Performance anxiety is common. It happens when people are engaging in sports and expected to perform well. It is a kind of anxiety that normal people experience like when giving an important speech or taking an aptitude test. Over thinking and stress about the outcome before the competition or event may end up the athlete “choke” or fail, the British Psychological Society in its annual conference announced.

Scientists in the United Kingdom reportedly tested the coordination and anticipation abilities of athletes. The abilities of 18 athletes were tested in terms of catching the ball or striking the object. The measurement was done in non-pressure situations once and another measurement in a pressure situation also once. As expected, the athletes failed miserably during competitive situations.

Heightened anxiety normally occurs in a competitive scenario. It may impact the performance with non-athletes; and it is expected to impact even the elite athletes, Dr. Michael Duncan from the United Kingdom says. The impact does not even have to involve complex linkages as researchers have been able to document athletes’ cases from every movement they make in a wide array of sporting events.  

The key here is to keep the stress into positive territory. This can be done through the athlete’s mindset and keep it positive both before and after the game or event.

Playing down the pressure

To control the stress, the athlete and the coaches need to approach every match the same way. Deviating from the normal occurrence may cause a huge impact in the athlete’s performance. If possible, never overthink on the possible outcomes of the game. Make sure the athlete is focusing on the things he or she can control and the things that he or she can change. It is best to practice and to simulate the situation of the actual game or event in the closest way possible. It is best to be comfortable with the uniform or jerseys. It is even suggested to eat the same food before and after the events. Make sure not to deviate from a schedule or a routine. It may help to have a healthy wager with a co-athlete or a friend. 

Getting distracted

Errors happening in one’s performance may be traced to over-thinking or over-analyzing. Make sure the mind is pre-occupied with something else like listing to music or even singing before the game starts. This will prevent the athlete from thinking about the outcomes of the event or game.

Learning from mistakes

A mistake is only a mistake if you do it once. Instead of dwelling on the mistakes, learn what went wrong and try to use the lessons to improve. Use the lessons to focus on how to improve the performance the next time around. It has been proven among elite swimmers when they have constructive mindset based on the lessons of their previous meets; the brains are more focused towards improvement.

The bottom line here is that it is how athletes are taking the competition jitters and how to channel the energy towards better performance.