Mental Coaching for Pregame Nerves & Anxiety

Eli Straw
Mental Coaching for Pregame Nerves & Anxiety

Dealing with pregame nerves is one of the most common reasons athletes work with me. These feelings of anxiety before competition can lead to you underperforming and being frustrated with your level of play.

Have you ever experienced this? Where your hands shake, heart races, and your mind may even black out? When that happens, would you say you play your best or worst games?

I'm going to guess your worst games!

Here's the thing, pregame nerves can be helpful, as we'll talk more about in the article. But for the majority of athletes, these pregame nerves and feelings of anxiety do nothing but hold them back.

And if that's true for you, it's time to make a change!

With mental coaching, you will learn how to reduce pregame nerves and anxiety, allowing yourself to perform with confidence and up to your full potential.

How Pregame Nerves Hurt You as an Athlete

Have you ever had someone tell you that it's good to feel nervous before competition? They're right, it is good...if you view the nerves in a positive way and don't hyperfocus on them.

When you focus too much on the fact that you're nervous, this will lead to worries. And worries lead to anxiety; that intense state where you can't stop thinking about what may or may not happen during the game.

Pregame nerves help when they're used to increase focus, raise your motivation, and all in all are seen as feelings of excitement.

However, when pregame nerves hurt you, they are not seen as feelings of excitement, but rather something to dread.

You know that whenever you feel this way you underperform. So naturally, you aren't going to be thinking how excited you are to play, you're going to be constantly worrying about not messing up and having another bad game.

That reveals one of the main ways pregame nerves and anxiety hold you back β€” the worries they cause.

Another reason nerves and anxiety hold you back is because of the physical symptoms you feel.

So, let's take a little deeper look into each of these reasons and see just how worries and physical symptoms cause you to underperform during games.

Nerves Cause You To Worry

Anxiety by nature is all about worries. You are worried about what may happen or what may not happen. But put simply, you're worrying.

When you begin a game worrying about what's going to happen, you aren't giving as much attention to what you're doing in the moment.

This means your energy is split between what's going on right now and what you want to have happen in the future.

A great example of this is a swimmer I've been working with. When he first came to me, he was incredibly anxious and nervous before races. All he could think about was lowering his time.

The more he thought about lowering his time, however, the more he worried about not lowering his time. This took his attention away from the present moment and actually resulted in him swimming slower than he'd have liked.

Only when we got him to stop worrying about the future did he feel less anxious and as a result, his performance level increased.

For yourself, are you worrying too much about what's going to happen? If so, that could be a major reason you find yourself not playing as well as you know you can.

And when you do worry a lot, another reason it negatively impacts your performance is due to the physical symptoms it causes.

The Physical Symptoms of Nerves & Anxiety

As you continue to worry and your anxiety worsens, so will the physical symptoms you experience.

The main physical symptoms of anxiety include shaky hands, racing heart, dizziness, blurred vision, and trembling legs.

Have you experienced any of these before or during a game? If you have, was it easy to play freely and aggressively, or did you find it distracting and difficult to play with?

I was working with a basketball player who dealt with a lot of anxiety before a game. He said that whenever he went on the court, his legs didn't even feel under his control. That's how bad the anxiety was.

Another athlete I worked with was a squash player who found herself almost blacking out every time she played because of the intense nerves she felt.

Both examples reveal how impactful the physical symptoms of nerves and anxiety can be.

Luckily, by working to reduce the worries you have, you can then reduce the physical symptoms; allowing yourself to play freely and with confidence.

And to help with that, we first need to understand what exactly drives pregame nerves and anxiety in the first place.

What Causes Anxiety Before a Game

Managing symptoms of nerves and anxiety is great for short-term relief. But if you truly want to make a change, you need to attack the root cause of the anxiety in the first place.

Anxiety in sports is caused by outcome-oriented thinking. This is where you are thinking too much about the outcome (what's going to happen).

There are many outcomes in sports, with the most obvious one being the outcome of the competition. But we also have statistics, what other people think, and anything else that happens as a result of the performance.

All of that constitutes an outcome.

By thinking too much about such outcomes before and during a game, that's what truly drives your nerves and anxiety.

The reason is because outcomes happen in the future. Right now you can't control what's going to happen at the end of the game. And on top of that, most outcomes themselves are out of your control.

For example, you can't fully control the outcome of a game and neither can you control what someone else thinks of you. So if you can't control these things, all you can do is worry about them. That worry is the foundation of anxiety.

