Performance anxiety and sports psychology

As an amateur athlete, you may typically experience anxiety when you are playing against the elite players that will interfere with your ability to perform in competition.

Avatar Written by April 15, 2020 21:16

— By Rishabh Karwa

Performance anxiety symptoms are very common to athletes. While some athletes become “pumped up” during the competition, it means the rush of adrenaline as anxiety and negative thoughts take over. This can prevent your ability to perform. Before you learn how to manage the symptoms of anxiety during a fierce competition, it is critical to understand the relationship between anxiety and athletic performance with my example.

Performance anxiety

• Performance Anxiety and Athletic Performance:
1. Anxiety before and during competition can interfere with your performance.
2. Lack of concentration.
3. Tense state of the body prevents you to coordinate movements required during the event.
4. The negative thought pattern and expectations of failure can bring about self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now, I want to share my experience when I debut for Maharashtra under-23 Cricket team In BCCI tournament in three phases.

Phase 1,
24 November 2019 on this day it was my debut one day match against Tamil Nadu, the day before the match I was continuously thinking about my debut match so many Negative thoughts were coming in my back of mind, like can I will perform, can I deal with pressure situations, and can I execute all the plans and so on. I was so tense and nervous too. In psychological language, I was in a cognitive state of anxiety.

Phase 2,
On the match day I reached on the ground at around 7.30 am. After that, I had a light breakfast. Next, I step down into the stadium with my mates. Then we started all our preparations for the match like a warm-up and basic practice session. Promptly, it was the time for the toss, as the coin flung into the sky and the coin grounded, and we won the toss and elected to bowl first. Captain came to me and informed me, I will bowl with the new ball. It was the time when I got nervous. Again all the negative thoughts are disturbing and distracting my concentration. I was trying to concentrate on trying to stay at the moment, but I couldn’t.

Maha cricket

Phase 3,
Umpires are stepping warily into the ground, the match is all about to start. As the match started my lower body started freezing, I can witness the physiological changes in myself like an increase in heart rate, muscle tension and increase in body heat when I was fielding at the fine leg position. Now it was my turn of bowling with the new ball, the second over of the match. I went on my run-up mark and now the level of anxiety was double till my first delivery. But I took a deep breath before my initial delivery and fortunately, I started well and settled down in just 1-2 over. In this last phase, I was in cognitive and a somatic state of anxiety. (Psychological and physiological changes in the athlete’s body.)
Now, before learning about the triggers of sports performance anxiety, let’s understand the brief meaning of cognitive and somatic state of anxiety that I have mention in my experience.
• Cognitive state anxiety:
It is the thought component of anxiety. This is primarily referred to the amount you worry. Symptoms; concentration problem, bad decision making, fear.
• Somatic state anxiety:
Relate to your perception of the physiological changes that happen in a particular situation. It is the environment that gives you anxiety. Symptoms; Increase in heart rate, muscle tension, sweating, increase body heat.
• Sports Performance Anxiety Triggers:
1. As an amateur athlete, you may typically experience anxiety when you are playing against the elite players that will interfere with your ability to perform in competition.
2. Athletes who take part in individual sports are also more likely to experience anxiety than those who play in team sports. It makes sense because the team helps to manage some pressure that you when you are alone.
3. “Away” game is also the factor of increase in anxiety levels because of the opponent having greater fan support and being more familiar with condition and location.
Now, some athletes thrive under pressure. Elite athlete consistently able to rise to the challenge. In my opinion, confidence interprets a prominent role in how you respond to the symptoms of anxiety during competition. If you are confident in your ability, you are more likely to have a positive reaction to be “pumped up” and will thrive on challenges of competition.

Now, Let’s understand how to manage Performance anxiety Symptoms.
1. Ensure that you have practised enough, so you are confident in your competition.
2. Self-talk.
3. Relaxation techniques: Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
4. Mental Rehearsal: mentally rehearsed some actions that will be required in your contest.
5. Goal-setting: By breaking down the goals to several smaller and more specific achievable goals.
6. Focus on the task rather than the outcome
7. Review and recall all the things you did well.
8. Quickly dismiss things that hindered your performance.

I hope my article will help all the athletes who are struggling to perform due to performance anxiety problems before and during the competition. Please like and share and if you have any doubts to mention your doubts in the comment box, I will try to clear your doubts.

Much obliged.

((The writer is a distinguished Maharashtra cricketer in the Under 23 category))