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Dealing with pre-game nerves

Nerves are one of those things that are a part of sport, some athletes thrive on nervous energy while others look for ways to minimise it so they can put on their best performance. Nerves are normal and can be heightened when it is finals time. As an athlete you can experiment and try different techniques to manage your nerves. We asked some of our PlayBook coaches how they deal with finals and high pressure situations.

Preparation and Routine

Lots of athletes think it all comes down to what you do on the day of the game but what really matters is how you have prepared throughout the whole season. Other important factors in preparation are nutrition, sleep and recovery. Remembering all of the hours training you have put in to play well and get to the finals is a great way to remind yourself that you have done the work.

“I just trust myself. Remembering I have done all the work, training and video analysis to be able to perform under pressure.” Steph Wood (SSN Premiership winner 2017 and Commonwealth Games Silver Medalist)

“I was not nervous at all, because I knew I was prepared.” Daniel Merrett (200 game AFL player)

“It is important to not change your game day routine or your preparation just because it is a final, your game day routine is important to getting you in the right mindset for the game. “I stick to my normal game day routine, which is going for a walk, eating a big breakfast and blasting music on the way to the game.” Tara Hinchliffe (QLD Firebird and World Youth Cup Silver Medalist)

“I make sure I stick to the same preparation and game day routine. There is no need to change it, it has gotten you to the finals in the first place.” William Tuffley ( UQ Rugby Union Player and Premiership winner 2010, 2012 and 2014)

Looking to your Support Network

“I love the pressure of finals, but if I am feeling nervous I will look to my team mates to relax.” Tara Hinchliffe

Your support network and your teammates are a great way to reduce nerves pre, or during, important sporting events. Just by talking to someone it can relax you and bring you back to enjoying the moment. Talking to your teammates, friends at your club or school or your coach, is a great way to reduce nerves. It’s likely that they are going through the same feelings (if have experienced it previously) and you can reassure each other. You have each others back.

“I talk to my teammates about what we are going to do during the game.” Tristan Stanghon (QLD Red’s U/20)

Your support network outside of your chosen sport are also a great way to reduce nerves, they are able to get your mind off of the game.

“I’ll sometimes talk to friends and family who don’t play sport because they can help me keep my mind off the game.” Maddy McCauliffe (Suncorp Super Netball Premiership Winner 2017)

Breathing and Visualisation

Breathe! Sounds simple right? By just simply refocusing in on your breathing it can bring you back to the moment and not be concerned with the uncontrollables.

“I breathe. Focusing on my breath ensures I am in the moment and not thinking about outcomes.” Steph Wood

Visualising is a great way to get you in the right mindset for the game. Visualise yourself performing well, it will give you confidence in your ability to go out and play to the best of your ability.

“I have five minutes to myself where I just close my eyes and my mind to relax.” Tristan Stanghon

Remember your Strengths

“I focus on what my role is within the team.” Steph Wood

A great way to deal with your nerves is to remember what you are good at and what strengths you bring to the team. By understanding what you are good at and what your role it keeps you focused on task at hand.

“Talk to your coach or team about what your role is. The clearer it is in your head the less you have to focus on and the less worry you will have.” William Tuffley

Final thoughts from some of our PlayBook Coaches

“Never give up. You cannot afford to be half a step behind anything, you have to be constantly going and not stopping until the final whistle blows.” Fin Hume

“Enjoy the experience.” Tara Hinchliffe

“I also just try to feel comfortable with however I’m feeling. For me nerves are a good thing and they are pretty similar ‘symptoms’ to excitement so I try to embrace the ‘nervousness’ and just sit with it.” Maddy McCauliffe

Feature Image by Vince Fleming