5 Ways to Beat Pre-Game Nerves


So your big game is coming, and the competition is just as good, you’re neck-to-neck to enter the qualifiers or even a regular game. You’re nervous you might not make it, so you train your very best until the day arrives. But you still can’t shake that feeling, your heart is pounding, your palms are sweaty, and your head is full of a mix of excitement, doubt, and anxiousness. “What if I don’t do well?”

Many athletes feel performance anxiety in the opening minutes of the game. Pre-game nerves are a natural part of competing and a sign you are ready to embrace competition.

‘I tell athletes to embrace pre-game jitters as a sign they are prepared and ready’

says Dr. Patrick Cohn, a sports psychologist and founder of Peak Performance Sports.

However, if you interpret such symptoms as anxiety or fear, it makes you feel even more nervous. You don’t want to obsess about how pre-game jitters make you feel. You’re more likely to lose focus on the current play, point or shot if you concentrate on those feelings instead.

Here are 5 ways to kick back at those nerves:

1. Get a Reality Check

Sounds far fetched, but the best thing you can do first is to keep perspective and face your own fears; Because if you find the source of your anxiety, you will be able to face it yourself before anyone else can. Remember that no one will base your judgment on you as an athlete on how you perform in the first early minutes.

Remember that pre-competition nerves are part of sports and that all athletes get them!

2. Have a Strategy

Have a game plan or a routine that is consistent.

This way you can keep with time management and planning leading up to the game, which is an excellent way to deal with pregame jitter, according to NBA Strategic Skills Coach Drew Hanlan. Having a strategy down, aids your schedule and allows yourself to feel more prepared in the process.

3. Pep-talk yourself

Worrying about making mistakes is often a big component of pre-game jitters.

Strive for success instead of worrying about avoiding failure.

Instead, encourage yourself with positive reinforcement and visualisation. picture yourself scoring goals, making key plays, and successfully fulfilling your role on the team!

4. Find Your Tune

Listen to your tunes. Music is a fantastic way to take your mind off your pre-game anxiety and for preparing you with the right mindset. Many athletes prepare mentally by using this strategy as they get ready for competition. What’s your favourite song? A better question is what’s your favourite song for relaxing? Listen to it! Your key is to find music with the level of intensity that’s best for you.

In fact, LeBron James is a big fan of listening to music before hitting the court. ‘I know where I want to be before each game, and the music is how I get there. I allow myself to feel the music and get lost in my preparation.’

5. Breathe

This is important; Don’t forget to breathe! Breathe in through your nose for four seconds and out through your mouth for four seconds. Repeat until you feel calm. Breathing is important because it will keep your health in order, but also allow you to unwind, taking your mind away from your source of nerves and instead focus on the task ahead — WINNING!! (haha no pressure)

So, take these tips and transform your pre-game jitters from daunting butterflies to a shot of useful adrenaline instead, helping you focus on performing at your peak. This can take time, but once mastered, you can make the most of it and do your best in the field. Good luck!

Check out for more information on youth athletes mental health.

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