How to not be nervous before a game (Tips)

In this guide, we will discuss “how to not be nervous before a game” and a few tips on calming yourself before a game.

How to not be nervous before a game

Here we will present some tips on how not to be nervous before a game.

Being a little nervous from time to time is completely normal and actually natural, it evens helps you stay focus and remain expectant before a game.

However, when someone is too nervous and even scared to play, it becomes a problem but there are actually ways to cope with anxiety. 

You may have already trained yourself physically for a big game for sports such as basketball, baseball, soccer or football, but it is also important to train the mental aspect of your mind since it is considered a very powerful tool.

Young rising athletes are constantly under pressure, whether it is to win an important or “big” game, impress their parents or impress sponsors or coaches.  

However, parents are responsible for teaching them how to understand, name and manage their emotions before any competition, so they can actually develop coping skills and perform at their best.

According to Online Soccer Academy, “soccer at the pro level is 90% Mental, Meaning, everyone is talented and the biggest difference between the good players and the great players is the self-belief in their abilities.

You want to be confident, not cocky.”

In addition, here are some key points or aspects to consider:

  • Convince your mind you believe in yourself by telling yourself “I believe in me”, multiple times and you will start reprogramming your brain into believing that statement.
  • Relax before a game to take your mind off the game. You can achieve this by watching a film you’d like, reading a book,  or listening to your favorite music. 
  • Complete your first 5 passes of the game to calm your nerves, making them simple passes. After you have completed your passes, you will feel success and your nerves will settle, having a great game.
  • Don’t be so hard on yourself when you make a mistake and avoid reacting negatively. We all make mistakes and the idea is to learn from them and leave them behind.

Causes of feeling nervous

According to competitive edge, “runaway, pre-game nervousness can come from a lot of different sources: how good your opponents are; how big and aggressive they are; how important a competition is; how big the crowd is (and who in it is watching you); whether you’ll play well today and win; how “excited” your coach may get; how much playing time you’ll get; the court, field or arena you’re playing in — the list goes on and on.”

Side Note: I grew this blog to over 500,000 monthly pageviews and it now finances our charitable missions. If you are looking to start a blog as a source of income or to help your community then view our how to start a blog guide.

However, this is not the real cause of your nervousness. In the end, it is YOU, who make yourself nervous.

It is very important we understand this concept because we tend to blame what is happening outside us as the source of our nervousness.

For instance, if we say something like “if only they were not that good” or “if only it was not raining today”. 

What really causes us to feel nervous is what is happening inside and how we build up more stress and anxiety until we can deal with it no more.

To add to this, competitive edge explains how “It’s not the size, skill level or reputation of your opponents that makes you nervous. It’s what you say to yourself about them in the days, hours and minutes leading up to the game, match or race that’s the real culprit in sending your heart rate and blood pressure through the roof!”.

Therefore, it makes sense that, if you are the source of your nervousness then only you can change those inner thoughts and remain calm under competitive pressure. 

Focus on the HERE and NOW

You may be familiar already how you allow your focus of concentration to jump ahead of time, into the future.

If you want to stay calm and collected, then you have to train your mind into being focused on the NOW.

This in term means that focusing all your attention and energy into the upcoming competition and how important it, leading up to your performance.

To play in the NOW, concentrate on one present-moment play at a time allowing you to give your best.

Also, it happens very often that we are focusing on the NOW and then you suddenly shift your focus into the future, try to quickly return your concentration back to the present moment.

“Losing your focus won’t make you nervous. What will make you nervous is losing your focus and not bringing it back right away! It’s the break in concentration that you don’t immediately catch that will drive your stress level through the roof and sabotage your play.”

When you think “things could go wrong”… They Will!

If you start by thinking about messing up all the time then you will, then you will feed your anxiety.

Instead, remind yourself everyone is allowed to make mistakes and you are no different, if you are playing scared, your performance will drop drastically. 

What matters after making a mistake is what we do after, always react positively and hustle back on defense and keep your head up.

When you look down, especially after making a mistake you will normally have a negative thought in your mind feeding your anxiety. 

Allow yourself to have fun!

