectations grow higher – Picture by


Athletes who suffer from performance anxiety are not to be mistaken with those athletes who have the occasional feeling of worry or self-doubt. While one athlete may feel threatened going into a performance another athlete may feel challenged and the difference between both is their thought process. (Cognitive State Anxiety) One athlete feels that something may go wrong or that performance failure maybe experienced while another athlete feels that this is an opportunity to demonstrate his skills and true character. The athletes who are able to overcome their anxiety interpret their symptoms as challenging and favourable.

The good news for those athletes who suffer from anxiety is that intervention strategies can help reduce it. However these interventions are sensitive to different athletes in different circumstances.

Another cause of anxiety can be brought on by excessively thinking about an event or performance which results in Paralysis by Analysis. This happens when the athlete analyse their performance too carefully and meticulously. This can result in the athlete trying to hard and in turn can cause the athlete even more anxiety.

As humans we have what is called an automatic anxiety programme. This is where the body produces adrenalin and prepares us for ‘fight or flight’. It is sometimes important for the body to go into this state of automatic arousal, where we can get an extra energy boost to lead us into performance. The secret is to be able to recognise, evaluate, control and modify your automatic thinking process in response to performances that have set off anxiety in previous events.


About the Author – Denis Coen

Denis Coen from Total GAA Coach - Picture by

Denis Coen from Total GAA Coach – Picture by


Denis works as a Performance Mind Coach and has been involved in sport for over 20 years. He has played and represented his county both at under 21 and senior level in Gaelic Football. He works with professional and amateur athletes and he works with teams to help them foster a championship winning mindset.

Having spent the last six years researching and studying the psychological aspects of high performance in both sport and life, he provides teams, athletes, individuals and organisations with mental skills and coping strategies to help them reach high performance levels. Having drawn on his own sporting and life experiences, alongside extensive consultations with athletes and individuals, he has developed practical coaching strategies to enhance the performances of athletes and individuals. Denis also specialises in the psychology of sport for young athletes. He holds an Honours Degree in Psychology and is a current member of the Association for Applied Sports Psychology.


For full links and contacts to Denis Coen please (CLICK HERE)



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