Dealing with pre-game nerves

  • -

Dealing with pre-game nerves

This article has been taken from a recent newsletter from Goalkeeper HQ partner and Yale assistant coach, Marty Walker, who delivers weekly articles on sports psychology. You can sign up for his newsletter here.  Check out his web site, e-mail him at

Pre Game Nerves!!!!!

How do they make athletes feel? Do they get excited about the impending competition or do they crumble under the pressure of nervousness and anxiety?

The truth is that it is perfectly normal to have a range of nervousness prior to competition and I believe in their necessity in obtaining optimum performance. Just as we feed our bodies with the fuel to perform, fueling our mind and managing our mind for performance is a necessity. Nerves are a fuel for the mind. 

So here are several tips on how to start managing nerves pre-game. In order to maximize your potential as an athlete, these tips need to be learned and mastered. 

So here goes…..

1 – Focus. 
Focus on what you want to happen, not what you want to avoid happening. Narrowing your focus on positive outcomes will help you avoid distractions and unnecessary fears which impact performance.
2 – Process, not outcome.
Focus on your game and you will be able to reach higher consistency. You can never guarantee wins, regardless of how well you perform. Focus on guaranteeing your best effort and then naturally, wins will come more often. But not always.
3 –  Self Talk.
Athletes who learn to identify, understand and restructure their self-talk prior to a performance provide themselves with a successful platform upon which they can pursue performance potential. Being your own best fan is great, but only if your ambitions are challenging and realistic dependent upon your performance capacity. 
4 – Let go of previous mistakes. 
We all make them, so understanding the right time to analyze performance errors and when not to is key to growth and development. Mistakes are necessary for learning. 
5 – Relax – Release. 
If you are feeling physical tension prior to performance it is a sign of hyper-anxiety. How we feel manifests itself in our physical self. If you are struggling to deal with tension. Learn tension and relaxation techniques from a sports psychologist to help you manage your nerves and control your body better. 
6 – Control. 
What are you in control of and what can’t you control? You should be aware of this pre-performance. You can’t change the weather, the coach, the spectators, the opposition…. but you can control your focus, your attention, your goals and your attitude. 
7 – Stretch. 
Mental fatigue leads to feelings of restrictedness and tightness. Stretching is a great way of using the body to control the mind and also helps with relaxation. 
8 – Enjoyment.  
What do you enjoy? Are you a young athlete who loves the sport? Are you a budding athlete who loves the challenge of competition? Or are you a seasoned athlete who loves the pursuit of trophies and glory? Understanding why you do what you do allows you to enjoy the process so much more. 


As always, these are easier said than done and it takes time, effort, patience and focus so that you can control your emotional and mental self so that your physical self can excel. 

 Get more Goalkeeping Psychological advice through the Goalkeeper HQ Membership. Check out the benefits here.

Goalkeeper HQ

Upcoming events

Type a keyword for links to our Goalkeeping articles

Sign up for our weekly Goalkeeping newsletter