Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's Okay To Be Nervous

Nerves are a great thing! It's good to be nervous prior to a performance. It shows that you care. Once you're on the ice however, the nerves will melt away. Take deep breaths to calm yourself down. Many of the elite skaters, for instance Sasha Cohen and others, take deep breaths prior to their program. Breathing is important

Don’t allow your nerves to take over your performance. You can often tell when someone is nervous if they are making small useless movements such as tapping their fingers, feet, fidgeting, shifting around in their seat, or larger things such as pacing. Restlessness in general is a very big sign. I’ve seen many skaters, while waiting for their turn backstage, exhibit this behavior. You need to focus on you, not your opponent.

One of the internal signs of being nervous is: increased heart-rate, sweating, headache or other body aches. Shortness of breath, nausea, loss of appetite, or in some extreme cases panic attack may occur. When you have a schedule test or competition, the most important thing is to relax.

Being nervous is not a bad thing. It is your mind telling you that you care about the action you are undertaking; your performance is important. You feel a huge sense of responsibility to give your audience the best possible performance you can possibly give. Allow this energy to work for you, not against you. Those little butterflies in your stomach are your friends.

It’s okay to have butterflies. You don’t want to become complaisant, or take your performance for granted. However, it is very important that you stay confident relax and in control. Remember, fun is the name of the game in skating. Go out there and enjoy yourself; have fun! If you recall the 2002 winter games, Kwan had appeared to be the sure winner, apparently, nerves got in the way of the prize. However, Sarah had allowed herself to have fun, hence, had won the prize.

A great way that I have learned to stay confident is to have run-through of my program as many time as I can. Let your program become an extension of you. Practice... Practice... Try listening to your music over and over, and imagine each element corresponding to each beat . Another thing that might help is by not focusing on any outside “noise”. While the audience appreciation may be helpful, it can be detrimental as well. Feel to express yourself, be in the moment. Don’t be intimidated by the crowd. The audience is there to watch you. The audience is your friend. Just remember the judges are doing their job. Their objective is not to judge you; they are only judging your performance. Use their criticisms constructively.

I would recommend focusing on your performance as opposed to the score. Concentrating on the mechanics or over thinking too much can create unwanted anxiety. Don’t focus on mistakes. Just do your program. Once an error is committed, you cannot erase it; just focus on your next element. The elite skaters don't spend all of their time focusing on mistake, they move on and make sure the rest of their performance is their best. Try some deep breathing and thinking of this as just performing with your coach. Go about it the same way you do during practice. Give it your all!

This being said, allow yourself the freedom to enjoy the moment, the skating, something you love and enjoy doing. Don’t worry about the mechanics. Block negative thoughts from your mind, allow yourself to be your best and don’t worry about the competing, against anyone. The only person to concur is yourself. Keep in mind your opponents are just as nervous , if not more. Focus on “you”.

Try the following:

1. Don't eat too heavily.
2. Don't drink caffeine or sugar, just as it will tense you up, and give you more jitters. Get a good night sleep the night prior to your performance.
3. Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water, not sport drinks.

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