How to Get Rid of Nervousness With Sports

By Andrea Cespedes

The butterflies you feel before a big competition are natural -- anxiety about your performance and the outcome of the event demonstrates a high level of engagement. Channel this nervous energy appropriately and it can actually help you excel. Pregame rituals, imagery and breathing techniques can help you use your energy to your advantage.

Channel Positive Thoughts

Visualizing a positive outcome to your upcoming competition helps ease any pregame fears. During pre-event ceremonies, go over your strengths and picture yourself using these to your advantage. Focus on the training you've put in, knowing it has prepared you for success. Avoid dwelling on factors out of your control, such as the weather or the skills of the other competitors.

Create a Ritual

A ritual is quite personal; you have to find what works for you. It could involve laying out your clothes the night before the big game, having a certain breakfast and listening to a specific song just before the event. Your ritual might involve warm-up stretching or, if you prefer, sitting in meditation. Whatever you do, perform it before every competition. The familiarity of it will help calm you down when you get the jitters.

Breathe Right

Yogic breathing, including ujjayi breath -- inhale deeply through your nose and out through your nose -- can help calm your central nervous system. A 2005 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study noting that yogic breathing actually eases stress response systems in the body, bringing about a greater sense of calm. Practice calming breathing techniques regularly, just as you do your other sports skills, so you can call on them when you need them before an important event.

Seek Support

Huddle with your teammates to remind yourself that you're not in this alone. The solidarity of a group can do a lot to ease nerves. High-fives, pats on the back and a team chant can be energizing and reassuring. If you're in a solo sport, recruit a mentor, coach, family member or friend to give you a pep talk before you compete.


About the Author

Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.

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