Dealing with Competition Nerves for Newbies

How to tame your butterflies.

Everyone who has had to face a pressure situation knows what it feels like to have the butterflies fly around in the tummy.  For Youngsters (or Newbies of any age for that matter) facing their first competition, how we are lead to think of the sensations associated with “pre-performance nerves” will colour every encounter with those sensations for quite some time.

Step one in taming the butterflies is:

  • knowing that everyone has them and
  • it’s ok to have them

When we notice the butterflies for the first time, it’s important to make friends with them.  I often encourage my young skaters to try and figure out how many there are and to name them (Bob seems to be everyone’s butterfly at some stage).

Step two is knowing what you’re going to have to do for them:

  • go to pee more often than usual (and if it’s a really big deal, maybe even number 2’s as well)
  • yawn (cover your mouth with your hand)
  • be organised and ready a little ahead of time, (knowing you have everything you need lets the butterflies sit down for a bit and stop tickling your tummy)
  • be around people that keep you happy (for some people, their butterflies prefer to be in a quiet spot, other people like to chat with friends…find your favourite)

Step 3 is realising what well trained butterflies can do for you:

  • The Butterflies have many names given to them by Sport Scientists (aside from the ones you’ve named them), Adrenaline, Performance Arousal, Flow, etc.
  • Well trained Butterflies are linked to positive feelings like Excitement, Focus, Energy, Determination
  • and beware, under-trained butterflies can bring feelings like Self-Doubt, Anxiousness and Distraction.

Step 4 is the training:

  • Rehearse all parts of your competition performance, including your timed warm up (make a plan with your Coach about what elements you will skate on the warm up and practice it with a stopwatch to know that you can complete your warm up within the set time period), entrance to the ice as your name is called and taking a bow after your routine.
  • Occasionally wear your competition outfit when doing a competition simulation (off ice warm up, skates and costume on, timed on ice warm up, wait your turn, get on and perform, take a bow, review your performance with your Coach).
  • Learn whether you like to watch other Skaters before your turn. Some people don’t mind, others like not to think of anything but their own performance until it’s all over.
  • At Competition, notice the parts of your preparation that have helped your Butterflies be still. Be sure to make those positives a regular part of your pre-competition routine every time.

The more often we compete, the more often we can train the Butterflies…because they don’t come out in practice very often.

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