(Managing Anxiety in Track And Field — the 2nd of two articles by Stan Popovich)
Athletes sometimes get anxious when they go against tough opponents. They get nervous about whom they are competing against and get so worked up that they lose focus. In the end, they make mistakes and end up being harsh on themselves if they do not win. Here are some tips to help manage the stress of facing the competition.
Know the Opponent
The first step is to learn as much as you can about your opponent. Although this may seem obvious, some athletes think they already know what they need to know. Remember there is always something more that you can learn about your competition. Read the reports about your opponent and watch his or her performance. Try to figure out an angle you can use to beat your rival. The more you know about your competition the better your chances of beating them. This will also help to reduce your worries in the future.
Do not assume anything about whether the competition is stronger or weaker than you. Every athlete has good and bad days, so just because you may be facing a stronger and faster opponent does not necessarily mean that you are going to lose. Remember that you and your opponent both have an equal chance of winning. You are both in the same situation and are both starting from scratch. This attitude and mindset should give you confidence going into your next event.
Focus on Executing Your own Event
Focus on how you can best strive for perfection in your own event instead of worrying about your opponent. For instance, you are going against the number-one-ranked athlete in the event and you are nervous. Instead of focusing on how good your competition is, focus on your own performance. Concentrate on how you can best execute your event and how you can best improve on your problem areas.
Realize that neither you nor the competition can win all the time. The best athlete in the world is still susceptible to losing sometimes. When facing a tough competitor, use this fact to your advantage. Even the best athletes will make mistakes.
It is not uncommon to become nervous when you compete against a better opponent. All you can do is to focus on your skill sets and do the best you can. This will help you in the long run.
Stan Popovich is the author of "A Layman's Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non-Resistant Methods" — an easy-to-read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to: http://www.managingfear.com/