It seemed like a good idea. To challenge yourself and have some goals to work towards.
Then competition days comes and you’re a bag of nerves. You worry that your’e not good enough and you might even question why you put yourself forward in the first place.
When you’re thinking rationally, you know that in reality it’s just a sports competition and it’s not the end of the world, yet in the moment it feels like everything. Your ego is at stake and the looming competition seems to have taken over your life. (You might secretly hide how much you think about it because your partner is annoyed with your obsession and your colleagues think that you’re a loser!)
The advice from everyone is “Just enjoy it.” You nod and tell yourself this too, but secretly, deep down, the anxiety that you are experiencing makes you feel like you can’t enjoy it. How is this possible when you feel so much pressure?
Well I’m here to reassure you that YOU HAVE A CHOICE. You can make yourself very miserable or you can have a good time.
Over the years I’ve worked with many top athletes and performers who seeked my help to overcome performance blocks. When you recognise that your frame of mind is unhelpful, it’s sensible to empower yourself by changing your thinking. And whether the competition is local, regional or at national level, you put your body on the line and you want to win. Sometimes the expectation is even greater at local or club level where you are the local hero, so managing the pressure is vital.
Here’s my top tips to get you into your best frame of mind:
- Focus on yourself. Stop comparing yourself to other people. This is an unhelpful trait, which leads to misery. When you focus on others you lose sign of your own performance. This mindset will hinder your long-term progress, always.
- Plan your strategy and action it. Don’t lose your cool or get distracted by what others are doing. If you are new to competing stay focused and keep it simple. With experience you can afford to be more flexible and take greater risks.
- Feel the love. Feel the support from spectators and team mates. Tap into the energy and utilise it. Support others and wish them well.
- Stay present. Be proud for putting yourself forward. Stop putting yourself down or apologising for yourself. Stand tall and strong and commit fully. Fight all the way.
- Focus. Don’t waste your energy on distractions. The conditions, the workouts, other competitors are out of your control. There is no time left to work on your strength/ fitness or technical ability so stop thinking, “If only”. Stop preparing for failure and looking for excuses or reasons not to do well, you can do a critical analysis after the event. Accept where you are right now and do your absolute best.
- Keep a growth mindset. In the growth mindset, you see mistakes and struggles as an opportunity to learn. This can fire you up and help you to raise to a challenge, rather than mentally quitting or giving up. Growth mindset thinking will improve your chances of success in a great way. (Read more about this in my other blogs).
- Breath and recover. Anxiety and nerves can help you to perform, utilise them. But balance this out with breathing exercises which will calm and restore you before and after the event. This will stop you from coming over aroused, it will aid with recovery whilst helping you to manage the inevitable wobble.
So know that you’ve done the work and you are ready. If you are feeling the pressure its likely that your focus is too much on others and trying to beat them (1) or expecting to do well in a situation which is unpredictable and dependant on other peoples performances (5).
Instead, look forward to your competition, seeing it as an opportunity to test yourself and gain new experiences which will help you to improve. View these experiences as ones which will make you a better athlete and the results will follow.
Now go and enjoy it!! 🙂
ION Athlete: Cat Jones
A personal Perspective:
I wish that someone would have told me these points earlier in my career, but 20 years ago mindset wasn’t something which coaches spoke about. I’ve had over 80 fights, I have skated competitively and have recently started competing in Crossfit competitions. I can honestly say that I have always struggled with competition anxiety and have been mostly miserable in the run up too, and throughout these competition days (My poor husband, Neil- thanks for putting up with me).
On some level, like most athletes, I must have loved the torture and pain as I kept going back for more, perhaps I was addicted. Or maybe I knew I needed to overcome this way of thinking in order to serve my purpose and help others. Only now, as an older athlete and parent and with the knowledge which has come from my work and personal interest in learning, am I able to apply what I know to myself to gain a better perspective. This perspective will help me to enjoy future competitions and test situations with a wiser, calmer head- and smile.