As an athlete, you may feel fear, nervousness, or even worry. This is known as anxiety and it can happen at any time regardless of what is happening. However, for athletes it can deeply affect us and how we engage in the sport we love. For example, a soccer player at a penalty shot may feel fear of missing the shot and losing the game. Tennis player Naomi Osaka has mentioned experiencing anxiety and how it prevents her from carrying out her obligations.

Fears and worries are typical feelings. However, sometimes these fears become persistent or extreme or interfere with our sport, home, or other activities. In these cases, the athlete may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Anxiety can affect your behavior at school and at home, and your ability to participate in your sport.

For BIPOC youth, experiences of racism and discrimination, social determinants of health, current and historical stressors, and the resulting stress may contribute to increased anxiety and mental health concerns in sports. Further, those living within a racially oppressive context may feel as if they are constantly in a state of hypervigilance. This can contribute to increased anxious arousal or generalized worry, fear, or nervousness.

Woman social worker working with a patient about anxiety.


According to the National Institute of Health, experts treat anxiety in a number of ways. One way is through psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance commitment therapy. CBT teaches a different way of behaving and thinking that can make people feel less fearful. ACT focuses more on using mindfulness to lessen the anxiety.

Another way to treat anxiety is with medication, such as antidepressants and beta blockers. Only a licensed mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or a primary care provider should administer these medications. Lastly, others have used other stress techniques like exercise and meditation.

Black male runner about to start a race.
Thomas Smalley Stretching an Athlete
Soccer players kicking a ball