Dealing with Pregame Anxiety

Posted: January 4, 2019

It is extremely common to hear about athletes getting anxious before games. I know that I often felt that way before my soccer games in club and in college. Often times, there is a phrase that is used for these feelings, and that would be “pregame jitters” or “nerves”. These emotions before a game are typically due to an anticipation of the results or how the athlete desires to perform.

It has been proven that the mental aspect of sports is just as important as the physical aspect of the game. Therefore, setting an athlete up for success in regards to their mental state is just as important as their physical training to prepare for their athletic competitions.

To reduce pregame jitters as much as possible, here are a few tips and ideas to keep in mind to help the competitive athlete. First, as has been discussed in a previous post I wrote a while back, proper sleep is absolutely essential for the competitive athlete. Lack of sleep, disturbed sleep, or inconsistent sleeping patterns can all be linked to anxiety, which certainly can be heightened prior to an athletic competition. If the athlete wants to reduce pregame jitters, they need to sleep on average 7-9 hours each night, especially in the several days leading up to their competition. Naps also can be an option before practices, if the athlete’s schedule allows it.

Secondly, the athlete must physically train properly leading up to their competitions. Their trainers, strength coaches, and team coaches all must be working together to put the athlete in the best position possible to perform at their best. On the athlete’s side, they can control how hard they train and their attitude when training. In addition, athletes can control how hard they train when they are at practice or weightlifting sessions. Work ethic is determined by each individual athlete. The harder they push themselves mentally and physically, the more likely they will perform at their best in their athletic competitions. Attitude has an extremely strong influence on an athlete’s performance. It determines the athlete’s ability to recover from errors, injury, and even how they will perform in the future.

Finally, as was similarly discussed in another previous blog post, the athlete can work on mentally visualizing how and what they want to accomplish in their athletic competition that is approaching. Take a few minutes each day, maybe before practice, to determine what they want to get done. If they desire to win, which they likely do, how will they achieve it? How will they run a certain play? How will it feel when they accomplish what they want? They need to begin to see themselves accomplishing these feats. The more they replay that positive outcome in their mind, the more they will reduce their anxiety and feel prepared for their upcoming competition.


Taylor Rowden is a Strength Coach at Compete Sports Performance and Rehab in Lake Forest, California. Taylor graduated from the Master's University with a degree in Kiniesiology with an emphasis on sports injury and exercise science.