Beyond Athletics Soccer

How Athletes Can Stay Calm Under Pressure


It’s finally beginning to feel like spring has come to Chicago. The air is warmer, the days are longer, and the city is smiling again.

But along with the good news of officially de-frosting, the new season also comes along with some big moments for student-athletes: tryouts, playoffs, SATs, ACTS, term papers, and more. Any one of these has the potential to bring additional stress and anxieties to everyday life.

But it’s important for athletes to stay calm under pressure.

So I sat down with NCSA Athletic Recruiting’s director of events, Jaclyn Thomas, who is a former Division I soccer player, yoga enthusiast, and work/life balance guru. Jaclyn puts on all of our partner events–like camps and combines–making her no stranger to stressful situations. Being in events requires fast-paced problem solving and thinking-on-her-feet, which Jaclyn excels at, making her one of the best in the business.

I sat down with Jaclyn to find what she attributes her “calm under pressure” reputation to. The answer? Keeping her mind–and body–in harmony with these four simple stress relievers.

I know you prefer to try natural remedies before anything else. What should we pick up at the grocery story to help cope with stress?

Lemon essential oil is one of my top workplace go-to’s for instant help when feeling overwhelmed, and can be found at any Whole Foods or drugstore. Lemon oil is calming in nature and therefore helps in removing mental fatigue, exhaustion, dizziness, anxiety, nervousness and nervous tension. It has the ability to refresh the mind by creating a positive mindset and removing negative emotions. It is also believed that inhaling lemon oil helps in increasing concentration and alertness. It can therefore be used as a room freshener in offices to increase the efficiency of the employees. You can simply rub it on your wrist, or do what I do and sniff it from the bottle – kind of weird but really effective!

I’m totally envious of your desk décor – what’s up with all these luscious plants?

Research found that the presence of potted plants in offices reduced fatigue, stress, dry throats, headaches, coughs and dry skin among workers. The study was led by environmental psychology expert Dr. Tina Bringslimark and her team at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, and Uppsala University, Sweden. The more plants they could see, the less sick leave people took. It’s all about oxygen. Being surrounded by green plants is a good thing. (Every little bit helps!) Don’t lose focus of your priorities: if you don’t breathe properly in the first place green plants will do little to nothing for you.

Okay, well then let’s back-track…how do we learn to breathe properly?

Breathing exercises can reduce stress, improve mood, and help you feel energized. Better yet, they are simple, easy, and can be done anywhere.

4-7-8 Breath Exercise

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths.
Thanks to you, I’ve gotten really into practicing yoga over the years, and we’ve had some fun taking classes together. Why did you start in the first place?

The number one reason for my decreased stress is my regular practice of yoga. Yoga unites the mind, body and breath. Yoga can help reduce stress because it promotes relaxation, which is the natural opposite of stress. Throw a plant in your yoga session with lemon oil on your wrist and feel like you are floating in stress-free heaven.

Feeling stressed about your recruiting? Another way to stay calm under pressure is to take control of the recruiting with a free profile and one-on-one sessions about your personal goals and issues with one of our national scouts. Get started today.

About the author
Laura Chmiel

Laura Chmiel is a marketing coordinator and a lead writer for NCSA Athletic Recruiting. As someone with a passion for athletics and education, she graduated from Indiana university with a B.S. in Elementary Education. After school, she gained first-hand experience helping student-athletes and their families get to college.