How Some of the Best Athletes in the World Handle Nerves
By Allistair McCaw
Handling nerves: How some of the best athletes in the world handle nerves. Here’s 6 great tips to get you ready to perform!
Do you get nervous before a tennis match or before competing? Yes? Then good, because even the very best athletes in the world get nervous too!
Many times I’ve been in the gym or locker room and witnessed players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Rafa and Roger Federer warming up before a match and let me tell you, they aren’t as relaxed as you’d might think.
Actually in Rafa’s book he mentions that he has at least 4 toilet stops before going onto the court for a match!
In fact, I’ve worked with two world number one athletes in both tennis and squash and witnessed nerves first hand.
Many times I get asked “Allistair, how do I get rid of nerves?” and my answer is “Why do you want to get rid of something so vital to performing well?”
It’s a mindset: like most things, it’s a state of mind, and nerves can be used as your fuel to fight. First thing you need to do is change your mindset about them and start seeing them in a positive light.
Many people see nerves as a ‘negative’ thing or something that can hurt their performance. The reason being is that they have told to think that way. However, to most world-class athletes, it’s seen as a ‘ready to go’ adrenaline that’s a necessity to their performance. What these elite athletes also do incredibly well is keep a confident and calm composure on the outside – they never look nervous and hide it well.
6 ways to handle nerves:
1. See them as a sign from your body that you’re ready to compete, it’s the positive ‘ready to go’ adrenaline.
2. Even the very best athletes in the world get them before a match. Nerves are telling you that something great is going to happen out there today!
3. Have a routine before a match that helps you ‘channel those nerves’ – some athletes use music to help them beat the nerves (Rafa, Azarenka, Kuznetsova).
4. Your opponent is probably even more nervous than you, except the difference is that you know how to handle them better (unless they read this article as well!).
5. If you didn’t get nervous then what you were doing wouldn’t mean that much or be that special to you.
6. When competing, at the start of a match expect them. Give yourself the freedom to make some mistakes at the beginning. When you give yourself this passport, you will be ‘free to play’. So my message is this: embrace nerves, change the way you see them and remember that even the champions get them. Emulate these champions by looking confident next time you walk out onto the court and know that you are ready to compete!
Remember, nerves are the fuel to perform!