Sports Psychology, Part 2 – Relaxation

Just relax!

Those have to be the two most un-relaxing words ever to be put together. Yet we continue to tell ourselves and each other that when stress arises. Anxiety in sports has been around since the beginning of time. Dealing with this anxiety is what can separate a beer leaguer from an elite athlete.

For those of you who feed off of nervousness, that enjoy being freaked out beyond belief, this article is not for you. For the rest of us, this will show you some beginning steps and skills that you can use in taking your anxiety down a couple of notches.

We are nervous because we care. We want to succeed. We want to be the best we can be. Those butterflies in our stomachs are a welcome feeling at times. They can however be controlled so that they do not negatively impact your performance. I was a pitcher at a small college in southern California and I frequently came out of the bullpen as a relief pitcher. Every time I stepped onto the mound the catcher looked like he was a hundred yards away. Once I made the first pitch, and heard the pop of the glove, all of that went away.

When I began to learn how to relax under pressure is when I began to reach my full potential as a player. There are a couple of ways to do this. We have all seen the movie with Adam Sandler where he goes to his happy place. We all need to have this place. Think about where you are most comfortable. Think about how you feel in that place. You must replicate those feelings as often as you possible can. That way you can recall that feeling when the time is needed.

Cue words are a great way to get you into that relaxed mode. The problem is that we often use negative tense words to try and put us in that place. Let me show you what I mean. Do not think of a pink elephant. It is impossible. Your mind does not hear "don't". It only hears the action. You must put all cues into a positively tensed form. Focus, breathe, and loose are great cue words. Try and stay away from relax and concentrate as we have been exposed to those negatively so many times we often keep that association.

Finally allow yourself to let go of failures as well as successes. Each of them can taint your next experience towards either end of the spectrum. Remember to live in the present and not in the past or the too distant future. Worry about the task at hand and you will be able to reduce the amount of anxiety felt during your performances.

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