Athletes at any level can experience sport-related anxiety. Whether you're feeling nervous during a playoff game or getting psyched out before a critical foul shot, you can think yourself right into losing a game. So, what can you do to make sure you perform well when your team is counting on you?
Sports psychologist John Murray, who works with NFL, MLB and NCAA star athletes, connects most athletes' mental issues to fear.
"People tend to think about results, and that causes fear, because they're afraid of losing or looking bad," Murray told the Palm Beach Daily News. "They're afraid of letting themselves down or their team down. It's the same response that would occur if a snake was about to attack you. It's an inappropriate response in this day and age, but our bodies haven't caught up with that.
"To break that response, you have to get in and do some serious techniques, like classical conditioning and relaxation work. I don't want people to think more. I want them to think less. I want them to be on autopilot," he said.
Sports psychologists agree that athletes need to clear their minds to perform at their best. Avoid sports anxiety by:
- Envisioning yourself hitting the shot, making the catch or winning the game. Never allow negative thoughts to creep into your mind before a game. Start thinking about what you're going to accomplish rather than what you can accomplish.
- Focusing on things you can control. Don't spend time worrying about your opponent or the crowd. You can't control those elements of the game, and thinking about them can only bring your game down.
- Surrounding yourself with positive people. If your family, friends or teammates start saying negative things about the game, find someone who's more positive or go somewhere by yourself.
Your mindset is more important to your performance than you may realize. Next game, try some of the techniques used by the pros to take your performance to the next level.