Ways to Deal with Nervousness: More Training

Last week, I introduced the 7 ways that you can deal with nervousness and choking in games. Today, I will go into detail about one of these strategies: improving skills and muscle memory through more training.

As we have all experienced, when athletes are nervous, they often “choke” and make mistakes. But why do athletes get nervous and choke? One reason is because they start doubting their skills. If you don't think your skills are good enough to perform well under pressure, you will get nervous and choke. A solution to this is to simply improve your skills. If your skills are truly good enough, why would you doubt yourself in games? In order to improve your skills, you need to train your skills. It takes thousands of repetitions to learn and master skills. With enough training, your skills will become ingrained fully in your muscle memory. With more training, your skills will become more accurate, consistent, and powerful, and you will know how to execute your skills without even having to think about it, because this knowledge will be stored in your muscle memory AKA unconscious mind. For more info on how to train better, read my post on deliberate practice.

So if you're struggling to contain your nerves and you choke a lot in games, the first thing you should do is train more. This is the most foolproof strategy of dealing with nerves. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it usually works. An athlete who has trained 10,000 hours will be less nervous under pressure than an athlete that has only trained 100 hours. The athlete that has trained more will be more skilled, with more confidence in their instincts (muscle memory), therefore he/she will have less reasons to doubt their skills and be nervous in games.

Next time you choke in a game, notice which skills/shots/moves that you felt most tight/nervous executing. Whichever skill it is should be what you emphasis during your next practice. This is a great way to apply this strategy. After games, take note of what were your weakest skills/shots/moves and begin training them as soon as possible, so you'll have more confidence in them next game.

There is no equal substitute for hard work. There are many mental techniques that you can do to perform better in games (which I will write about in upcoming weeks), but nothing is more important than earning your skills through lots of training. The other strategies are still important, but they should supplement, not replace, this strategy (more training).

Next week I will write about another strategy for dealing with nerves: using "choke proof technique."