Are you performing well in practice only to choke during actual competitions? There are times that some athletes may feel nervous, anxious, and afraid, which in turn may impact their performance. Learning a few tips from sports psychology may be able to help athletes control the performance anxiety and keep things under control—thus, reducing game day jitters.

What is performance anxiety?

Performance anxiety is colloquially referred to as “choking”. It is most often described as a decrease in the quality of athletic performance due to the perceived stress. This perceived stress may go overboard especially on match day because of the audience, and high expectations of the fans for the athlete to succeed. The stress may be likely appearing because of the way some athletes are interpreting the situation. It is less likely external factors will play into the situation and result in stress. It is more like how the athlete’s mental state is describing the situation creating the stressful feeling thus resulting into anxiety and fear.

Athletes choking in a game should be understood well. There is a need to do a deep dive into what the athlete is thinking during the game. This way, the thoughts can be modified, controlled or adjusted in a way to de-escalate the stress. This is something that can be controlled with mental practice.

Making the mind tougher

It is important that the athlete should be able to determine what is keeping him or her from performing at an expected level. There should be a process to determine whether the thoughts causing stress that leads to lack of confidence can be tracked to lack of athleticism or ability. The athlete should be able to motivate oneself to control the anxiety, tension or nervousness. Athletes need to realize it would be difficult to perform in any kind of sport when the self does not really believe in one’s ability to play at an optimum level.

Accepting the realities of life

It is important to recognize that pre-game jitters are common and normal. Rather than trying to fight the feeling, accepting what is considered normal can do more good than harm. It is natural to feel an adrenaline rush as it is the body’s reaction in preparation for the competition. Try to note it, but never put much focus on the jitters. Once the game starts, the feeling will fade away as it should be.

Preparation is the key

Preparing for the competition is the key in any thing an athlete does before the start of a game or an event. It is best to arrive at the venue early so as not to feel rushed, which may only make the stress worse. Make sure to get complete warm-up and stretch.

Visualizing the victory

It will help to visualize or mentally rehearse the victory in your head. Think how things will turn out right. Breathing is the key in controlling the stress and use mental images to tell yourself that you’re a winner. 

Remember that whether you lose or fail, it’s just a game. It’s not you or your whole life. If you succeed or fail, know that there are still other more important aspects in life that deserves much attention as well. Winning or losing in a game should not be used as a way of judging yourself as a being. Being an athlete is just a part of you, not the “entire” you.