Having been away from football for a few weeks now, I thought I would pluck up the courage to explain my situation in more detail.
For years now I have suffered with crippling nerves and anxieties in football. I have just done my best to ‘get on with it’ since I started playing at a serious level at the age of 20, but now, at the age of 27, I feel as though I can no longer carry on with my current state of mind.
Particularly in recent seasons, I have found myself driving to games absolutely dreading them and at times the anxiety has made me feel physically ill. In the build-up to matches all that goes through my head is not to get injured again and not to let anyone down. My brain is constantly my worst enemy before and during games. The constant fear of failure is extremely draining and as you can imagine, taking all the enjoyment of football away from me.
The worst thing about this for me is how it makes me feel physically before and during matches. I was going into games feeling so weak and lethargic because of the anxiety. My legs felt like jelly as soon as we began warming up and at times I felt like I had played 120 minutes of football where actually the game had only just begun. This sounds like an excuse for poor fitness levels, but anyone who knows me will know this certainly isn’t true. These symptoms impact my performances in such a way that I feel like I can never play to my maximum.
For whatever reason, this has progressively worsened as I have gotten older. I’d always assumed that as I got more experienced, these nerves and anxieties would just disappear with age. By the time I was 27 I would be at my peak in terms of performances, self-belief and confidence. In fact, it has gone the opposite way. I am constantly doubting myself, and have very limited self-belief and confidence.
I have never admitted this in the past due to the fear of getting tagged as soft or mentally weak. But I have come to a point now where I am no longer ashamed to talk about these issues, thanks to the support I have recently received. Mental conditions in sport are being talked about more and more and the understanding and support I have had since I decided to take a break has been incredible. It is clearly something that is an issue for so many people inside and outside of sport and is understood by so many.
At the moment I am enjoying some time away and not having to deal with these feelings, but I really do not want to be defeated by this, which is why I am getting professional help and I’m determined to get back playing as soon as I feel ready. I am so thankful for the messages I have received, and the offer of support from so many.
Image: Philip Benton
I am so thankful for the messages I have received, and the offer of support from so many
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