Many athletes feel pregame jitters in the opening minutes of the game. You may feel butterflies in your stomach or your heart pounding. You can think of pregame jitters as helpful or harmful to your performance. Some athletes like to feel pregame jitters before competition. These athletes think of pregame jitters as a sign of readiness and energy. Other athletes think of pregame jitters as a sign of nervousness.
Pregame jitters can be harmful when they don’t go away in the opening minutes of the game. They can cause you to lose confidence and focus. When you’re focused on how nervous you feel, you lose focus on the current moment. You can also tighten up, play tentatively and lose confidence in your game. You’re less likely to take risks.
The best athletes in the world experience pregame jitters. Michael Leighton, goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers, admitted to feeling nervous during the Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. He was able to play past his pregame jitters to help the Flyers beat the Bruins 4-0 to force Game 6.
“My legs were shaking a little bit, I was nervous,” Leighton said. “Once I made a few saves, you kind of forget about that and just get focused. It kind of goes away.”
You don’t want to obsess about how pregame jitters make your feel before a game. If you focus too much on how nervous you are, you’ll make it worse and you’re likely to lose focus on the current play, point or shot. Focus on what you have to do to prepare for the game instead. Direct your attention to your strategy for the game and seeing yourself execute great plays. If you don’t dwell on it, your pregame jitters will go away as you get into the game.
If you think of pregame jitters as a sign of nervousness, you might be doing yourself wrong. Often they are a sign you are ready to play. Thus, you’ll simply want to change the way you think about pregame jitters. Pregame jitters are normal and even the best athletes experience them. Pregame jitters help you prepare and focus for the upcoming game. Think of it this way: the best athletes get worried if they don’t experience pregame jitters!
Your mental game tip is to stay calm when you experience pregame jitters in the opening minutes. Stay focused on your strategy and what’s important to execute. Remember: pregame jitters are important to help you prepare for the game and they will help you focus your best if you embrace them!