3 Sure-Fire Steps to Calm Your Nerves with your Mind Before a Big Game


ou have a big game tomorrow morning and you are fidgeting too much tonight with hands shaking, heart palpitating, perspiration dripping all over. You are one big nervous athlete tonight and you wish your game can be over right this instant. One minute you feel excited to have fun playing the game, another minute you are one nervous wreck. So your biggest question today is how to calm your nerves before a big game.

I don’t get nervous in any situation. There’s no such thing as nerves when you’re playing games. – Shaquille O’Neal

First of all, there are many reasons to why any athlete, even champions get all nervous before any game. Same for you, and it’s important that you identify with your own reasons first before you are able to control your nerves. Every athlete is unique and their reasons for being nervous or confident are unique to each and everyone too. What are your reasons?

One of your reasons could be self-doubt on whether you can perform up to your expectations and not get a good scolding from your teammates or coaches after the game. Another reason could be the strength of your opponents. You know who they are and they are probably physically huge and larger than you are.

This fact could be daunting to you and as you think about the future game, you imagine them overpowering you like some giant, that makes you intimidated and powerless. Or it could be that you cannot help but think of past experiences when you failed to accomplish something important for yourself or your team.

Maybe it was this penalty shootout that you failed to get the ball into the goal that led the opposing team to win. Maybe your teammates relied upon you to accomplish just anything or something to bring the team to the next level. Point is, there are so many reasons that get you over excited or anxious before your big game.

Here are the 7 steps you must go through before the game. So give yourself ample time to accomplish them.

Step 1: Meditation

You must be thinking, “do I have to sink myself into deep thoughts, get into some hypnosis and forget about what’s going to happen next?” Answer is no. Meditation seems like a big word, but just 5 minutes of it can get you up and running to the next step very quickly. Hence, it’s essential and I highly recommend it. Why not do it if it works?

It’s not easy to truly get into the state of meditation, but what’s important here is the quiet time you are taking to not do anything else, no calls, no emails, not get busy with what your parents want. Right now, the time is just for you and for your mind to think within yourself.

Meditation is not a mysterious process. It’s just simply “me” time. Even Kobe Bryant meditates everyday. All the more you should do it too.

Simply find a private spot where you know you can have about at least 10 to 20 minutes of time on your own. Make this spot comfortable, add some cushions or bean bags around you. If you have a sofa or a chair, that’s even better. When you are meditating, it’s important that you sit up, with your back relax, you can lean your back against something. You don’t have to sit cross-legged or be able to lift yourself above the ground. As long as you are not lying down, you are good to start meditating.

Make sure you are not falling asleep, stay awake and allow yourself to appreciate what you are and what you have. Do not think of your game or tomorrow’s game right now. This time is to show gratitude for what you are and have in your life.

I want you to start right with meditation and not think that it’s a tough process. I personally enjoy meditation only the start of this year. I used to be open to it as well, but did not carry on with it because I thought it is something that’s hard to achieve. There are several articles online that say there is a right way of sitting for the “magic” to flow and you can’t think of anything at all. Basically, the advise of not letting thoughts creep into your head is wrong.

For you to get started right, I want you to go grab this app called Omvana. Download it for your iPhone or iPad

Once you got the app and have it up and running in your device, open up the app and search for “the 3 Most Important Questions” by Vishen Lakhiani from Mind Valley. Plug in your earphones and press play.

You will sit through about 20 minutes of Vishen Lakhiani’s voice. The best thing is, you have the option of turning on some music to accompany his voice. There are not many music choices, but it’s good enough to get started.

Why is this going to be easy? You just have to listen and follow his instructions, that’s all. There’s no need to block your mind off any thought.

Other than “the 3 Most Important Questions”, there are many other meditation recordings for anything at all: relieve anxiety and stress, for sleep, for your health, etc. You should seriously take some time to check all the meditation recordings. But since you have a big game tomorrow, just select one, something of say 5 minutes will be good enough to get you started on this step.

Step 2: Visualisation

After you are done with meditation, you are now good to move on to visualisation or mental imagery.

Similar to meditation, visualisation is also not some mysterious activity that makes you look like you are possessed with some spirit. It’s just simply, playing the game in your head. So instead of physically preparing your equipment and heading to the competition ground then jumping for the ball and knocking opponents off, you are actually sitting really still, with your eyes closed to prevent distractions, and acting out a “show” in your mind. You are in fact mentally rehearsing your event without even being present at your competition ground.

There are a few reasons why this is tough.

First, some people cannot sit still for just a few minutes, they get distracted with the next thing they have in mind, find that cookie in the fridge, comb the dog’s hair or they just have to go pee.

Second, they just don’t believe it works and refuse to be seen as weak, sitting down, not doing anything. They believe you got to go out there and work your butts off to get some results.

Third, they believe it works, but they imagine the wrong things. When they visualise, they imagine themselves literally flying to get the ball into the net or something that’s just out of their physical ability.

It may not be impossible, but at this point in time you are visualising, please imagine yourself acting out something possible right now. Don’t imagine all your opponents not moving and you are the only one bouncing around the court, that doesn’t work either.

When you get into this mode of imagination, you can see yourself doing amazing things, but these things have to be humanly possible.

How should you visualise?

First, think of a problem you always encounter in your sport and you always have a hard time tackling this problem. An example could be interception of ball from an opponent in basketball.

As your opponents dribble the ball up the court, you see yourself observing the hands of the opponents, and you figure out the right timing to move up, use your hand to hit the ball out of the opponent’s reach to intercept it, then anticipate your opponent trying to also reach for the ball, while you dodge to the left to avoid him. After dodging him, you quickly bring the ball past him and dribble the ball to your side and put the ball into the goal.

This image must be created as vivid as possible in your head.

Think of any other problem you encounter in your trainings or practices or competitions. If you want, list them down first in order of most occurred situations. Then tackle them one by one in your head.

Step 3: Imagine winning and losing

This can be considered as visualisation, but I placed this as a next step as the thought process is very different here. Before you start, make sure you are intentional in everything you think about here. How conscious you are will lead to different results.

The best outcome for this is when you start feeling emotional about both winning and losing, you may breakdown or just tear, but most importantly, you must feel emotional about what you are thinking. If it’s just thoughts going through your mind, it will not sink into you that it’s really important to you.

When top athletes say they have a burning desire to win, they are not just saying it. Did you see Roger Federer breaking down on national television when he lost to Rafael Nadal in Wimbledon 2011 only to win it back in 2012? That game was an emotional one to him and it should be for you as well.

Make sure you are alone when doing this, your parents shouldn’t think your sport is making you go crazy.

Let’s start with “losing”.

Maybe you have this nemesis opponent you’ve longed to beat for many years. You’ve probably lost to him so many times, you may lose to him again tomorrow.

So while the real thing has not been done yet, let’s start thinking of how it’s like to lose to him. You may finish the game in your head of yourself feeling disappointed with the game for whatever reason and you see him punching his fist into the air saying “yes!”, while you quietly leave the competition ground with preferably tears in your eyes and heart broken to bits.

Next you need to feel this as it if it’s all real and happening. Suck it up, eat it, drink it, feel that pain in your heart and your bones. You lost it and you can never get it back again, you may have to wait for another year, or two or even four years to try again.

Sink yourself deep in this feeling for 5 minutes, cry it out if you have to and live in self-pity for awhile.

You may take quite awhile for you to get a hold of yourself. After you are over it, this part of the exercise is done.

Next is to imagine the “winning” scene.

Go through the same thought process as you did for “losing”, this time with you as the winner and your nemesis as the loser. How do you feel at this time? Just let go of yourself and enjoy that moment for a few minutes. Was it a challenge worth fighting for? Did you achieve what you set out to do? Consciously lead yourself to feel that you did and that this is the feeling you are yearning so much for.

This “winning” and “losing” process can take some time off your schedule, but it’s worth working on because you will get clarity of what you want as you move into your game tomorrow. With that clarity, your actions will run on autopilot based on your feelings you harbored from this process.

Finally, think of yourself basking in victory as you receive your gold medal and challenge trophy with pride. Cheesy as it sound, but seriously, who knows what you are thinking. As long as it works, you should do it.

Ultimately, if tomorrow is your big game, what else can you do but think and prepare your mind for excellence?

Your Turn

How about you? Have you been using such steps to calm your nerves before your big game to get all composed to perform your best? Let us know and discuss with us below.

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