The more you think about what's going to happen, the more anxiety you will feel.

Knowing that, our focus needs to be on getting you to let go of the outcome and focus more on the process. Since it's the process that you can control, and the process that will give you the best chance of getting the outcome in the first place.

Mental Coaching for Pregame Nerves & Anxiety

The idea of mental coaching for anxiety is to help you manage the nerves you feel going into games, as well as proactively build stronger mental skills to reduce the impact anxiety has on you over the long-run.

How Mental Coaching Works

Mental coaching for anxiety and pregame nerves is set up as a 12-week program.

Throughout this program, I will work with you to identify what's truly driving your anxiety, and then apply specific sports psychology tools and techniques to reduce the anxiety and nerves you feel.

The coaching begins with you taking an assessment. This assessment will help me gain a better understanding of your mindset, and also provides you with an opportunity to gain a clearer picture of what's holding you back within your game.

Following the completion of the assessment, I will create your custom mental game plan. This game plan will include the strategy we'll be using to strengthen your mindset and manage pregame nerves.

The coaching takes place during 50-minute virtual sessions each week. During these sessions we'll talk about recent practices or performances you've had, work through the causes of your anxiety, and get into the tools you can use before and during games.

After each session you'll receive action steps for the week. These action steps will be a combination of exercises for you to complete in a workbook, along with ways you can apply what you've learned directly to practices and games.

The action steps are a crucial piece to the coaching, because they're where you truly begin making changes happen within your game.

What We Focus on Within Mental Coaching

My approach to mental coaching is proactive. I believe that we need to look to past performances just long enough to get a solid understanding of how you think when you play well, and what's going on when you're feeling overly anxious and nervous.

Once that information is gained and we've processed through any past performances we needed to, it's time to turn our attention onto proactively strengthening your mindset.

We know that you're going to feel anxious again in the future. Before a game, nerves will start to creep in. Our goal is to make sure you have developed a mind strong enough to manage these situations in a positive way.

Ensuring that anxiety and nerves hold you back no longer.

One of the main areas we will focus on is regulating the thoughts you have before and during competition.

Knowing outcome-oriented thinking is the main cause of anxiety in sports, you need to make sure you are keeping your thoughts centered on what's happening now.

The more you can manage and control your thoughts, the more you can keep them off the outcome, reducing the nerves and anxiety you feel.

Another key focus of ours will be building confidence. The more you trust in yourself and the more belief you have that you can succeed, the less anxious you'll be before the game begins.

A third key focus will be instilling a calm and clear mind.

Whenever you feel anxious before a game, does it seem like your mind is muddled and thoughts are racing all over the place? Well, what we'll do is work together to quiet your mind, giving you the power to then choose what you want to think about.

A calm mind is a focused mind. This means, the more still your mind is, the more focused it can be. The stillness provides clarity, allowing you to focus your mind on what will help you perform.

The Main Goal of Mental Coaching for Pregame Nerves & Anxiety

If you're wanting to reduce the anxiety and nerves you feel before a game, the main goal of mental coaching may seem simple enough...to reduce the anxiety and nerves you feel.

Yes, that's true, but our real goal is to get you to play freely and full of confidence.

That may sound like the same thing, but it's all about the intent we have with the work.

When you take the approach that you're trying to reduce your nerves and anxiety, you're still focusing on them. And what you resist persists, so what we really want to do is take your mind completely off the nerves and anxiety.

This happens by shifting our goal onto getting you to play freely and with confidence.

I always like to think in the affirmative, meaning what we want to have happen.

It's not that you just want to feel less anxious before a game. What you truly want is to play freely and full of confidence. Because you know that if you do, not only will you enjoy yourself more, but you'll play better as well.

And by the very nature of what it takes to play freely and with confidence, by cultivating that state going into a game, we know that anxiety and nerves will be reduced as a result.

How to Get Started With Mental Coaching for Pregame Nerves & Anxiety

If you're dealing with a lot of pregame nerves and feel anxious when you compete, then it's time to do something about it!

With mental coaching, I will work with you to identify what's causing your anxiety, and then create a plan and get to work on overcoming your pregame nerves and anxiety by proactively building positive mental skills.

All with the goal in mind of getting you to compete freely and with confidence.

To get started with mental coaching for anxiety and nerves, please fill out the form below, or schedule a free introductory coaching call.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-317-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

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