skip navigation

CFC Academy adds mental performance coach to staff

By Staff , 05/31/20, 7:30PM EDT


Chattanooga FC Academy is pleased to announce the addition of a Mental Performance Coach -- the first in the history of the club. 

Erik Panzer is a familiar name in his home country of New Zealand. The 26 year old spent the last three seasons in the top tier of New Zealand soccer. Erik was a standout player for Quinnipiac University, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Psychology in 2016.

As player himself, Erik understands and knows the importance of a strong mental foundation for continued development and success. His continued education in mental skills and personal development, along with his experiences playing soccer in 7 countries in the past 4 years, Erik has a strong understanding of the importance of Mental Skills training and how it can benefit athletes at any age.

CFC Academy intends to use Erik's skills to introduce mental skills concepts into the curriculum while also educating coaches, players and parents around the mental aspects of player development and the long term benefits these skills can have not only on the field, but also off the field in everyday life. 

Director of Coaching Steve Hirayama arrived in Chattanooga more than a year ago and continues to put key pieces into place that will fulfill our commitment to develop the entire person -- well beyond soccer. 

"Erik is an important piece that most clubs our size simply do not have. I very much wanted this for our Academy families," said Hirayama.

"His skillset  will help educate not only the players, but families and coaches."

Panzer has also signed a pro soccer contract with Chattanooga Football Club.

“To be able to represent Chattanooga as a football club and a city is an honor and I’m very excited to be a part of this amazing community” said Panzer. 

Club Soccer Experience

Kings High School Football Academy (2019) - Mental Skills Facilitator 

Worked with the First team through mental skills training, team vision, achievement strategies, along with individual mindset and goals for their season. 

Southern United Academy (2019) - Player Development Handbook Developer 

Researched and developed a Player development handbook, along with worksheets, for athletes to continue their mental skills development off the field and in their own home during their own time. 

Olé Football Academy (2018) - Director of Grassroots programs 

Olé Football Academy is an elite academy in New Zealand. Focused on long term player development, where there is a clear pathway from grassroots to professional football, focusing on deliberate training and development of each individual player

Pro Soccer Experience

Truro City FC (England)

Nordvärmlands FF (Sweden's fourth tier)

Team Wellington FC (New Zealand’s first tier)

Southern United FC (New Zealand's first tier)

Olympic United FC (Australia’s second tier )

Chattanooga Football Club

College Soccer Experience

4-year Starter at Quinnipiac University, playing Center Back. Panzer made a total of 71 appearances, including 70 starts for the Bobcats, helping keep 27 clean sheets. Quinnipiac won three Regular Season Championships; ‘12, ‘13, ‘14. They also won the MAAC Conference Championship ’13 and appeared in the NCAA National Tournament ’13.

Why Mental Performance Matters


Youth sport advice tends to focus on improving athlete nutrition and training. But even in a “fun” league, sometimes the most harmful stressors aren’t in athlete’s bodies but in their heads.

For many kids, sports provide their first taste of anxiety: the stress of taking a game-tying free throw, the tension of running the anchor leg of a relay or just butterflies in the stomach before a big game.

Anyone who has played sports has probably experienced sport performance anxiety, sometimes called ‘choking,’ at one point or another. But with their brains and self-awareness still developing, sports can be particularly stressful on the minds of youth athletes. This also means it can be especially challenging for parents and coaches to try and soothe these nerves.

The most serious sport anxiety can also make kids lose interest in playing sports altogether. Thankfully, the growing field of sport psychology has given parents, coaches and athletes ways to understand and calm the pre-game jitters.

What Causes Sport Performance Anxiety

Mental stress on gameday is typically rooted in at least one of several factors. Many of these have more to do with everything surrounding the game, before and after, than the actual game itself.

  • Having an audience (particularly one that is loving and supportive): Athletes can become overly self-aware of every decision and play they make when they’re on the athletic stage.

  • Fear of disappointing others: Even when a parent or coach is supportive, athletes may be anxious about disappointing them.

  • High expectations: All athletes want to do their best, but internal self-talk might create stress when they set expectations that anything less than a perfect play is failure.

  • Post-game analysis: Whether it is from a coach, parent, teammate or themselves, the postgame analysis weighs on an athlete’s mindset.

  • Recovering from an injury: After athletes get hurt it can take a long time to restore their confidence.

How Youth Athletes Can Cope

Sport anxiety’s kryptonite is preparation. Athletes should arrive early and go through the same warmup routines they do in practice. During warmups, they should try and visualize themselves playing well while taking some deep, slow breaths. This will put their heads in a focused and relaxed place. 

During the game, focusing on the next play, rather than the result, will help keep athletes in the moment. Another simple trick to stay relaxed, even in high-pressure moments, is to smile. If you go through the physical motions of having fun, the mind will follow.