HOW THE PROFESSIONALS DEAL WITH COMPETITION NERVES

Significantly raise your mental game by using the same technique as Johanna Konta and many other professional sports people.

No-one is immune from nerves but the best performers know how to deal with them.  

Do you crumble as Johanna Konta was doing this time last year,  or do you learn a strategy, as she has done , to stop them affecting your performance.

Sue Barker OBE said of Konta last month

“What impresses me the most is her competitiveness under pressure…”   and she went on to say “and  that is the most important key you can have”

It is a universal frustration for sports people that competition nerves can sabotage performances.  “If only I could play as well in competition as I do in practice” is a common complaint of my clients.   

It was vital for Konta to keep her nerve when her opponent called on her trainer to get a foot blister seen to at 1-0 up in the third set.  This is gamesmanship (or trying to put your opponent off)   Not put off,  Konta defeated the 21st seed Ekaterina Makorova, winning her match at the Australian Open to become the first British  woman to reach a woman’s singles Grand Slam quarter finals since 1984. 

Yet only seven months previously she was ranked 146th in the world and had a reputation for crumbling under pressure and was constantly hindered by anxiety.

So what has changed?  Konta  attributes her career surge to a transformation in her mental attitude achieved with the help of Spanish mind coach Juan Coto.

Sports writer Mike Dickson seems bemused when he says that she “does tend to repeat buzzwords like ‘staying in the moment’ and ‘process’ but sports psychologists will know that these are not just buzzwords or the latest fad,  but are tried and tested  powerful ways of blocking out negative thoughts and distractions.   They are called Performance Statements and are great for pulling the mind back to the present and positivity in times of pressure or when the mind ambles into the negative “what ifs” path.

What are Performance Statements

They are quite simply practised short statements or phrases to repeat to yourself during the competition.  ( or any other occasion for that matter when your nerves are taking hold)

Examples of Performance Statements

  •  They can be directions so a cyclist could say “weight back and breathe easy”  or they can be reminders of how good you have been in the past.
  • The most straight forwards one is the one used by some footballers.  It is simply “next ball”.  So when a defender misses a pass, to stop him thinking about it and the sinking feeling that goes with it he says to himself “next ball” or he could say “next tackle”.  The golfer would say “next shot … or next put “  

Konta’s Performance Statements

It is interesting that Konta is using the “stay in the moment” as that is the basic foundation for a good mental attitude and is  key to getting into the zone : the best state to perform.   Her use of the word “process” is designed to bring her mind back to the present and performing the move and away from the anxiety of looking at scores, results and the tantalising “what if it goes wrong”.  Pete Sampras also used “stay focussed in the present” and “prepare for the next point”.

Andy Murray also uses Performance Statements and he has been seen on court with a small list of statements  to keep his emotions in check.

Why Performance Statements are so important

  •    Cognitive psychology has taught us that the mind can fully focus on only one thing at a time.  So if you are thinking about what is going wrong (which is what you do when you lose confidence) you will not be thinking about what it takes to make it right.
  • Performance Statements will help you to re-focus and replace negative thoughts so they are great for when you go off track in competitions as they reel you back into the present.
  • Remember , you can’t stop thinking about negative thoughts without replacing them with something else.   It is no good saying "stop being negative or nervous" you have to put alternative thoughts in their place. 
  •  They drive the distractions away.  

Essentials for Performance Statements

  • They must be in the positive (so don’t say “don’t be nervous” !!) 
  • Pick a positive and important aspect to focus on
  • Keep it simple.

If you want any help in creating your Performance Statement or want to know more then contact me and I will be happy to help  

 

Jenny