It can be nerve-racking trying out for a traveling team, especially if you were cut the previous year. You can become so preoccupied with trying to impress the coach that it seems impossible to focus during tryouts. You know you are capable of making the team but something seems to be blocking you from allowing your talents to show through. You think, “What if I fail again?”
The fear of being cut, plus thinking about last year’s unsuccessful attempt, set in motion a chain reaction of negative events that prevent you from performing optimally: increased anxiety, negative thinking, decreased confidence, tense muscles, disrupted focus and difficulty coordinating movements.
Your fear will create pressure to perform and you will be at an extreme disadvantage compared to the other players trying out for the team. You cannot play at your potential when you fear the “what ifs.” The key to performing at your peak is to stay focused and relaxed. Being focused and poised will not guarantee you a spot on the team but it will put you in positive mindset so you make the most out of your tryout.
Focus can be challenging but you must focus on you and your game, not the other players, not your parents and not even the coaches. You should focus on you because that is the only thing you have direct control over and allows you to play freely and creatively without worry of what others think.
I’m Dunn with the U.S. Women’s National Team
Crystal Dunn, midfielder, is attempting to secure a slot on the U.S. Women’s National Team despite being the last person cut from the U.S. camp before the 2014 World Cup.
Dunn was quite disappointed not making the World Cup team in 2014, “I wish I kinda had (faced more adversity) so I was more mentally prepared to go through this.”
Now, Dunn is making a strong case to be a part of the National Team going forward. Dunn started against Haiti in Team USA’s World Cup victory tour and was the only player in the U.S. starting lineup who was not a member of the World Cup team. Dunn made a huge impact on the game contributing two assists and a goal in the 5-0 exhibition win over Haiti.
How was Dunn able to rebound after being cut previously and fighting for a spot on a team filled with World Cup players?
After being cut in 2014, Dunn was motivated to improve her game and display her skills as an elite soccer player. Dunn’s hard work and focus paid off as she became the youngest player to win the Golden Boot award in the National Women’s Soccer League scoring a league-high 15 goals in 20 games for the Washington Spirit.
DUNN: “I think as soon as I got that news [of being cut], I went through my venting stage. But then I was like, I’m gonna prove to myself I can reach my potential and get to where I gotta go. I started saying that I have things to work on. And that’s the hardest thing admitting to yourself that you’re not perfect and have things to work on.”
Dunn’s focus on her game and what she needs to do has helped her shine on the big stage. If you want to play BIG, in BIG moments, you will need those BIG TIME mental skills of focus and poise.
Mental Tool Shed: Strategy for Playing Focused & Relaxed during Tryouts
Be your own defense lawyer – Make a “mental” case for why you can make the team. Debate those fears by creating logical arguments for your abilities. During tryouts, if those false allegations about your lack of ability arise, mentally shout, “I OBJECT!” and remind yourself of 1-2 reasons why you can make the team.