performance anxiety

Simple Mind Hack to Overcome Performance Anxiety In Sports

Performance anxiety affects novices up to elite level athletes.  What is it about knowing all eyes are on you that makes your legs shake and your feet forget what to do?

As a novice figure skater I have observed many levels of skaters.  I have not yet come across one that does not struggle with some level of nerves.  All of them desire to do their best and skate the excellent program that they are capable of doing.

Performance anxiety in the past has really gotten to me.  My family would watch me skate the warm up and tell me I looked so relaxed.  Then for my event I would hunch my shoulders and skate like a frightened old lady.  The sin of hunched shoulders is the probably the worst manifestation of nerves ever!

A Different Approach

The typical advice you find on this subject is plentiful.  Deep breathing, visualization and positive self talk are the most popular exercises.  These are all great pre competition practices.  But I decided to try something different for my recent competition.

Instead of trying to fight off nerves I decided to embrace them.  Look for them, welcome them and just be with them.  First I tried this in practice run throughs.  At practice time I imagined the competition scene.  Having the ice all to myself, the bleachers full of people, and all eyes on me.  I looked for the nerves, I waited for them, anticipated them.

Practice Getting Nervous

I noticed others on the practice ice were watching me as I ran my program, I waited for the nerves.  They did not appear.  I was actually disappointed that they did not show up.  I tried it a second time, still no jitters.  Then competition day arrived.  Getting ready to leave in the morning the nerves appeared in full gusto.  Full on b52 butterfly bombers zoomed around my chest.

Time To Get the Jitters

Now they had arrived in all their glory.  Just be with them I told myself.  It’s ok and it’s part of the process.  I accepted them and just let them be with me.  By the time I arrived at the rink they were gone.

I got dressed and started to warm up.  Still no nerves.  I put my skates on and went over to see my coach.  I felt the energy of the other skaters and the excitement in anticipation of the warm up time.  The warm up went great, I was ready.  Still no anxiety.  I kept looking for it though- I was not giving up.


I watched the other skaters and cheered.  It was my turn.  I heard my name called.  Still no nerves.  I skated out to my starting location and held my opening pose.  My music started immediately.  I started talking to myself.  “Good posture, take it easy, don’t rush, extend, straight three turn, jump…”  Everything went well.  I smiled on my back edge spiral.

Finally the spin.  My entry was great, centered spin, now for the change foot, it worked, now change back.  Nerves hit for a split second and I felt a tiny bobble and then they were gone.  And the program was over.  I made friends with the nerves and they had left me alone.

Make Friends with Performance Anxiety

Now this has me thinking.  What other areas of life that we wished would go away -would- if we just accepted them?  I realize this cannot be used for every negative emotion but maybe for some things it can be useful.

I encourage you to try this technique for your next performance.  Welcome performance anxiety.  It means you care about the job that you do and that you desire to do excellent which means you already are.  Now- where is that anxiety?  Make friends with it, and try to find it, odds are that you won’t.