Ways to Deal with Nervousness: Improving Concentration

Last week I wrote about how breathing and relaxing helps calm nerves and prevents choking. Here is another mental strategy for dealing with nerves: improving concentration. Nerves can be amplified by negative thinking. Thoughts such as “I’m about to lose right now,” “If I make another mistake, I’m going to look so bad,” and “Everyone is watching me. Please don’t embarrass yourself” makes athletes nervous.  The ongoing inner dialogue, or self-talk can sometimes seem impossible to stop,  but it can be stopped. Concentrating completely on the present moment stops thinking altogether. You can’t think and focus entirely on the present moment at the same time. It is meditation. With your negative self-talk cut off, your nervousness has no more fuel and it dies down. So when you feel nervous, try to focus on the present moment. This can be done by focusing on your breathing, the bouncing of a ball, or something else that is actively going on in the present moment. This is very important to do in between plays/points, where you are most susceptible to getting distracted and overthinking. But it is equally as important to stay completely focused during plays/points. Focus on running, watching the ball, and executing your moves/skills so your mind remains still and quiet and you can play entirely off instincts. 

With practice you'll improve your ability to concentrate in games. You'll be able to focus more intensely on the task at hand and you'll be able to hold your attention for longer spans without getting distracted. Also, you can improve your concentration off the court/field by practicing meditation. All of this will help your ability to handle nervousness and prevent yourself from choking in games. Next week I will write about the last mental strategy for dealing with nervousness: improving self-talk.

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