Looking back on my 2017 U24 selection experience, it’s a blur of new friends, connections and lessons from world class coaches. However, these memories come with nearly two years of hindsight.
When I take off my rose-tinted glasses and really start to put myself back in those shoes, it’s nerves that I remember. I was crazy nervous. There I was, surrounded by all these great players, some returning U24s and others even having played at open levels. I was intimidated. I questioned why I was even there. I didn’t feel I was anywhere good enough to be amongst them.
I let those feelings of self-doubt crowd my mind and slow my feet. I was reminded of these doubts every time I messed up. I can still see myself standing in the stack feeling too unqualified to cut.
In my opinion, nerves can be good. They show that you care and that you want to do well. But there is a fine line between nerves and overwhelming performance anxiety, when your nerves turn bad and become a focal point for your on-field play.
To all U24 athletes taking the field this weekend and feeling that self-doubt already creeping into your mind, remember:
If you have been invited, you deserve to be there
Selectors put a lot of effort into choosing who attended. It’s not a game of roulette, they put countless hours in contacting referees and analysing past performance.
You deserve to be at selections because you bring a unique skill set that selectors want to see. You deserve to be at selections because you’ve already put the hard yards in at training, now’s the chance to showcase what you’ve learnt!
Don’t bear your burden alone, lean on those around you
Not letting your nerves get the best of you is a lot easier said than done. At tryouts, what helped me was talking to the coaches. I asked them what they wanted to see from me and their answers gave me goals that focussed me away from the performance of my teammates and onto my own.
You are unique in your skill set, focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses
Something I learnt from being a Bluebottle* is that every member of a team is important and vital, but not every member is the same.
While I was busy comparing myself to some amazing players making great bids and skying others, the selectors were busy looking at what skills I had to bring and what role I would fill. As an offensive handler, they weren’t expecting me to be the world’s greatest deep defender. So why was I placing those standards on myself?
These standards are what caused me to constantly remind myself of what I couldn’t do rather than find strength in what I could do.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for this weekend. But I’d also be lying if I said I wasn’t excited.
I can’t wait to play alongside other athletes who have earned their spot at tryouts, athletes who have trained hard for this weekend and athletes who are going to give their all.
If this feeling of not being good enough is something you struggle with too, don’t be afraid to reach out. Talk to a friend, a respected teammate, a coach or even someone you meet at tryouts. Do whatever it takes for you to be able to walk into tryouts knowing that you deserve to be there. Because you do.
*A bluebottle is actually a colony of organisms called zooids, all with different purposes, that are dependent on each other for survival.