Thursday, April 05, 2012

Soccer and anxiety

What I didn't say in my last blog is how anxious I get about soccer sometimes. As a player that is pretty much limited to pre-match nerves, and that's only out of control when I am playing in a final.

Any time I have added responsibilities, like collecting the money, organising substitutions, or negotiating for fill-in players, my brains get scrambled. I can't add up, I put things down then can't find them, etc. Driving half the team to the game the other day, I got in the wrong lane and took us onto the expressway out of town. Sometimes while trying to get the money sorted, my hands actually shake.

I have always found that when I am actually playing my anxiety goes and I am a different person - I am decisive, outgoing, quite talkative and very positive.

After a game I am a bit like The Hulk turning back into Bruce Banner -  a regular guy inexplicably wearing shredded shorts and no shirt. The process of turning back into regular socially-awkward me is difficult and confusing, not just for me but for everyone else. Team-mates naturally assume the guy who has been yakking at them throughout the game will keep it up afterwards - when in fact my first impulse is to quietly get changed and sneak out unheeded.

My soccer training can be OK, depending on how much like a game it is. If its gamey, then game-me is quite comfortable yelling and encouraging. If it's some technical thing where there is a lot of standing around, then I am regular-me stuck with a bunch of people I know slightly. Awkward.

The scariest of all is when I am the coach. This has only happened once before, years ago when I was at a club with a lot of junior teams, and I was given match-day responsibility for the Under 13s. They played all their games about 30 mins drive out of town, and to this day when I drive down that road the tension and nerves come back to me like it was yesterday. I always worried - will the kids listen? When I am firm with the kids will the parents take my side or theirs? Will I be able to time the subs right so everyone gets a fair go, or will the maths part of my brain just refuse to function?

So far I have taken two training sessions for Marcus's team. I am trying to get myself used to the idea that in about 10 days it will be my first Saturday morning in charge of the team. This year they will play away from the school every week. Apart from the logistics of getting there and away and then getting to my own game (Elf will be still running the sausage stall back at the school) there are so many other pitfalls! I will have to referee. One of my kids may be injured - how do I look after them while keeping the rest of the balls in the air?

Fortunately I can look at it objectively, think about the worst things that could happen, and plan a few responses to minimise the amount of thinking-on-my-feet required at a time when my brain semi-useless. I guess this week I should go whistle-shopping.

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