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Beyond the X’s and O’s Podcast: How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

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How we frame the game shapes our perspective. 


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Performance anxiety is one of the leading reasons athletes struggle to perform when it matters most. 

In this podcast, we want to show you how to break through the limiting beliefs and cultural norms that perpetuate performance anxiety. This is a follow up to the How to Perform Under Pressure video recently posted. 

Here are the main concepts we unpacked to help athletes overcome performance anxiety:

Building Up the Context

Athletes, coaches, parents, and fans alike often attach too much meaning to the event or game. 

Athletes then build up the context in their mind and get too hyped up for a particular opponent, ‘pressure’ situation, or a ‘must win’ game. 

As a result, the context becomes overwhelming and the athlete mentally falls apart, they panic or hesitate on the field of play, and choke under the pressure. 

In last year’s Stanley Cup final, Tampa Bay Lightning all-world defenceman Victor Hedman was asked about how he and his teammates are able to maintain a high level of play in their third straight Cup finals. His response was “easy, we never let the moment be bigger than any one particular play.”

This was a brilliant response. 

The ability to detach from the context and be dialled into the task at hand is the key to being totally present. 

This mindset allows them to have trust and faith, not only in their own abilities, but those of their teammates as well. It’s no surprise they have been the Gold Standard for culture and excellence for the better part of a decade.

Do or Die

As alluded to above, the language we use with ourselves and others will influence our mindset. 

One of the most common lines in sports is that it is a “do or die game.” 

This is partially true – on one side yes if you lose the game the season is over. 

But is your career over? Is your life over? 

I exaggerate the point because many athletes build up the context to feel that way. 

Instead you want to frame the event as an opportunity, not a threat – turning pressure into privilege.

Similarly the common verbiage of ‘Need to, Have to, or Should’ can provoke a state of fear.

Comfort vs Courage

The antidote is to move from a fear mindset to an attack mindset.

Is your goal to be comfortable and survive or be courageous and thrive?

Playing sports is a choice, it is not a ‘Need to, Have to, or Should.’ 

So be mindful of the language we use and the questions we ask ourselves and others.

How we frame the game shapes our perspective. 

When we keep a healthy perspective, it becomes easier to choose courage and overcome performance anxiety. 

This choice is not about just being positive and framing everything with rose coloured glasses – that is fluffy BS that doesn’t work. 

Rather it is about staying centered or neutral – credit to the late Trevor Moawad. 

Regardless of the challenge or adversity you are in, you can always choose a thrive mindset over survive mindset – you can find a way to keep moving forward. 

Enjoy the Moment

The most cliché advice in pressure situations is tell an athlete to enjoy the moment. 

This is great advice because it is true – enjoying the moment is key to thriving in the moment.

However, it is way easier said than done.

Most athletes struggle to adhere to this advice. They get consumed by the pressure. 

As long as an athlete is holding on to the results they won’t be able to truly enjoy the moment. 

The key to letting go is to accept the range of results. 

But the problem is our society misunderstands what acceptance is and often labels it as a weakness.

It’s misconstrued to be this fluffy, lovey dovey concept best reserved for hippies.

However, if properly understood and effectively used it is one of the most powerful tools to play free and in the moment.

In summary you can overcome performance anxiety by breaking through the cultural norms and being mindful of your language, beliefs, and perspective. 

Again check out the previous published video that walks you through the 3 steps to Perform Under Pressure

I hope you found this helpful. Let us know if you have any questions.

If you know anyone that could benefit from this post – please share it with them.




    





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