Soccology Sunday: A Stranger To My Body

“I was never taught how to manage the issues I faced in my career, issues that were mentally challenging. I picked up a series of injuries that made me doubt whether I would make it from a training session unscathed, with every stride and every strike came a wince. I had to seek help from a professional outside of football to help me trust my body again.”
Danny Guthrie, former Liverpool and Newcastle player

Danny Guthrie shared his story with me whilst I was collecting stories for my book Soccology – Inside the Hearts and Minds of the Professionals on the Pitch. Danny’s energy seeped out through the stress and thinking of alternative ways to carry out actions. A type of stress that players across world carry every day, stress that leads to injury due to strides landing or striking the ball in a way that the body isn’t used to and because of the chemical change stress can bring. I’ve heard of players feeling dehydrated when stressed, personally I suffered from a type of exhaustion when I was stressed, which affected everything I did on the pitch. From receiving the ball without looking over my shoulder to my anticipation being delayed, everything was levels below my usual standard.

Danny Guthrie’s story is one example of how high level anxiety (fear) affects players. In his case it was the fear of being injured. I shared this story from the book because another former Liverpool FC graduate shared something of a similar nature. Michael Owen shared on BT Sport that after a string of injuries he “couldn’t wait to retire”, that isn’t something you would expect to hear from a professional player. Michael Owen’s game was based upon his electrifying pace but after tearing his hamstrings, he developed a fear of sprinting.

“I was petrified of running in the channel, I knew I was gonna tear a muscle.” – Michael Owen on BT Sport

He no longer ran in behind the opponent’s defence out of fear that he would get injured again, instead he would come short to get the ball. Owen became a different player, finding the lack of alignment difficult because he no longer felt his true self. Although Owen was still scoring goals, he found himself taking up positions on the pitch that he shouldn’t of been in.  He took up those positions in his quest to avoid taking up positions where his team mates would play the ball into space for him to run into. Like Danny Guthrie, fear of injury stunted his outcomes.