stress and anxiety in sport

3 Simple Techniques To Prevent Pre-Game Anxiety

Stop worrying and excel on the field

Do you get “butterflies” in your stomach before a game?

Or a racing heart and sweaty palms?

                       Feel like you’re choking and struggling to breathe?


                      Getting a little nervous before a game or competition is normal. It’s your body’s way of gearing up to play as your stress hormones ramp up.

However, severe feelings of anxiety can be challenging and may affect your athletic performance.

Learn how to prevent pre-game anxiety and excel on the field.

What is Pre-Game Anxiety

Performance anxiety in sports happens when an athlete experiences an overwhelming feeling of fear, worry and stress before a game or competition.

Some players suffer with palpitations and excessive sweating, others get a quickened breath and feel like they are choking.

Why does this happen?

Pre-game anxiety is caused by several factors including:

    • High self-expectations. Setting the bar too high causes unnecessary stress.
    • Negative self-talk. Self-doubt and feelings of “I’m not good enough” create nervousness and a negative mindset.
    • Having an audience. Worrying about what others think and having to “perform” in front of people often leads to feelings of tension and anxiety.
    • Pressure from others to win. Everyone wants to win and be at their best but the added pressure from others can cause anxiety and stress.

The Effects of Anxiety in Sport

  • When we experience a perceived stress, our bodies go into fight or flight mode. It is the body’s coping mechanism for dealing with stressful situations.Our adrenal glands start to secrete stress hormones, namely cortisol and adrenaline, which trigger changes in the body such as an increased heart rate, tense muscles, dizziness, shortness of breath and sweating.In sport, performance anxiety can cause you to:
    • Feel paralysed by fear and unable to play.
    • Have poor concentration and focus due to brain fog.
    • Go into panic mode and experience panic attacks.
    • Feel faint and nauseous. Some athletes vomit or pass out.
    • Excessively worry and overthink.

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How to Overcome Sports Anxiety

  • Sports anxiety can be debilitating. The good news though, is there’s lots you can do to prevent it. We have simple 3 techniques to help reduce pre-game jitters and improve your performance.
  • Technique #1 – Visualisation


    Visualisation is a powerful technique which involves creating a mental image of something you want to achieve. In sport, this could be visualising getting ready for a big game and then playing the best game of your life.

    Research has shown that visualisation has a profound effect and can rewire our brains, helping to create a desired outcome.

  • Try the following visualisation for your next game.


    • Waking up on the morning of the big game.
    • Eating your favourite breakfast.
    • Arriving at the stadium.
    • Meeting up with team mates and having some banter.
    • Doing your warm up.
    • Getting dressed into your team colours.
    • Your coach giving the team a pep talk.
    • Lining up and getting ready to go.
    • Running onto the pitch with ease and precision.
    • Playing the best game of your life!

    Technique #2 – Routine

  • Getting yourself into (and maintaining) a good routine is essential. It simplifies things and keeps you organised. And most importantly, it’s predictable. This prevents unnecessary stress and anxiety.

    Having a set routine on game day gives you comfort and security. You know what you need to do and when. You’ll have more time to prepare yourself mentally and concentrate on your visualisations.

     Technique #3 – Communication

    If you’re feeling anxious, talk about it. Tell someone how you’re feeling. A problem shared is a problem halved. Chat to your coach, team mates, friends and family.

    A lot of pre-game anxiety stems from negative self-talk and being too much in your head. By talking things through, you’ll automatically feel better and you will be surprised by how many of your team mates feel the same.

Get ready for the game the right way

  • Pre-game anxiety stops performance in its tracks. Talking more, having a predictable routine and visualising yourself on the big day will help you overcome sports anxiety and excel on the field.

Check out our Mental Health Bootcamp here.

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