Jumping up and down, pacing the mats, and trying not to throw up is what you would have witnessed at my first Jiu-Jitsu tournament. Nerves or competition anxiety as some people call it, is something that I’ve had to overcome as a competitive athlete.
Adrenaline is something I get every time I’m near the mats for a competition. During my first tournament I quickly learned that mental preparation is just as important as physical. If your body is physically able, but you psych yourself out you aren’t going to be able to do as well as you might if your whole body was working together. The adrenaline rush is something that won’t go away, but turning that adrenaline from nerves to excitement is something I’ve had to work on.
One way I’ve learned to mentally prepare myself during a tournament is by mentally focusing on goals. You have to set goals for what you’re about to go do. This doesn’t just mean saying that you’re going to win although that is a great place to start!
I have learned not to put the pressure on myself to win, but to improve. I want to learn something from every tournament and every match I have. Improving my takedowns, remaining in control, or working on actually finishing my opponent are just a couple of possible goals. For the matches that don’t go my way there are still things I can set out to improve on. Things like not getting winded, escaping from a position, or improving your defense and not getting submitted. When you switch your mind set from wanting to win, to wanting to get better, you take off pressure and the nervousness lessens.
Another way I mentally prepare myself is to remind myself that it’s still Jiu-Jitsu. I’m going out doing the same techniques and the same things that I do at class three days per week. I’m simply in a different place, going against different people.
Believing in yourself and believing in your game is all going to help keep nerves at bay and help you to perform to the best of your ability!
Now when I go to tournaments, I can enjoy myself. I don’t have to pace constantly. I can warm up, get stretched out, and watch the matches before mine without the fear of throwing up! Channeling adrenaline from nerves into excitement makes competing even more fun!
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