As an athlete, you are guaranteed to experience some kind of sports anxiety, better known as “choking,” that will affect your overall performance. The nervousness usually arises due the mind acknowledging that you are performing in front of an audience and that there are certain expectations you feel you must exceed. Whether it’s during a normal training day or the biggest game of the year, the bottom line is that the feelings are there and should be dealt with. Some people deal with it better than others, but for those that struggle under the conditions, there are methods to reduce, if not eliminate, that anxiety physically and mentally.

Understand that pre-performance butterflies are normal.

Don’t try to fight off these jitters. Instead, accept them and use them to excite yourself.  This is a normal feeling of adrenaline that will fade away once the game or race begins.

Don’t rush.

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your performance. Arrive early, get a solid warm-up, and stay relaxed.

Visualize.

Mentally prepare yourself. Close your eyes, focus on taking slow, deep breaths, and imagine yourself performing well.

Stay in the moment.

Once the event begins, try not to think about the outcome. Instead, focus on what’s happening in the present. Take the performance one step at a time. Stay focused, positive, and have some fun!

Review the performance.

Once the event is over, acknowledge the overall performance. Notice things that you can improve on but don’t focus on them. Focus on the things you did well. Recognize the thoughts, behaviors, and actions that assisted your performance. Use your overall performance review, including the physical and mental aspects before and during the event, to train for the next race or game.

For athletes who “choke’ during competition, it is important to know that the thoughts you have regarding the event can be controlled with the appropriate mental exercises. It helps to understand why you experience those feelings and what you can do to treat them. Follow these basic tips and remember that it’s not all about performing perfectly. Learn from your experiences, use them to improve your game, and just enjoy your sport!

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