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Tags: winning mentality

Overcoming Nerves - Thinking like winners

Posted: Fri, 19 May 2017 09:21 by mr John Skevington

Overcoming Nerves - Thinking like winners

As coaches we are involved in inspiring others and getting the best from them whatever their ability are bound to encounter those that are unable to get the best from themselves because they are unconfident or become nervous at events. So let's look here at how we can help turn this situation round and get our athletes to "think like winners" and get the best from their performances.

What we need to do as coaches is to help change what is a "static mentality", (one that may highlight the negatives) to one of a "growing mentality" where the athlete begins to believe in what they are capable of doing and are able to see the way to do it without worrying about the end result which will trigger nervousness. So what can we do to make this change happen? Finding ways to changing the way that we get our athletes to approach training and competition is the key to this.

Racing - Focus on the process

The key function here is to help your athletes focus on the "here and now" and the process that they are about to undertake, not thinking about what is going to happen. Remind them of the training that has been done and focus on those positives. This process can be begun in training for their event so getting them to work on "getting into the zone" where they concentrate on how they perform and not what they are trying to achieve. This way nerves can be helped to be settled by taking things one step and a time without worrying about the result of the process. This will take some time to practice however the "process not outcome" mentality can be gradually embedded so that the athlete is able to focus and create the right mindset without prompts from the coach –important especially at major events where contact with the coach is limited.

Create a protective positive mind-set

We all know that poor performances or struggling with a technical element can create a feeling of anxiety so if your athlete has had bad experiences either in training or in competition, get them to reflect back and find the positives in the situation. Encourage them to focus on the good memories from the event, for example if a runner "blew up" at a particular point in their last two races, ask them to reflect and concentrate on the good parts where they were feeling good – this connects in with the above where the process is thought about rather than the end result. If on the other hand training has gone well have your athlete focus on replicating what they have done in training rather than focusing on the event. I often repeat the advice from the Wales Rugby psychologist who I had the pleasure of hearing speak where a member of the audience asked how to prepare a player for a match at Twickenham in front of 90,000 fans. His answer was remarkably simple – "concentrate on what we practiced on Thursday in training and just replicate that"! A great example of focussing on process and not outcome.

Think about using nerves as a trigger to overcome nerves.

Excitement and heightened anticipation before an event is an important element of competition and can help bring great results however when this spills over to a nervous state it can become a negative experience.

Athletes must be taught to recognise and overcome the difference between the good heightened and excited state and the negative nervous state. If an athlete is troubled by excessive nerves they need to concentrate on recognising the symptoms, for example perhaps shallower breathing or sweating excessively. When this happens they must use this as a trigger to take themselves back to the stages above – concentrating on the "here and now" and looking at "process rather than outcome". A good idea in this case would be to have practiced prior to the day trigger words and phrases which will return the athlete back to the "here and now" and turn that nervous energy into a positive rather than a negative.

Change the way you/they speak about things

For some athletes just thinking about a situation will bring on a nervous state, how many times have we seen one of our athletes on the way to competition turn pale just thinking about competing? By changing the way that both coach and athlete talk about an event this can be , with some practice from both parties, alleviated. Following the pointers above, speak about HOW they will compete not about how the event will end or what the outcome will be, again concentrate on the process and not the outcome. Keep in the moment and concentrate on each element of preparation for the event and have the athlete mentally tick them off as they go, so for example registering, warm up, changing, etc. It might even help early on to have a written list to help focus on the process leading up to the race rather than the event itself.

Keep your athletes in the moment, concentrating on the positives and success will inevitably follow!

John Skevington is coordinator of Leicestershire Running and Athletics Network and is a UKA level 3 performance coach and part of the England Athletics National Coach Development Programme.

Tags: Athletics, Coaching, positive mindset, winning mentality

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Partners

  • Rutland County Council
    North West Leicestershire District Council
  • Harborough District Council
    Melton Borough Council
  • East Midlands Platform
    QUEST
  • Safeguarding
    Charnwood Borough Council
  • British Heart Foundation
    Blaby District Council
  • Loughborough University
    Age UK L&R
  • Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council
    Sport England
  • County Sport Network
    Oadby & Wigston Borough Council
  • Leicester City Council
    Equality Standard
  • Leicestershire County Council