BY PATRICIA HY
Let’s talk about stage fright.
The times when you’re playing a match, and you’re missing everything. Every ball you touched turned to dust. Every swing is either too short or missing by miles. Your legs felt heavy and not getting to the balls as fast you want. And you’re going out of your mind OR maybe even crying?
In this post, I want to share with you 3 CHECKPOINTS YOU NEED TO CALM YOUR NERVES WHEN COMPETING. Something that you can easily tap into during your match so that you can calm your bundle of nerves and get on with your game.
These are the same checkpoints that have helped pull me through those tough days on tour. And I want to share them with you here.
The first checkpoint that you need to calm your nerves when competing is to breathe. The slow and deep diaphragm breathing where you inhale on a count of 5, pushing your stomach into your spine, then hold for 2 and exhale on a count of 7, inflating your stomach at the same time. When done correctly, this technique will calm your mind down and relaxes your body to put you back on track to perform.
The second checkpoint that you need to calm your nerves when competing is to talk to your feet. Yeah, you read that right. Talk to your feet. Don’t let them stop. When you are under stress, besides cutting out your oxygen from shallow breathing, your legs will feel extremely heavy and freeze on your tracks. You have to unlock the shackles and move consciously. So, talk to your feet.
The third checkpoint that you need to calm your nerves when competing is to increase your racquet speed. Just like your legs feeling heavy when overly stressed, your arms will also feel like lead. You will be afraid to swing at the ball in fear of hitting it out, so you end up pushing. Relax and let the racquet speed do its thing.
At the 1992 US Open, I used these three checkpoints big time to help me clinch a big upset. I came up against an American teenage phenom, Jennifer Capriati. Coming into the Open, Jennifer had an incredible season, including the gold medal at the Olympics. So, naturally, she was a heavy favorite to win the title.
It certainly was not to my benefit that the New York crowd was loud and wild, rooting relentlessly for their player. As the match progressed, I came up with two match points, and I was shaking from head to toe from knowing that I am about to have one of the biggest upsets at the Open.
My first match point came and went missing a volley a mere inch long. The crowd was deafening, and I am feeling stick to my stomach. But then, something took over me. I went into the bubble in my head; I pretended the crowd was cheering for me. And I took several gigantic deep breaths and slowed my walk; I forced myself to repeat racquet speed, racquet speed, racquet speed. And I looked at my feet and said, “let’s do this.”
When I hit that same volley that I had missed on the first match point, it felt like I was in slow motion. Game, set, and match!
Listen, you can spend 10,000 hours mastering your strokes. And thousands of dollars chasing after points and ranking, but you will never be able to play to your potential if you don’t keep your nerves under control.
I encourage you to give these 3 CHECKPOINTS YOU NEED to CALM YOUR NERVES WHEN COMPETING a try.
They have worked for my players and me. It will work for you too.
Until next time. Stay safe.
By Patricia Hy, Contributing Editor
Patricia is also a mental coach, three-time Olympian and parent-coach to her two children. Visit www.patriciahy.com to attend her informative workshops or subscribe to her blog.