It’s the most wonderful time of the year… competition season! If you just cringed a little, I completely understand the feeling and know that you are not alone. As a Mental Performance Coach specializing in mental blocks and performance anxiety, I have conversations daily with parents and athletes in a state of panic over the upcoming big day. The stories vary in detail and struggle, but the theme remains: “I am not ready and am afraid to fail.” Athletes are overwhelmed with dread and are counting down the time until they finish their last pose and can finally relax. But then, there is the pressure to determine how well they did. Their initial reaction to their performance is only accurate if their team, coaches, and judges agree. The pressure is overwhelming, and the reward seems too small, making you doubt it is even worth it.
Competition is not a time for fear and dread. It is a celebration of your hard work and a time when you can relax and enjoy showing off. If this is not your experience, I am glad you are here with me. In this post, I share tips I teach the athletes and parents in my program to help them trade pre-performance anxiety for excitement. You will walk away with strategies you can apply today to show up at your next competition with confidence, trust, and joy!
5 Tips To Turn Competition Nerves into Excitement
#1 Prepare Your Confidence
Confidence is a belief in your ability to be successful, which means that you can enter the competition believing that you will do well. Instead of waiting to see how you perform to decide if you deserve to be confident, you can prepare for high confidence. Start by listing all the reasons you deserve to be confident and believe good things will happen. Include past successes, compliments you received, new things you have tried that went well, all your hard work and preparation, etc. Keep this list close and add to and review it daily and you will walk into your next competition head held high, ready for success!
#2 Prepare your trust
For athletes to be successful, they must develop a trusting mindset for competition. Athletes who suffer from nerves, anxiety, nausea, and dread on competition day are stuck in a training mindset and focusing on avoiding mistakes, fixing, overcontrolling, and overthinking their skills. You can strengthen this mental game skill by taking time at practice for mini-performances. To do this, select specific reps, full-outs, or routines at practice and allow your body to perform by thinking very simply. The goal is to teach your body to perform freely, without complicated directions, so you can rely on your practice and trust that your skills will show up when you need them to. Get ready to enter your next competition relaxed and prepared to have fun and perform well. Yes, please!
#3 Turn Jitters into Excitement
Think about the word “nervous” and notice what it does to your body. When you say the word, it automatically causes your face to drop and your eyes to fill with fear. It differs for each person, but in everyone, that word triggers a bodily reaction where your heart beats faster, you sweat or shake, or maybe your stomach churns into knots. Now think about how “excitement” makes your body feel. Your heart speeds up as you sweat or shake, and you feel jitters (or butterflies) in your stomach as anticipation builds. Sound familiar? But, one significant difference is when you say excited, your face lights up, and you smile by simply saying the word. Jitters are good and a sign that your body is preparing for something extraordinary. When you notice you feel “nervous,” remind yourself, “No, I am excited!” This simple switch will give you all the energy you need to thrive this competition season.
#4 Manage Expectations (aka know the goal)
What do you think about before competitions? “I hope I don’t fall,” “Don’t mess up.” “We have to hit everything.” “We can’t make any mistakes.” “I have to get this skill for competition to be in the routine.” Guilty! Focusing on things you fear will go wrong or want to avoid is not helpful and only causes anxiety and fear. We do this because we have expectations about how we are supposed to perform from our own experiences or comments from coaches and parents. The standard of performance becomes perfect, which causes tension and sets us up for failure. If you are dealing with blocked skills, honesty and communication with yourself and your coach is crucial so the pressure does not lead to injury or a major setback in your progress. Instead of competing with a goal to avoid mistakes and win, let go of the “I(we) have to…” and decide that you will trust your body and have fun.
#5 Make a Success Plan
The purpose of practice is to strengthen your skills and performances are for showing off your hard work, but athletes mix these up. Instead, athletes leave practice feeling defeated from not performing perfectly and show up to competition, overthinking and overcontrolling every movement as if they are still working on them. To correct this, set goals for the skills you need for your routine and then create a practice plan for achieving them. This strategy will allow you to see progress and release anxiety because you are taking action and focusing on what you can control today. If you dread full-outs because they exhaust you, then schedule time to work on your endurance. Have a blocked skill you need for the routine? Dedicate daily time to working on your mental skills and allow room for changes. When you have a plan, you will be better prepared to push fear aside and adjust to changes. You can show up to the competition with confidence and satisfaction, knowing that you have done everything you can to prepare yourself to perform well and have fun!
There you have it! These five things will help you trade your competition anxiety and fear for excitement and joy! You work too hard to allow nerves to steal your fun of competition. After all, if you cannot enjoy performing, then when are you allowed to have fun? Exactly! We want to help you ensure that your next competition is the best yet, so we have created a Free Pre-Competition Checklist for you. You can grab yours today by clicking here.
Are you a GYMNAST or CHEERLEADER who is tired of putting in endless hours of private lessons and reps only to find yourself frustrated, disappointed, with zero control over this block that is stealing your joy?!
Whether you’re an athlete (or supportive parent of an athlete) who is:
- Stuck in a mental block that has lasted for months or even years
- Making progress but has been stuck before and worries another setback is right around the corner
- Struggling to fully trust yourself to throw your skills consistently and need a gently push to finally master them
- Dealing with pressure and fears and has a tendency to let your anxiety and stress take the joy away from practices and competitions.
- Or maybe you are just tired of putting in the work to improve your skills only to leave practices frustrated and disappointed
If this is you, we have the solution… our Mind Over Mental Block Program. For full details and to apply click here.