It would be unnatural not to feel at least a bit anxious before a match; however, some people experience related symptoms before a game that can affect performance such as insomnia, stomach gripes or poor performance as a result of these nerves. If pre-match nerves make you so anxious that you experience symptoms that affect your day-to-day life, you are not alone.
Also known as competition anxiety, almost every professional athlete experiences nervousness before their big game. Part of becoming a true sportswoman is about learning to control these nerves through practising a few coping techniques and finding out what works out for their bodies and mentality.
5 D’S FOR CONTROLLING ANXIETY
- Deep breathing.It is the most common advice given to control nerves but that’s because it works! When inhaling, the key is to allow the air to fill your lungs, allowing your chest and stomach to rise slowly. Exhaling is much the same – ensure all the air is exhaled slowly and evenly. You are “tricking” your body into thinking you are being productive; helping you to fight the urge to panic.
- Decide to be positive. You need to be clear minded and positive about your game. Avoid negativity. Don’t take others’ opinions too seriously; you are the playmaker and anything is possible! Ignore those who say the opposition is too strong, or too skilled or that your team has not practiced enough, or whose skills are lacking. Focus on being positive and believe in yourself.
- Determine the best possible outcome.Instead of worrying about what could happen to you and your team, focus on what you want to achieve. It can be small goals such as playing your best, scoring a goal, making that perfect pass, or reducing the score difference. Invision success from the get-go.
- Distract your mind.Recent studies have found that over-analysing can affect athletic performance. Next time you are waiting for the starting whistle to sound, try singing your favourite upbeat song to pass the time! Distract yourself to relax!
- Direct your nervousness. Try giving yourself time limits or setup play with your team that puts you under pressure to perform. The more you practice in these conditions, the more natural it will become when you are under match pressure. Once you realise that you are able to play under extreme pressure, it will reduce your nerves during performance.
The ability to manage anxiety under competitive pressure situations forms part of a larger skill needed for hockey – mental toughness. Here’s what our resident sports psychologist, Louise de Jager says about mental toughness:
“Mental toughness is characterised by virtues such as perseverance, resilience, confidence, and the ability to handle and thrive under pressure. It is important for hockey players to develop mental toughness as part of a coping mechanism to deal with pressured situations, because it will help you to maintain confidence and concentration no matter how nervous you may feel, allowing you to perform at your best.”
Hone in and improve your mental toughness, learn new skills and work with professionals in the game in our upcoming courses!
- 22 and 23 September 2018 – Pretoria (St Mary’s School)
- 6 and 7 October 2018 – Ballito (Ashton International College)
- 13 and 14 October 2018 – Potchefstroom (North-West University campus)
- 19 and 20 October 2018 – Stellenbosch (Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof)