Ways to Deal with Nervousness: High Percentage Strategies

Last week I wrote about changes that you can make to your technique to deal with nervousness and choking. But there are also strategic changes that you can make to prevent choking under pressure. Like I’ve said before, ideally an athlete plays with peak performance and overcomes nervousness and is able to play with their normal technique and strategy. However, this is not always possible. Sometimes athletes let their nerves get to them. By this time, it may be too hard to calm down and relax. In these cases, it is sometimes better to accept your nerves and make strategic changes to prevent choking. Doing this means simply choosing higher percentage shots and decisions in games. If nervousness makes it harder to execute, why make things harder by attempting difficult, low percentage shots? Why not just attempt easier, higher percentage shots? Even while being nervous, you can still be confident of making these shots. Remember, when pressure rises, it is fine motor skills that are affected by nerves more than gross motor skills. When you are super nervous, you can still push hard, run fast, and jump high, but it is harder to throw accurately, catch consistently, and do other finesse things.

Here are some examples of times when high percentage shots/decisions prevent choking in pressure situations. If you are too nervous to attempt a jump shot at the buzzer, drive to the hoop instead and attempt an easier lay-up. If you think you will double-fault on a serve, why not just attempt a slower, easier, higher percentage serve for both your 1st and 2nd serves? If you are too nervous about throwing an interception late in a game, call mostly run plays and shorter, easier passes. The trick to using this high percentage strategy is to embrace it. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed about it. If it helps you win, that’s what matters (not all the time).

Yes, going for and making riskier shots in pressure situations helps overcome fear and gain confidence. But there are times to be fearless and times to be smart and just take the easier way to the victory.

For the next few weeks, I will write about mental ways athletes can deal with nervousness and choking. These mental strategies are not compromises like the last two strategies I've written about. These mental strategies will help you overcome your nerves and regain complete peak performance!