Player Reflection Tool

Pressure, anxiety and performance


Complete the form

First, complete the 55 questions below as accurately as you can

Choose a topic area

View your results and choose an area to study

Identify two aims

Use video tasks to identify two specific things to work on

Practice to improve

Let your coach know what you are working on

This webpage has been especially designed to help you improve the way you deal with pressure, stress and anxiety in football. We will look at ways to handle the pressure of performing in big occasions or important games. The advice, information and exercises on this page may also help you deal with pressure and anxiety in other areas of your life, such as at home or in school.

Dealing with nerves before a game or practice

There are things that we can do to help us prepare for our practices so we don't feel nervous. We need to get in the right frame of mind before the game, so we are ready to play and perform.

Watch the video on the right which shows how a goalkeeper prepares themselves before a game.


Write yourself a pre-game routine that you can follow to prepare yourself for your next football game. 

Things to include:

  • Imagine yourself doing things well (think about what it looks like when we perform well, what is sounds like, and what it feels like)
  • Remember things you did well at your last game
  • Use a ball to get used to the feel of it
  • Ignore distractions (eg. friends who want to talk about non-football things)


We will now look at a way you can help get your concentration back when lose focus during a game. 

Self-Talk refers to what we say to ourselves in our heads. When we are playing football we often have a conversation going on inside our heads. Sometimes we will say things to ourselves that are helpful, sometimes we will say things to ourselves that are unhelpful.

In order to make Self-Talk work for you, it is a good idea to make your Self-Talk positive and motivational. For example, if we say "I can do it", then this reminds us that we are able to perform well.

Sometimes our Self-Talk might focus on specfic things we need to do well in order to perform. An example might be an attacker who wants to improve their dribbling but lacks confidence to try to go past a defender. They might say to themselves "Speed" to remind themselves to move quickly once they have got some space to dribble into.


Think of a quick phrase or key word that you can use as Self-Talk to help you in your football games. Choose a word or phrase that helps you imagine yourself doing things well. Have an image in your mind that goes with the word or phrase, so you say the word and imagine a picture of yourself performing well.

You will use this key word or phrase during your next game or practice. Use it before the game to help you prepare, use it when you have made a mistake to help you re-focus, and use it anytime you feel nervous or under pressure.

Here are some other tips and advice for dealing with pressure and nerves before or during games:

  • Concentrate on one or two specific, small things that you need to do well in the game
  • If you're feeling a loss of confidence, think about things that you did well in your past games

Try to focus on the present moment, rather than worry about what might happen in the future

What is success?

One of the biggest reasons why people get nervous or anxious is that they are afraid of failing. Perhaps they are scared of being embarrassed, or perhaps they are scared of letting other people (coaches, parents, team mates) down. To help deal with this, it is important for us to think about what failure and success actually are.

Sometimes you will lose football games even when you have played very well. It is not a good idea to focus on the result of a game, or to get too low when you lose. You cannot control how well the other team performs and you may play against a team who is more experienced than you, older than you or who have some players who are more skilled. You should not let the result of a game determine whether the game was a success or not.

Some people get nervous because they are scared of making mistakes. Watch the video on the right where Michael Jordan tells us about all his failures. Here is what he says:

I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.

The key things to remember are:

  • We all make mistakes, we all lose games sometimes.
  • It is important to react positively to mistakes. Don't let our heads drop, but keep being positive.
  • We cannot always perform perfectly, but we can choose how we react to the mistakes we make.
  • If we try our best, and keep trying our best, that is success.

There is a very famous coach called John Wooden and this is what he says about success:

"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of".

In other words, success is not winning or losing, but success is doing your best. Remembering this may help you deal with anxiety and pressure. If we can do our best, then we won't let anyone down and we will be successful - even if we lose the game.

Playing in "big" games: How to play in competition like you play in practice

You may get especially nervous before big games. This could be because you feel under a lot of pressure to perform well. Often these nerves mean you don't play as well as you normally do, or you don't enjoy the football as much as you normally do. Let's look at why this is, and what you can do about it.

TIP 1. Make practice as hard as possible, so the games become easier

Watch the video of Jonny Wilkinson on the right. See how he really challenges himself at practice by making his kicks even more difficult. This helps him because he is used to doing very difficult things under pressure.

TIP 2. On game day, follow a routine

See homework task 1 at the top of the page for an example.

TIP 3. Use self-talk to help focus on the present moment

See homework task 2. Self-talk can be very powerful way to help us focus on what we need to do well in order to perform well.


TIP 4. Practice creating the state of brilliant performance

Think back to the last time you performed brilliantly. What did this feel like? What state were you in? What did you do well? What were you thinking about? Write down three words which describe this state. You need to practice creating this state of performing brilliantly. Try to get into that state at practice, for example. Think about the three words which describe you at your best, and see if you can to that state.

To summarise, our final two video stars are Champions Leage winner, Virgil van Dijk and Olympic Gold cyclist, Laura Trott. They give advice on how to cope with pressure and how to turn nerves into positive energy. Laura Trott's advice about enjoyment is crucial, and here is a link to our webpage on Enjoyment if you want to study that further:

Player Reflection Tool - Home

Dear Learner,

Welcome to your HOMEWORK page! Here you will learn about your chosen topic. It is a good idea to save the URL for this page to your favourites so you can easily return to it when you need to.

You need to work through the tasks on the page, one at a time. This might mean watching videos, it might mean doing other tasks and activities. It may be a good idea to take notes also. Remember that the more work and effort you put into the tasks, the more you will learn and the better you will become.

For most topics, there will be a PRINT OUT at the bottom of the page. You need to print this, complete the questions, and take to your coach. You need to do this so the coaches know what you are working on and are able to help you.

If any of the links on this page are broken, or you have other ideas or suggestions, please get in touch at:


Mark Carter

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Once you have completed all the homework, click on the 'Print the form' link. This will open a form which you need to print out and complete. Take this completed form to your coach.

Then click here to move onto the last part of the Tool.

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Mark Carter

07772 716 876