Sports narratives often celebrate the physical prowess of players, their agility, strength, and the victories they achieve. Yet, seldom do they venture into the less seen but just as vital area of mental fortitude. All-Pro Tristan Wirfs of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sheds light on this mental aspect of sports.
Wirfs recently disclosed how his transition from right to left tackle triggered debilitating anxiety. His candid confession paints a vivid picture of an athlete grappling with internal battles, as much as the external ones.
Switching Positions, Switching Stress
"It seems like so minuscule, like oh, you're just flipping sides, but I was like having breakdowns about it," Wirfs admitted. Such seemingly minute changes can often be underestimated by spectators, as the physical demands of the game often overshadow the psychological aspects.
Yet for Wirfs, this switch was anything but trivial. It was a process that required him to rewire his body, retrain his eyes, and reorient his brain. Wirfs' turmoil was so profound that he reached out to team sports psychologist Joe Carella.
His anxious thoughts were haunting him, constantly reminding him of possible failure. "I'm like, 'I can't sit here with these thoughts anymore, I'm just kind of setting myself up for failure.' I would just think about, 'I am going to suck' or like, 'I am not going to be able to do it' all day long."
Previous Success Fuels Present Fears
Ironically, it was Wirfs' record of previous accomplishments that further stoked his fear of failure.
Having only played four games on the left at Iowa, and none in the NFL, the pressure of expectation bore heavily on him. Wirfs had delivered a historically good NFL combine performance that helped make him the 13th overall pick in the 2020 draft, and he had won a Super Bowl with the Bucs in his rookie season.
These commendable feats were no small factor in his anxiety, as he felt the weight of his own success bearing down on him. "Doubts actually began during my rookie season. I went up against Shaq [Barrett] and JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul].
I was like, 'I can't do this. I am terrible.' I would go back to my apartment and just think like, 'Oh my goodness, I am not cut out for this.' Now it is just trying to keep those thoughts out as much as I can," Wirfs confessed.