Pregame Nerves Facts and Fiction

How to Use Pregame “Nerves” to your Advantage

Many athletes have misconceptions about the effects of pregame “nerves” before competition sport.

*Misconception 1: Elite athletes are NEVER nervous.

*Misconception 2: It’s the total lack of nerves that cause elite athletes to be successful.

*Misconception 3: Elite athletes are born with the capacity to remain 100 percent calm even in the most stressful competitive circumstances.

These misconceptions are erroneous beliefs that affect an athlete’s preparation, effort and focus, ultimately, holding them back from achieving their potential in their sport.

Let’s take some time to examine how these misconceptions impede performance…

  • If you believe some athletes never get nervous, you might think there is something wrong with you when you get nervous in competition. This type of thought process could cause your nerves to spiral out of control before or during a competition.
  • If you equate a lack of nerves with success, you might feel athletic success is impossible for you. When you believe success is not possible with nerves, you will put less time and effort in practice and training sessions.
  • If you buy into the idea that elite athletes are genetically immune to nerves, you will feel helpless to manage your nerves and therefore feel hopeless in competitions when under pressure.

The truth is… ALL athletes experience some degree of nerves, stress, or added adrenaline. Adrenaline and intensity helps you compete at a high level. Anxiety and worry can cripple you mentally.

Elite athletes are successful because they put in the work. Elite athletes dedicate a lot of time developing their physical and mental games and it is that preparation that helps them succeed.

Elite athletes know how to manage pregame jitters or move themselves into an ideal range of intensity where they perform their best.

If you want to perform at your peak, a little bit of nerves is just what you need–as long as you are not “nervous.”

Managing nerves helped Virgil van Dijk, defenseman for Liverpool of the Premier League, earn PFA Player of the Year honors.

VAN DIJK: “I don’t know what it is. It’s just something I’ve learned over the years and it’s something I’m very happy about. If you’re nervous you think: ‘I don’t want to make mistakes or give the ball away.’ But you limit your own qualities then. Over the years, I’ve developed the mindset that there are many more important things in life.”

Van Dijk uses this to his advantage helping him play at his peak during soccer matches.

VAN DIJK: “It’s more excitement than nerves these days. Even before the Champions League final last year [against Real Madrid]… I was very relaxed. I was like: ‘Let’s go, let’s do this.’”

By learning how to harness your pregame jitters and not turn it into anxiety, you can perform at your peak on a more consistent basis.

Using the Adrenaline and Intensity to your Advantage:

Embrace pre-competition jitters as helpful to your performance as they can help you focus and give extra energy when in competition.

Avoid turning pregame jitters in to anxiety before competition. Note that feeling pumped up and excited can feel the same as nervous.

As Ken Ravizza would say: “Get the butterflies to fly in formation and use them to your advantage!”

Understand that “pressure is a privilege” as tennis great Billy Jean King would convey to other athletes.

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The Relaxed Athlete

Relaxed athlete

The ability to relax and play your game under pressure is what separates the winner from the loser in any competition. Champion athletes train hard in practice, are motivated for the right reasons, and are able to raise their game in crunch-time with two minutes remaining in the game..

A relaxed and confident performance begins in the mind! When you are mentally prepared to compete, you can have an optimal level of intensity AND poise!

The Relaxed Athlete program is ideal for any athlete that wants to overcome pregame anxiety, worry, or excess tension and learn to perform with poise. It’s also ideal for any coach or parent who wants to teach athletes to perform with poise and relaxation in competition.

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