Tackling stress at the Women’s World Cup

This article was first published in 2019

Professional sport brings its own brand of nerves and excitement, but those feelings must increase tenfold when representing your country on the international stage.

As the eighth Women’s World Cup gets underway in France, stars of the Scotland and England squad have been telling BBC Bitesize how they deal with stress as they face the prospect of playing under the international spotlight.

Scotland and England stars on dealing with big match nerves.

Scotland forward and midfielder Christie Murray believes preparation is key, saying: “You always take strength from your training… if you’ve prepared yourself well, you can take confidence from that.”

England captain Steph Houghton has a full list of stress-busting preparations, but still leaves room for the work on the pitch: “If you train well during the week,” she says, “you prepare properly, you train hard, you eat the right things, you get a good sleep - I think that’s half your work done.”

“I think I keep everything light,” says England forward Nikita Parris, who also knows the importance of changing room morale. “I’m quite a humorous person, so I don’t ever get too flustered around the situation that I’m going into. I’m the one who makes jokes around the changing room before the games and stuff, just to make sure the girls are not nervous.”

Scotland midfielder and forward Lana Clelland doesn’t fear pressure at all. Rather, she’s the complete opposite. “I thrive under pressure,” she says. “I feel that I perform better under pressure, so yeah, I actually like it.”

England’s Karen Carney agrees: “You just embrace it. I think pressure’s what you want it to be… so I just tend to have fun, just go out, enjoy it and remember that playing football is what I’ve done all my life.”

Team-mate Lucy Bronze finds listening to music can help tackle pre-match stress as well as putting in the hard work beforehand.

Finally, England forward Fran Kirby believes you shouldn’t let stress rule you. “If you’re worrying too much about it going into it, then it’s going to be on your mind but we’ve done a few things on camp that takes is out of our comfort zones a little bit. Hopefully we’ll be in a good stead going in to the World Cup, being able to deal with that.”

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