How To Handle Competition Jitters


Photo Credit: Stephan Potopnyk

*I wrote this article for Figure Skater Fitness Magazine, published: January 2016 issue.

Everyone experiences the jitters—nervousness before competing. Even the champions have them when they are about to compete. Tara Lipinski once said that the night before her long program at the 1998 Olympics she almost decided not to compete. She was so nervous, upset and anxious that she actually thought about pulling out of the competition. It’s a Good thing she didn’t let her nerves get the best of her. The next day, Tara was crowned the youngest Olympic champion in history. Top skaters just figure out how to deal with those nervous feelings effectively. We are all capable of learning the skills that allow us to handle our thoughts and emotions in order to perform at our best.

The starting point in mastering control over our nerves is being aware and catching ourselves in the moment we feel strong emotions emerging. Awareness means noticing your negative self-talk or, as coach Rick Carson calls it, your “gremlin.” It might be saying things like “you didn’t practice hard enough” or “your jumps aren’t as good as that person.” Observe how it ma