Scary sports stories

What frightens a high-level athlete?

From talented players to aggressive teams, there many things that can strike fear into even the strongest of athletes.  

Some opponents, for instance, are daunting because of their skill. 

“I’ve definitely played against some ridiculously talented people,” says Jonny Cyr, a third-year centre for the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s hockey team. “The Toronto Marlboros were one of the most intimidating teams I’ve ever played against.” 

When Cyr faced the minor midget AAA team in 2011-2012, the roster of the Marlboros had players like Connor McDavid and Sam Bennett, who now play for the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames of the National Hockey League, respectively. 

Sascha Kappos is a six-foot-ten fifth-year forward on the Dalhousie University Tigers men’s basketball team. He says that Tacko Fall, a seven-foot-five Senegalese basketball player on the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association, is the most intimidating player he’s ever faced. 

“I was in 10th grade and had never played against anyone that size,” says Kappos. “It was pretty scary to say the least.” 

In this image: Sascha Kappos goes to dunk the basketball in a game.
Sascha Kappos, a six-foot-ten forward on Dalhousie’s men’s basketball team, says Tacko Fall, a seven-foot-five basketball player on the Boston Celtics basketball team, was the most intimidating player he’s ever faced. Photo by Trevor MacMillan

Quinton Dowling, a second-year setter on the Dal Tigers men’s volleyball team, says the scariest player in university he’s faced is Vicente Ignacio Parraguirre Villalobos, a player from Chile who competed for the Université Laval Rouge et Or last year. 

“He’s so good, like everything he does,” says Dowling. “His attacking, his serving, everything is top notch.” 

Other players and teams earn sinister reputations from a history of playing rough.  

 Lucy Carolan, centre-back for the University of King’s College Blue Devils women’s soccer team, says players of one particular team “really would rather push you over than play the game.”  

Her teammate, keeper Molly Lash-Burrows, agrees.  

Some players “get really riled up and the game suddenly becomes about how many fouls a person can get instead of how well you can set a play up,” says Lash-Burrows.  

Overcoming their fears 

For a lot of these players, however, being scared of their opponents is now a thing of the past. 

“Probably the scariest part about playing now is just the feeling of not wanting to let the team down,” says Cyr. “That is probably the worst feeling ever.” 

Kappos says the risk of injury is one of the only things that can frighten him now.  

“Nothing about playing really makes me scared anymore,” says Kappos, “The consequences of something possibly happening to me that would cause injury is always a possibility. That might be the scariest thing.” 

He says that mental preparation was key to overcoming any fear on the court. 

“I go into each game fully focused and fully prepared to win,” says Kappos, “As time went on, I became a lot more confident and mature and I realized that the more preparation before a game, the better.” 

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Isabel Buckmaster

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