The best athletes know how to use their pregame nerves to help them compete at their best. They are able to stay poised, compete fearlessly, aggressively and with great confidence. The problem is that many athletes get too nervous.
Before they compete, they look like a deer in the headlights, become lethargic and fail to compete with the confidence needed to bring out their best. And worst of all they don’t have any fun playing the sport that they love. Although they are physically prepared, their mental state drains them of the necessary confidence and swagger needed to bring out their potential on game day. You may even begin to wonder if it’s the same athlete you watch in practice.
Why am I getting so nervous before a game?
In Sport Psychology, there is something called the Inverted U Theory, which illustrates the relationship between pressure and performance.
As you can see a little bit of nervousness is good for performance. Athletes tend to compete at their best when they are excited and motivated, yet relaxed and composed. When they get too nervous and put too much pressure on themselves, performance begins to crumble. The bad news is that too much nervousness before a game will cause an athlete to choke. The good news is that proper mental training will help you develop a better competitive mindset.
In fact, think about this Training Paradox: Many experts agree that most sports are 70% or more mental. On game day I would argue, sports are 95% mental. The problem is that most athletes spend 95% or more of their time training physically. When athletes begin to correct this training paradox, almost without fail they will see significantly better results when it comes to performance.
Here are 5 Tips to help overcome nervousness before games/competitions:
- Focus on the process not the outcome. There is a time for goal setting and focusing on what you want to achieve, but it is not right before a game or competition. The more you think about the outcome (winning, losing, championships, feedback/criticism from others) the more nervousness most athletes will experience. Focus instead on the things you can control; your effort, attitude and aggressiveness. You cannot control the outcome otherwise everyone would be undefeated. You cannot control the crowd, the referee, how we feel at the moment or what our opponent does or doesn’t do. You can always control your effort, attitude and focus on the process of your game plan.
- Develop a consistent pregame routine. Top baseball players have a routine before each pitch, top golfers have a routine before each swing, and on and on. Routines put your mind at ease. Most people thrive on routine. When you are thinking about your routine, you are not thinking about the outcome, your opponent, or other external factors. We recommend 5 components in any pregame routine: (1) dynamic stretching (2) deep breathing (3) element of fun; something physically you do that makes you feel good (i.e. listening to music, dance, sing, joke with a coach or teammate, etc.) (4) sport specific drilling (5) positive self-talk. The timing and specifics of the routine is designed specific to each athlete to help them prepare mentally and physically for each game/competition. Learn More Here
- Keep things in perspective by understanding your values and principles. One of the most simple yet effective mental exercises is helping athletes understand the big picture. In such a competitive society it is easy to lose sight of the things that matter most (faith, family, health, academics, etc.). Understanding their values outside of sports will make competition more enjoyable and reduce pressure. We recommend athletes rehearse their mindset principles before each practice, workout and competition. (1) I am thankful for the opportunity to play (2) I am aggressive and relentless (3) I have no fear of losing or making mistakes (4) I never ever give up. These principles can be tweaked to better suit your sport or athlete. Reminding yourself that your principles (which you can embrace win or lose) are more important than the result, will help you control nerves and reduce performance anxiety.
- Relax leading up to the “big” game and treat it like any other game. Every game is important but none are special. When you build up a particular game or tournament it tends to make you more nervous. You do not need to raise your intensity at 7am or a 7pm game. Have a plan to relax leading up to the game; read a book, pray, deep breathing, watch a funny movie, listen to music, focus on the task at hand. Don’t talk about the game/competition all day, who you are playing, what they are ranked, the magnitude of the game, etc. Don’t pay attention to rankings, predictions and social media. This will likely lead to more nerves and deplete your energy throughout the day.
- Train your mind on daily basis. If sports really are at least 50% mental, then it stands to reason that you spend at least that much time training your mind. Here are a few things mental exercises you can begin immediately:
- Visualization– visualize not only playing the perfect game but visualize overcoming adversity that will likely occur throughout a long season.
- Affirmations– develop 2-3 motivating affirmations and say them each morning and night.
- Goal Setting– write down your short/long term goals and more importantly your action plan to get there.
- Mental Toughness– do one thing each day (in sports, school, and your personal life) to push out side of your comfort zone.
- Motivation– make a playlist of songs, movies, quotes and videos that motivate you and relax you before games.
- Confidence– make a list of your strengths and past successes. Improve your body language on and off the field.
- Deep Breathing– take a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing.
- Mindset Coach– there is no better mental training than working 1-1 with a Mindset Coach who understands your situation.
Learn more about how Winning Mindset can help you overcome nerves and get the Mental Edge. Sign up for a Free Trial Session Here