Three Secrets to Overcome Sports Anxiety

It's called sports anxiety, choking under pressure, being in a slump or having the yips. The bottom line is that not being able to do your best under pressure in competition erodes confidence, saps motivation, eliminates opportunities and kills sports careers.

These three secrets (part of my Mental Coaching Method), are the keys to overcoming sports anxiety, getting fast results that last and bringing out peak performance on demand in competition.

Secret 1: Demolish the mental blocks

Most sports performance methods use affirmations or visualization, but if there are mental blocks (self-limiting beliefs) in the way, they will stop those approaches from being effective.

My basic test to find out if someone has a mental block is to ask how they do in practice (or when it doesn't count). If they do OK, but can't bring it out under pressure in competition, then I know they have a mental block. It has to be removed before the player can truly do their best, so that's what I do first. Since everyone (and every mental block) is different, I custom-tailor how I do that for each player.

Secret 2: Create and cue a power point

Once the mental blocks are gone, then it's time to bring up a powerful multi-media memory of a past success, amplify the feeling (again and again) and then cue that powerful feeling so it can be brought back on demand.

This is very similar to feeling an emotion when you hear your favorite song, look at a picture of your best vacation, taste (or smell) your favorite food. We all do this naturally and one of my foundation beliefs is that if you can do something naturally, then you can do it on purpose and cue it.

By using my cutting-edge mental training tools, I make that memory so powerful that it's as if you are actually experiencing it again. That's the only way to make that feeling into a tool you can use in competition.

Secret 3: Test and measure results

At this point, mental practice is used. I have the player compete mentally in various scenarios, with the instructions that they always win. If they don't, then that tells me they still have a mental block and it's back to step one and we repeat the process.

If they are successful, then we move to scenarios where things go wrong and they learn to wash away negative stress, anxiety and emotions, regroup and get back on track.

At this point, I do something that really pushes the envelope - I have them try really hard to find the fear, anxiety, whatever's been holding them back. About 99 percent of the time, they can't because it's gone (they usually look amazed at that point). In that rare one percent, that means there's another mental block, we go back to step one and repeat the process.

Once these three steps are successfully completed (usually in three-to-five mental coaching sessions), then you have a player who is able to compete with confidence, motivation and focus and shrug off negatives. That's how to win the mental game, get peak performance on demand and the competitive edge.

David Kenward - The Mental Coach
(916) 802-5897


Gary Mitchell said...

Great information, performance anxiety is awful and these tips seem like they could work. Sports anxiety sounds a lot like anxiety over public speaking - I went through professional public speaking trainingin Cambridge MA last year and it really helped in all aspects of my life - training yourself to overcome mental blocks is huge. Thanks!

thementalcoach said...

Gary, it sounds like you got some great training. And you're right, sports and public speaking anxiety can be very similar, the X factor is how big the mental block is and what the trigger is - that determines how easy or difficult it can be to overcome it. I focus on resolving the BIG mental blocks - I've discovered that's what I'm best at.

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