Performing under pressure is the hardest thing to cope with. However, when you do your best when being under pressure, that is when you start having fun and enjoying it.

Fun is said to be the secret to staying calm and doing your best even when the competition is turned up high. 

When you put too much pressure on yourself, if you take things too seriously or too important you “can’t lose” or “can’t make a single mistake” then you will rapidly become nervous and your performance will drop significantly. 

Create a ritual

Uncertainty before a game is one of the big contributors to feeling nervous or anxious.

One of the best things you could do is limit the number of choices you have to make.

This means, creating a routine or ritual before the game can actually take away the uncertainty and be more in control.

For instance, you can pack your game bag the night before, eat the same pre-game snack or having a designated playlist of songs you only listen to during warm-up.

Try motivational videos or quotes

The internet is full of information and sometimes not all of it is relevant/important.

However, you can use it to your advantage by looking up for motivational videos and quotes from famous players before the game.

In addition, you could try writing down quotes from role models or heroes and keep them in your game bag to inspire you whenever you need it.

Breathing techniques

It is accepted by the scientific community and researchers how breathing can help when calming your nerves.

In fact, according to a study published in the Science Mag evidenced that breathing at a fast rate triggers neuronal responses in the brain that signal an emergency.

On the other hand, Long and deep breaths can help do the opposite. 

Go for a walk to relax

It has been suggested that light aerobic exercise can actually help calm your nerves and boost your mood.

So this means taking a short walk when you are feeling nervous, for around 10-20 mins can actually contribute to soothing your nerves.

Meditate for 10 mins

If you have had an intense training session, you are already thinking about the future and the outcome of a very important game then try meditating for a few minutes to reduce the tension in your muscles and the stress that has been accumulating. 

Not used to feel under pressure?

Here we will discuss how to play your best even if you are feeling under a lot of pressure.

You can actually start by putting yourself mentally in pressured situations and planning how you will think and react at that moment.

Imagine solutions to those situations by displaying your skills.

In addition, as we have discussed already. Being in the present moment is important to direct your mind and your senses into what you are doing, letting you perform at your best.

Also, it is very useful to use comparisons of bigger things in your life to remove or reduce importance to the event, meaning you won’t only focus all your attention on it. 

The idea here is to practice as many times as you need to before the competition so you get used to being under pressure but still performing to the best of your capabilities and skills. 

Why is this blog about how to not be nervous before a game important?

There are plenty “How not to be nervous before a game” tips and strategies. Here we just mentioned a few but there are many all over the internet.

As we mentioned, feeling nervous is only natural and normal, however, we need to recognize when those levels tend to become problematic.

Remember, external sources are not the ones responsible for making us feel nervous, we are. 

By engaging in the present moment, training your mind and having fun you will achieve your best performance at any given moment.

If you’re someone who likes playing sports, then u might want to know on how to stay calm while playing a tennis match.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Recommended reading

  • Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World  
  • The Anxiety Solution: A Quieter Mind, a Calmer You
  • Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry
  • Fuck Coping Start Healing: The Anxiety Guy’s Guide to …
  • How To Stop Overthinking And Anxiety With Emotional Intelligence: A Guide To Feeling Happy And Free From Concerns

References 

Online soccer academy (2011, Nov.) Soccer Tips- How not to be Nervous before a game. Retrieved from Youtube.com.

Competititvedge.com: “Big Game Preparation- 7 Tips to Staying Cool and Calm in the Clutch”. 

Chavanelle, N. (n.d) 10 Ways to Calm Nerves Before a Big Game. Retrieved from Activekids.com.

Mental Toughness Trainer (2015, Mar.) How to Get Over Nerves Before & During A game Competition. Retrieved from Youtube.com.

Was this post helpful?

Daniela Paez is a Clinical Psychologist with an MSc. In Clinical Neuropsychology from Bangor University. She has vast experience in working with children with disabilities, adolescents and their families, in extreme conditions of poverty and vulnerability. Additionally, she owns a private practice where she provides neuropsychological evaluation for children and adults, and treatment for mood disorders, anxiety, couple therapy, among other conditions.