We've all experienced it – the butterflies in your stomach, shaky hands, and racing thoughts as the competition day approaches. While competition jitters are a natural part of being an athlete, letting them undermine your performance doesn’t have to be the norm.
Whether you're a track star poised at the starting line or a gymnast gearing up for your floor routine, those pre-competition nerves can either be your greatest ally or your worst enemy. So, how do we transform that nervous energy into a source of strength and channel it into peak performance? Here are three proven techniques to quiet the inner critic and unleash your inner beast on competition day.
1. Befriend your butterflies: Fight or flight? Think "cooperate." Rather than viewing your jitters as adversaries, acknowledge them as a normal physiological response to pressure. Accept that nerves are part of the game, and remember, even the most decorated athletes experience them. This shift in perspective takes the power away from your nerves and puts you in control.
2. Breathe through the storm: When nerves strike, our breath tends to shallow, fueling the anxious fire. Deep, controlled breathing is your secret weapon. Practice diaphragmatic breathing exercises (breathe into your belly, not your chest) leading up to the competition, and make it your go-to technique when those pre-performance jitters hit. Slow, deliberate breaths activate your parasympathetic nervous system, calming your body and mind.
3. Embrace the Now: Competition jitters often take our minds on a whirlwind tour to the past or into the future. Champions know the real magic happens right here, right now. How to step fully into the present moment? Focus on your senses. What do you see, hear, and feel? Anchor your attention to these immediate sensory details to break free from mental chatter and lock into the task at hand.
By embracing the richness of the present moment, you zoom in on the intricate details of your surroundings. Forget about past mistakes or future victories; channel your energy into executing the next step with precision. Let your awareness become your power, guiding you through the competition with calm clarity.
Remember, conquering competition jitters is a journey, not a destination. Experiment with these techniques, find what works for you, and build your own pre-competition arsenal. Don't let nerves steal your shine – step onto the field ready to unleash your best performance, jitters and all. After all, a little healthy pressure can be the spark that ignites greatness.
To your success,
Envision • Execute • Elevate
About: Kate Allgood is educated in the field of applied sport psychology. She holds two Masters degrees in psychology where she graduated with distinction. After a very successful hockey career, she has spent the past 14 years working one on one with high school, college, Olympic, and professional athletes to help them with their mindset, mental performance and mental skills training. Kate has also been a consultant for professional teams, including the Anaheim Ducks primary minor league affiliate the San Diego Gulls, to help the team and players develop their mental game. It is important to note that while Kate has graduate school training in applied sport psychology and general psychology, she does not diagnose or treat clinical disorders, and is not a licensed psychologist.
**The information provided is not to dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique, either directly or indirectly, as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical problems, without the advice of a physician. The information provided is only to offer information of a general nature to help you in your quest for high performance. If you know or suspect you have a health problem, it is recommended you seek your physician's advice.