Staying calm before games

Hey Woodski!

I get really anxious before games. I always have to make sure I'm really early and my heart races and palms sweat. I'm fine once it starts. Any ideas on how I can calm myself?  Nervy Nate, Age 14  (Male, Soccer)

Dear Nervy Nate,

While pregame rituals like arriving early are great for keeping calm, let’s go a little deeper.

Even without being aware of it, sometimes people repeat a loop of negative thoughts in their heads. Before we know it, these negative thoughts take root like weeds, and can make our heart race and palms sweat.

So grab a piece of paper.  Write down how you feel when you are playing soccer well. Writing it down takes it from your brain and puts it into your body.

Now use those words to create affirming sentences that describe your best future self. Something like: “I love soccer and I am always calm, cool and collected.” If that’s not believable for you, try: “I’m in the process of being calm, cool and collected.” These are just examples. Create one or two that are right for you.

Here’s the key part: Take 20 index cards or post-it notes and write your affirmation(s) on those pieces of paper. Place these wherever you’ll see them. In your room, bathroom, kitchen, into your school notebooks, etc. Be ready to share with family and friends about your pre-game jitters so they can support you. Repeat the affirmations every time you see a note and even when you don’t.

This will take some time; weeks, even months. But it’s important because it gets to the most-likely root cause of your nerves – your thoughts. So keep at it! You’ll never completely eliminate stress, but you can control how it affects you.


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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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