How to handle competition day nerves (and throwing up)

[Edited transcript below]

Why does my daughter throw up at competitions?

[Deryn] This question is from a mom. She said, my daughter vomits backstage before every competition, but hits her routine. Why does this happen and how can it be fixed? 

[Mandy] So, outside of mental blocks, competition anxiety is the second most common reason athletes come to us. So it all has to do with competition anxiety. Those pre competition jitters, perfectionism, high expectations and all the pressure that is on these athletes.

Athletes who vomit or get nervous before competition, to the point where they get sick, that’s just that particular athlete’s way of showing nerves. I mean, everyone experiences nerves very differently, right?

But not every athlete’s way of showing nerves is throwing up. Like, for me, I sweat when I’m nervous and when I’m excited, too. Even during sessions and coaching calls, no matter how cold I am, I sweat. That’s just how my body shows nerves. That, and I’m fidgety. My legs shake on the inside. 

So that’s how I show nerves, and that’s not how everybody shows nerves. So, for the athletes who throw up before practice, they feel their nerves in their gut. That’s where they happen. If you or your child deals with nerves that cause vomit, do not worry. It is actually pretty common and is just a way that your body experiences nervousness, like everyone else. 

How can I stop throwing up at competitions?

One of the things that can really be helpful is releasing that tension. So there’s relaxation techniques they can use.

First, there’s box breathing, which is super helpful. If you don’t know what that is, you start by picking a number.  Five is a good number, but you breathe in for 5 seconds, hold it for 5 seconds, breathe out for 5 seconds, hold it for 5 seconds.

Doing that to calm your body because when we’re nervous, we breathe shallow and it makes us more nervous. So even just remembering to breathe and take deep breaths can be super helpful. 

Another really important thing to remember is that those nerves that you feel that they’re not bad, they’re not a sign that something bad is going to happen, that they’re good.

I mean, think about if you didn’t have any nerves going into competition, if it was just like taking a math test or going to the dentist. Like, if you felt no different, it wouldn’t be fun, right? So nerves are what make it fun and exciting, but it’s important to be able to channel that and use it to have good adrenaline so you can perform really well.

Another relaxation technique to try is pushing your toes into the ground. I know a lot of athletes, they think they’re going to throw up right before they go on the floor. This one can be especially helpful for you. 

Pushing your toes into the ground and just paying attention to your senses can help ground you in what’s actually happening. It reminds you that “I’m safe right now. I’m in a safe space, I’m okay. Nothing bad’s going to happen,” Which is way more helpful than “what if I fall? What if I mess up? What if I don’t do my tumbling? What if we lose? What if…” 

All those different what ifs. Those irrational fears that happen, that cause a lot of those nerves. So those are some things that are definitely helpful for those athletes. 

These seem too simple to be effective but trust me… THEY WORK! We have seen it in the athletes we have worked with and it can help you too. 

How to overcome competition nerves and anxiety

The most important thing is just shifting the way that you think about competition. Even if you’re not throwing up, but if you’re someone who experiences nerves going into competition, there is one extremely simple trick to help release the tension. 

I want you to think about when we talked about how your body experiences nerves  Think about how you experience nerves in your body. Describe this. 

Now, think about when you’re excited. How does it feel? 

EXACTLY THE SAME! Our body experiences nerves and excitement very similarly.

So what’s the difference in feeling nervous versus feeling excited? 

It’s what you tell yourself. 

Here is an exercise I love doing with my athletes… I ask them to not smile and then say “I’m nervous.”

Did that feel weird? Maybe a little but you could totally do it pretty easily. 

So now, same thing. Don’t smile. Say, “I’m excited.” 

How’d that feel? Yeah, that’s weird. That’s weird, right? 

Even the word excited when you say it, I saw my eyes perk up in my smile saying, I’m excited. Words evoke emotion. When we use the word nervous, there is a negative response we experience. 

It’s like dread and bad stuff versus excitement which makes us experience a sense of opportunity and good things. So even just when you start to feel nerves going into competition, tell yourself, “I’m not nervous. I’m excited!”

I’m excited for the competition. Even just that simple shift will help. You just kind of step into that more positive space, and it causes your brain to go from, what are all the bad things that could happen to excitement…

What if we hit our routine? What if I land on my tumbling passes? What if I have so much fun with my friends? What if the music and the lights let me have the best dance party ever out there?

So there’s a lot of cool things that happen with that. That little simple shift. I’m excited. 

Simple but effective. 

That's it! Now it's your turn.

Decide right now one way that you will use what you learned in this training to try something new this week at practice. What did you learn in this training that stood out to you? What will you do differently at practice this week to apply what you learned? I would love to support you and offer you a little accountability, so share that with us in the comments below. 

If you liked this training and found it helpful, would you do me a favor? Please share it with a friend or two who could benefit from this message. Also, please comment below with your thoughts on this video. What did you like most? I will be personally engaging in the comments, so drop your biggest questions so I can get those answered for you. I would love the opportunity to hear from you and am so excited to connect.

Thanks again for being here. Would you like to be 1st to receive new content, trainings, and mental game tips delivered right to inbox? Then join my email list by clicking here

Until next time, remember that a mental block is simply a challenge you are working through. You are strong, can do hard things, and have totally got this!

Like this? Questions? Comment below!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *