Fear and intimidation is an ever present entity in not only the sporting arena, but also life in general.
Mike Tyson feared and known as “the baddest man on the planet” previously evoked fear into all that challenged him. Not only Tyson but also the likes of Jona Lomu, Tony Lockett, John McEnroe and the speed of the West Indian fast bowlers of the 80’s, just to name a few.
There are not many people that can honestly say that their performance is never effected by mental or psychological factors. Doubts, confidence, intimidation, anxiety, courage, and nerves all have a significant impact on how we perform. What this means is that negative thoughts and emotions tend to have a negative effect on our muscles, while positive thoughts tend to have a positive effect.
Even the fastest, strongest, smartest and most skilled will not perform to a high standard if they concentrate on the wrong things or are unable to let go of failures and setbacks. Most people learn about fear as children. As an infant you have few fears. In childhood you tend to tune into your “confidence vioce” like a radio picking up a strong signal. Never again will it speak louder than in childhood.
If you don’t catch certain fears from society whist young, you are more than likely going to visit an early grave. This “confidence voice” is better known as self talk and is one of the two areas we are about to discuss. Self talk together with mental rehearsal are the areas which will greatly assist you in controlling your fear and not allow intimidation to enter the equation.
Self talk is that constant stream of words and sentences that circulate inside your head. The more we can influence our self-talk the more we can influence our attitude. Athletic performance is enhanced by coaching, training, repetition and by being driven by a desire to succeed and excel.
We all now the old cliché ‘Practice makes perfect’ but really practice does more than that. By practicing and making the job at hand second nature you will significantly increase your confidence. The higher your confidence levels the more positive self-talk you will produce and therefore improved performance.
Always try and be optimistic with your self-talk, instead of saying that the glass is half-empty refer to it as being half full, this is better known as constructive self-talk.
Another good example is not concentrating on how far you have left to go (destructive self-talk), but rather how far you have already traveled.
One of the most effective means of controlling nervousness and overcoming fear is to master the psychological skill of mental rehearsal. Mental rehearsal has been proven to enhance actual practice. Practicing in your head with the right images improves performance.
By using your imagination and perfecting mental rehearsal you are assured of perfect technique 100% of the time. Jack Nicholas, arguably the greatest golfer of all time was a great advocate of mental rehearsal. Nicholas would hits hundreds of balls each day in practice, but prior to hitting each ball he would visualise his swing and the flight of the ball and the exact location where it would land.
Winners “see”(imagine) what they want to have happen in their mind, while losers “see” what they are afraid will happen.
In conclusion, concentration is the key to performance excellence. Your focus before and even during competition determines your ability to handle pressure and perform to your highest potential. By learning to focus on what’s important and to block out obstacles and everything else will get you closer to your goals. With the right techniques and a little practice, you too can learn to stay cool in the heat of the moment and manage your nerves.