7 Ways to Conquer Anxiety about Competition
When you are about to play in a big match, it is often hard to quell that nervous energy. To an extent, nerves are good. You want to have some amount of anxiousness going in because it shows you really want it. However, a sign of greatness comes in learning how to overcome the nerves and succeed despite them.
If you are so nervous that you cannot compete or you cannot compete to the best of your ability, then you need to work on fixing that. Don’t let butterflies be the thing that stops you from reaching the goals you want to reach.
7 Ways to Stop the Butterflies Before a Match
If your nerves are too much for you to handle, try these seven helpful hints on controlling them.
- Practice a lot.
Practice seems to be the answer to everything, and this is no exception. If you train, attend summer camps, take lessons, condition, practice, practice, practice, then you are going to start playing great. As you improve, your confidence will grow.
When you believe in yourself, you have nothing to fear. So developing confidence by proving to yourself that you know what you are doing is one of the first steps you can take to become a much less nervous player.
More than just practicing drills and techniques, practice games. Setting up scrimmages, playing against family, friends, your coaches, teammates, etc., will not only make you feel more comfortable in competitive games, it will also show you that you are a good player. Thus, once more that confidence boost will help you.
- Don’t think about anything but the present.
If you are naturally an anxious person, then confidence alone may not be enough to get rid of the butterflies. However, there are many other techniques that might help even the most nervous of players.
For example, focus on the present and nothing else. If you let your mind wander, you might start thinking about a lot of hurtful to your mindset things.
• “I lost to this player last time.”
• “If I don’t win this game, I won’t qualify for [x] tournament.”
• “This player is the best in the state, and she hasn’t been beaten yet.”
The list could continue. If you focus on all the reasons you should be nervous, though, you will get nervous. Instead, focus on the game itself. Think about what you plan to do and how you plan to attack. Do not worry about what happened in your last match or what will happen in matches after this one.
- Play for fun.
When you go out to play an important match, don’t go out there to win. Go out to have fun. This probably seems like bad advice. After all, if you want to go far in the sport, then you need to take it seriously.
The advice here, though, does not preclude taking it seriously. Train, work hard, study competitors, condition, etc. and take your game very seriously. However, when you get out on the court, there is nothing more you can do.
You cannot ask for one more practice session. You can’t go back in time and win that game you lost. You cannot watch your competitor play a match in order to study her technique. There is nothing left for you to do but play.
So when you go out there, plan on having fun instead of worrying about the results of the match. You will feel a lot less nervous if you can teach yourself to do this.
- Find something else to focus on.
If you find yourself worrying too much at any given time, take five or ten minutes to focus on something entirely tennis-free. Do some homework, talk to someone about non-tennis things, read a book, play on your phone, or do any other number of distracting things to help ease your nerves.
Often, there are rules about this because coaches want you to pay attention to the sport. However, if you talk to your coach and explain just why you want to take a short mind break from the game, it is possible you will be allowed to do so.
- Create a routine.
The more you create a routine and stick to it, the more you will be able to stop your worries. When something becomes rote, you just start doing it by habit. You do not even need to think about it.
So if before every match, whether it is a friendly one or a big, important one, you do the exact same thing, then it will become so ingrained you will just do it without thinking about it. Doing this will make it a lot easier to forget about your worries.
- Learn to relax.
Sheryl Ankrom, a panic disorder expert, wrote an article for About Health that gives tips on relaxation techniques. She listed a few different ways to accomplish this.
• Start taking deep breaths.
• Learn how to relax your muscles.
• Learn how to meditate, and use this knowledge when nerves hit.
Start studying and practicing relaxation techniques before you ever need them. That way, when it is time to use them, you can just naturally start doing whatever it is that helps you the most.
The better you are able to teach yourself to relax, the less nervous you will be.
- Assume success.
If you want to stop being nervous, visualize yourself where you want to be. This may seem to go against the playing in the moment advice from earlier, but it really is different.
Do not think about the actual future here. Do not worry about what will happen if you win or lose. Instead, just visualize yourself for the one moment in time as being the winner. Then play as if it has already come true.
Playing Like a Champ
When you are relaxed and prepared, nothing can stop you. Be ready to play better than you ever have before.