Ask any athlete after a loss and they’ll tell you that they did better during their training. Many athletes perform well in training only to lose composure in the end. What’s the cause? Fatigue? Over-training? Or choking? Specialists say that athlete’s poor performance is sometimes caused by performance anxiety. This stigma is experienced by most athletes—they are normal and are accepted. Sports specialists call this choking which according to them is drop off of performance because of too much stress. Many athletes choke in one way or another. Coaches and players are having a hard time finding out where it all began. Sports specialists and some psychologists claim that this event is something that occurs within and not because of an external factor. Thoughts of doubt and failure may take a toll in one’s game plan. These kinds of negative thinking often lead to anxiety and stress and eventually losing a match. This is the moment where butterflies in the stomach becomes common.
Anxiety comes from a matter over lack of control over circumstances. It usually leads to pessimistic thinking. Too much stress and anxiety can seriously affect an athlete’s ability to focus and may have an effect on their performance. This may cause them the game or lead to injuries. Specialists advise that it is best to determine one’s own anxiety levels. More often than not, they are products of our thinking. Experts believe that a certain amount of arousal is needed in order to perform competitively. Arousal according to researchers is a physiological and psychological state of being awake. It leads to increased heart rate and blood pressure conditions of sensory alertness, mobility, and readiness to respond. Too much or too little of it will probably be an advantage. Athletes who have the right amount of arousal is said to be “in the zone”. Every move seems to be perfect and seems to complement the game plan. One of the main causes why there is an imbalance because some fighters are overcome by pre-game jitters that may lead to loss of composure in the game or sport. This disturbance may also cause them to get tired more quickly and commit more mistakes.
Before the competition
Every athlete should understand that choking and pre-game jitters are normal and that they should learn to accept them. The pre-game nervousness shouldn’t be misinterpreted as a negative thing and that their jitters need not cause panic. Specialists say that it is just adrenaline rush and that it is but a normal phase or process. The “butterflies” are part of the body’s way of preparing for a competition or strenuous activity. Being prepared physically and mentally is crucial in a competitive event. Proper warm ups, stretching, and visualization is needed to execute the game plan.
During the competition
“I have no future, i have no past, my goal is to make the present last,” is a warrior mantra. An athlete should focus on the task at hand rather than the outcome. When athletes find themselves thinking of negative thoughts, they should stop and focus. If they perform like they don’t care about the outcome, they may feel relaxed and excel in that particular event and avoid choking.
After the competition
Athletes should review an event and recall the things that were done right. They should focus on the actions, thoughts, and behaviors that would help them perform well. The factors that hindered one’s performance should also be considered so that ways and means can be employed to increase the level of performance and “winnability” of a player or team. Athletes who train alone should also consider joining a group to familiarize themselves with a “competitive unknown.”
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