It would be unnatural to not feel some anxiety before a match; however, it is never nice to suffer from insomnia, stomach gripes or poor performance as a result of these nerves. If pre-match nerves make you so anxious that you experience symptoms that affect your day-to-day life, you are not alone.
Also known as competition anxiety, almost every professional athlete experiences nervousness before their big game. Part of becoming a true sportsman is about learning to control these nerves through practicing a few coping techniques and finding out what works out for their bodies and mentality.
5 TIPS FOR CONTROLLING ANXIETY
- Deep breathing. It is the most common advice given to control nervousness but that’s because it works! When inhaling, the key is to allow the air to fill your lungs, allowing your chest and stomach to rise slowly. Exhaling is much the same – ensure all the air is exhaled slowly and evenly. You are “tricking” your body into thinking you are being productive; helping you to fight the urge to panic.
- Avoid negativity. You need to be clear minded and positive about your game. Don’t take others’ opinions seriously, you are the playmaker and anything is possible. Ignore those who say the opposition is too strong, or too skilled or that your team has not practiced enough, or whose skills are lacking. Focus on being positive.
- Focus on the best possible outcome. Instead of worrying about what could happen to you and your team, focus on what you want to achieve. It can be small goals such as playing your best, scoring a try, making that perfect kick, or reducing the score difference.
- Get distracted. Recent studies have found that over-analysing can affect athletic performance. Next time you are waiting for the starting whistle to sound, try singing your favourite upbeat song to pass the time! Distract yourself to relax!
- Put the pressure into your practice. Try giving yourself time limits or setup play with your team that puts you under pressure to perform. The more you practice in these conditions, the more natural it will become when you are under match pressure. Once you realise that you are able to play under extreme pressure, it will reduce your nerves during performance.
WHAT THE PROS SUGGEST
- “I never looked at the consequences of missing a big shot . . . when you think about the consequences you always think of a negative result.” – Michael Jordan
- “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.” – Muhammad Ali
- “Venus told me the other day that champions don’t get nervous in tight situations. That really helped me a lot. I decides I shouldn’t get nervous and just do the best that I can.” – Serena Williams
- “I cannot control what goes on in another lane and this is how I focus in the Games. There is no point in being nervous of other swimmers. It’s just about focusing on yourself and what you need to do in order to perform your best.” – Cameron van der Burgh