Embrace your on-court nerves

Published by Allistair McCaw

Even the best in the world get nervous. Photo: Getty Images
Ever been told to “hold your nerve” before a big match? Sometimes that’s literally true. While nerves can negatively impact performance in some instances, they can bring out the best in others. Allistair McCaw explains.

Do you get nervous before a match or before competing? Then good, because – guess what? – even the very best athletes in the world get nervous too.

Many times I’ve been in the gym or locker room and witnessed players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and many other top names and, they aren’t as relaxed as you’d might think. In fact, in Nadal’s biography, My Story, he admits that he has at least four toilet stops before going onto court!

On that subject, a quick story, that I hope doesn’t happen to you: I raced in the 2002 World Duathlon Championships back in Atlanta. A teammate of mine missed the start due to being in the bathroom – he had gone several times due to nerves. His nerves got the better of him!

Many times I get asked “Allistair, how do I get rid of nerves?” and my answer is “Why do you want to get rid of something so vital to performing well?”

It’s not getting rid of nerves that matters. It’s about managing them and using them to your advantage. In other words, you need to change your mindset about them

RELATED: How to prepare like the pros

Many people see nerves as a negative or something that can hurt their performance, because they have taught themselves to think that way. However, to most world-class athletes, nerves are seen as a “ready to go” adrenaline that’s necessary for a top performance.

What these elite athletes also do incredibly well is keep a confident and calm composure on the outside – they never look nervous and hide it well.

Here are five reasons why you should embrace nerves:

1. Because you see them as a sign from your body that you’re ready to compete, it’s a positive “ready to go” adrenaline.

2. Because even the very best athletes in the world get them before a match.

3. Because they’re telling you that something great is going to happen out there on court. It’s the excitement of the unexpected.

4. Because your opponent is probably even more nervous than you, except you know how to handle them better.

5. Because if you didn’t get nervous then what you were doing wouldn’t mean that much or be that special to you.

So my message is this: embrace nerves and remember that even the champions get them. Emulate these champions by looking confident next time you walk out onto the court and know that you are ready to compete!

Allistair McCaw is a Florida-based sports performance specialist who has trained athletes in tennis, squash and other professional sports. He has worked with Bernard Tomic, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Dinara Safina and Xavier Malisse, among others.

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