I choke during competition

Hey Woodski!

Lately, I’m better in practice than I am in competition. During practice, I’m relaxed and focused. But during matches, everything falls apart. What’s going on?
D. Jitters, age 20 (male, wrestling)

Dear D. Jitters,

That stinks. I imagine it’s easy to get down on yourself when this happens. Maybe you're feeling disappointed, or even angry.

It’s normal and even desirable to feel pressure around competition. But that can go too far. There are pressure-producing thoughts (which cause us to choke under pressure). And there are pressure-reducing thoughts (which allow us to feel like a winner, no matter what happens).

So roll back the clock a bit: What are your feelings leading up to competition? Do you doubt yourself? Or, do you tell yourself to just do the best you can? Do you feel like you HAVE to win? Or, do you acknowledge that even if you don’t win it won’t be the end of the world?

Take a closer look at what you wrote to Woodski…. how you’re relaxed and focused during practice. What if you’re focused because you’re relaxed? Put your effort there, on being more relaxed before, during, and after competition.

Become aware of your self-talk and remind yourself that everyone has challenges, and that you’ll be OK no matter what.

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The advice offered in this column is not intended to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor before making any changes in your diet, exercise or lifestyle choices.
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