Do you become anxious before or during important games or competitions?
Are you able to manage your competition anxiety or does your nervousness get the best of you during competitions?
Think of this scenario…
You are warming up or stretching as competition starts minutes away. This competition is the most important competition of your season and you can feel the mounting pressure building inside you.
You tell yourself, “Don’t get nervous” but that self-advice only draws attention to the fact that you are anxious.
You start doubting your ability and thinking of everything that could possibly go wrong.
You can’t seem to focus on your performance and you compete hesitantly trying to not make a mistake.
Sounding familiar? This is Big Game Anxiety.
Anxiety is directly related to your thoughts.
When you think about making mistakes or failing (fear of failure), you will become anxious. You may not be able to control the content of your thoughts, but you can control what you chose to focus on.
How? if a particular thought is increasing your anxiety level (making a mistake), switch your focus to a more performance-enhancing thought (your game strategy).
Argentine soccer player, Lionel Messi, is one of the best soccer players of his generation. Messi scored four goals during the 2014 World Cup and was awarded the golden ball as the best player at the tournament. Messi, despite his elite skill level, admitted to being anxious during Argentina’s 2014 World Cup opener.
MESSI: “It’s not easy to play the first match in the World Cup and what it means, the anxiety, the nerves.”
Messi has learned to manage the anxiety of being in the spotlight and raise his level of play even higher.
MESSI: “I have matured a lot as a footballer over the last few years. I’ve been through a lot of good and bad things that have made me a better professional.”
So what does Messi focus on in critical games to manage his feelings of anxiety? Messi focuses on his game… driving the ball towards the opposing goal and trusting in his abilities.
MESSI: “I always try to do what I think is the best thing, to head towards the opposition’s goal and from there it all comes naturally.”
Try these tips to manage your competition anxiety:
1. Realize that big games will be charged with emotion. It’s normal. Your job is to harness and manage that emotion. Embrace the challenge.
2. Lear how to control your intensity level so you can adjust during competitions (ex. taking a few deep breaths).
3.Learn how to refocus your attention. Since you can’t focus on two thoughts simultaneously, switching your focus from what you are feeling to your task in the competition (like your game plan), will help lesson your anxiety.
Your Mental Coach,
Dr. Patrick Cohn