How to Overcome Fear in Football
With the rarest of exceptions, there are very few football players who have not felt fear at some point in their career. It is argued that fear is a rational emotion, considering how much pain is regularly inflicted on the football field as well as the realization that a catastrophic injury is a possibility. However, great players learn to make their fear work for them.
Learn as much as you can about the game you play. Realize that football can be very dangerous and there is a possibility that you can suffer a serious injury any time you step on the field. Realize that you can also embarrass yourself and get overwhelmed by a bigger, stronger opponent who hits you with a well-timed shot. Having this knowledge will help you play with your eyes open and realize that you are playing a very serious game with dangerous ramifications.
Know your responsibilities when you are on the field. Knowing these responsibilities will help you do your job well. When you do your job well, you are well-prepared and in a position to make a good play and not get hurt. Walk through your plays when you first learn them. Tom Bass, a former NFL assistant coach, who leads the NFL's USA Football program, says fear is natural when young players are just learning the game. "Recognize that overcoming the fear of contact will happen at different times for different players so be patient and teach safe technique," Bass said. "Be positive in any comments concerning the player's approach to contact and make individual contact drills a part of every practice session."
Protect yourself at all times. When you have to block an opponent, keep your eye on that individual, but also survey the field and take stock of anyone else who can come in your area. It's one thing to have to take a hit, but it's quite another when you don't realize it is coming. If you look over the field before the snap of the ball, you will realize whom you have a chance to interact with. This will limit surprise collisions.
Get aggressive when you are on the field. You can play the game with a healthy amount of fear. Just because you don't want to get hit with a brutal shot doesn't mean you can't deliver one yourself. You deliver the first blow. Make your opponent fear you. This will do quite a bit to dissipate your own fear.
Forget about what others think. Many players are concerned with getting the approval of their peers and coaches. That should not be a factor. If it is, your level of fear will increase because you will focus on what can happen to your social status if you fail to deliver. Sports psychologist Dr. Patrick Cohn believes it is much easier and less fearful for an athlete to compete when he is doing it for himself rather than to gain social approval.
Keep your eyes open and protect yourself at all times. Never lead with your helmet. That type of hit could lead to a catastrophic neck injury.
- Keep your eyes open and protect yourself at all times. Never lead with your helmet. That type of hit could lead to a catastrophic neck injury.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman authored The Minnesota Vikings: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Who's Better, Who's Best in Football -- The Top 60 Players of All-Time, among others, and placed in the Pro Football Writers of America awards three times. Silverman holds a Master of Science in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism.