Many factors can affect your athletic performance during a game, such as the skill of your opponents, the significance of a competition, who’s watching you, and even the arena you’re playing in.
All of these factors and countless other things can send your nerves into overdrive, but the truth is that if you’re in a clutch, the only thing affecting your performance is you!
Of course, external elements can have an effect, but it’s not what these facets are themselves, it’s about the way you feel about them.
For instance, the skill level of your opponents isn’t affecting your nerves, but it’s the things you’re telling yourself about them that is.
If you’re thinking about the fact that you’re weaker or smaller than your opponent, you’ll feel more nervous about facing them later.
Nerves occur due to our inner feelings about external factors. However, there is an upside! If you become nervous, you have the power to change this by changing your inner response.
You’ll learn some more tips about staying calm and composed in a clutch from this article, including how to channel your focus, as well as ways to keep you distracted pre and post-games (You might also want to check out some Songs To Get You In The Hockey Zone here).
Keep Your Focus On The Present Moment
If a sportsperson lets their concentration shift back to past events, or forward to future possibilities, they’ll start to feel anxious and nervous.
Remaining calm and composed in the clutch involves practicing concentrating on the present moment, particularly during games and training.
In the period leading up to your game, you should try hard to avoid thinking about the future match and its significance.
Playing in a relaxed and unruffled manner involves focusing on things happening now. This will help you in high-pressure actions later, as you concentrate on each moment as it comes.
Identify When Your Mind Travels Through Time
Now you understand you need to focus on the present moment, but doing so is easier said than done! It can be helpful to work on self-awareness, noticing when your mind starts to wander forwards to the future or back towards the past.
When you spot yourself thinking of these events or possibilities, move your attention to the present moment as quickly as you can.
Remember that a wandering focus won’t affect your nerves, but not returning your attention immediately will.
Train yourself to shift your focus whenever you notice it wavering, then over time, you should see a difference in your stress or anxiety levels during play.
Keep Concentrating On You, Not Others
If you let your mind concentrate on other people, not you, you’ll start to feel pressure and anxiety building within.
Thinking about the people watching, anyone who will be disappointed in you, and what your teammates or coach is saying, can all add to your nerves before play.
Never compare yourself to other people, whether that be your opponent or your teammate.
Thinking about what another person does better or worse than you will make you more stressed out. Keep the focus on you and the job you have to do.
Enjoy The Game
The best way to perform your best in high-pressure situations is to enjoy yourself. Having fun can help you remain composed and relaxed when competitive situations are too much.
If you are too serious about a game, you’ll put yourself under a lot of pressure. This adds to nerves and anxiety, which results in poor performance.
If you aren’t having fun, you’ll notice a decline in your skill level.
Performing to your best level involves having fun playing, taking on the challenge with zest, and having a good time with friends, family, and teammates prior, during, and after you play.
Don’t Bring Your Goals To The Competition
Athletes often set themselves goals, working with their coach and teammates to do so. No matter what these goals are, you need to leave them behind when playing in competitions.
If you focus on what you want to achieve, like scoring more goals, becoming more agile, or blocking more opponents, you’ll be too on edge to play your best.
This can make it harder to reach your goals, so don’t focus on these while you play.
It’s always good to set yourself goals but to reach them, keep concentrating on the present moment. Whether it’s a shot, move, or a pass, keep focusing on each moment while it passes.
Distract Yourself Before and After Playing
Thinking too much can make many players nervous.
Naturally, it’s impossible to stop thinking completely, but you can implement ways to distract yourself from your thoughts.
If the period leading up to a major competition or game, keep as busy as you can.
Whether you concentrate on your studies, read some books, or create some music playlists, try to find non-sports-related activities to distract yourself from the tournament.
Switching focus to your life outside of the games can help you to remain composed and relaxed while you play in high-pressure situations.
Don’t Focus On What You Can’t Control
Your life will be full of instances that you cannot control.
In the case of sport, if a player starts thinking about an uncontrollable moment, they’ll notice their nerves increase, leading to poor athletic performance later.
If you have an upcoming competition, it's a good idea to write down all of the things about the game that you won’t be able to control.
Some examples include the crowd, coach tactics, the outcome, and what others are thinking about you.
Put the list on display within your room so you can look at it daily. Uncontrollable factors only serve one purpose, which is to increase your anxiety before a competition.
Fortunately, now that you know about this problem, you can work on your mental focus to avoid it.
As mentioned above, if you start thinking about things outside of your control, you need to shift your concentration to the present moment.
Move your focus to something happening right now that you can control.
The Bottom Line
Nerves in the clutch can stop you from performing your best, but there are ways around it! Working on your inner feelings and responses to external factors is the best way of remaining composed.
Keep focused on present moments instead of past or future events. Don’t compare yourself to others and find distraction methods to keep you occupied before big games.
When you have more mental practice under your belt, you should notice a big difference in your athletic performance later on!