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Reframe and Redirect

Competing in big moments can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in sports. But they can also be some of the most tense and nerve-racking. In order to keep nerves from getting in the way so you and your athletes can perform when it matters most, there are a few things to keep in mind.

According to an article on the American Sports Psychology website, nerves can actually be a positive instead of a negative. Coaches and athletes tend to see nerves as something negative that can only hurt performance, but simply trying to ignore these pent up emotions rarely works, and can often make things worse. The key is to reframe and redirect.

Try looking at nerves as a sign that you’re excited and ready for competition. When you’re nervous that means you care, and you should use this energy to your advantage. When you keep these things in mind before and during competition, you set yourself up for a positive performance. Don’t ignore the nerves. Acknowledge them and work through them. If you can do this before your opponent, you will have a definite advantage.

Remember that your opponent is just like you. They feel nerves and pressure too, no one is completely immune to the big moment or big game. That’s why body language can play a huge role in these situations. You want to present a calm, strong, confident image when your opponent looks across at you. This will also help your athletes and other coaches feel more assured. Set the example for your entire team by being positive, energetic, and composed.

According to American Sports Psychology, it’s also helpful to focus on the start and finish of each big match/game. Give your athletes clear, concrete goals that they can strive for, such as scoring the first point or taking a smart shot. This will help them focus their nervous energy towards specific tasks, which will also help them settle into competing in a tense atmosphere. Towards the end of a match/game, athletes are more likely to lose focus and become fatigued, so it’s important that you keep providing them with simple instruction, such as having a winning mentality and trusting in their training.

Lastly, have a strategy for how to handle different moments. The key is to maintain composure and discipline. When you’re ahead or do something good, it’s great to have a positive response, but it’s important to balance that with staying focused and keeping your emotions in check. Remind your athletes that there is still work to be done and try not to get overexcited. Keep your thoughts and instruction simple and aimed at one task at a time.

The same applies to when you’re down and things aren’t going well. Don’t beat yourself up when things go wrong or put extra pressure on your athletes. Stay focused on one task at a time and try to execute to the best of your ability. There will always be ups and downs throughout a big match/game, so it’s important that you let your emotions keep driving you forward instead of becoming bogged down by yours or someone else’s failure. With this approach, you and your athletes will be better prepared to take on any moment, no matter how big. 

Click here to read the full article.

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