Almost every athlete has experienced “butterflies” or pre-game nerves prior to competition or in the opening plays of a game. These feelings can include the feeling of your heart pounding, your palms sweating and unsettling in your stomach. If you think about these feelings as anxiety or fear, it will probably make you feel even worse. Learning how to deal with these feelings will help you feel better and stay focused on the game or competition.
1. Reflecting on training: You’ve been preparing for this game in every workout and practice during the season. If you have been training your hardest, you’ll have nothing to worry about. Trust yourself, your teammates and your coaches.
2. Visualize: In your mind, visualize going through certain plays and movements. Picture the court/field, your teammates and opponents, and ask yourself, “What do I need to do today to perform at my very best?”
3. Create a Routine: Create a routine that you perform before every game in the same order. An example order might be to: eat a meal, get dressed, go through a specific warm-up, and then have some time for meditation or prayer. Eliminating uncertainties before the game will help to calm your nerves.
4. Find the Beat: It has been scientifically proven that your favorite song can release endorphins that can help calm your nerves. Try creating a playlist that matches with your pre-game routine so you can stay on track for each activity, for example; “I know it is time to start putting on my uniform when X song starts playing.”
5. Be Understanding: No athlete is perfect and mistakes are going to happen. Trust yourself, your teammates, and coaches, and know that you will be able to face adversity head-on and not panic when a mistake occurs. Always have a “next play” mentality. If a mistake occurs, learn from it, move on and head into the next play.
Remember, everyone gets pre-game nerves, but the best athletes have learned how to move past them to perform their best!