Learn to use Fear to your Advantage in Sport
By Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHT
(Special Submission to USA Weightlifting)

In any sport, fear is often experienced as a bad thing. While fear can lead to less than ideal or optimal results in performance, it can also help propel athletes into some of their best performances.

Before we get into the specifics of how fear can help you win, it’s important to understand what fear is. Fear is often thought of as a noun in that it is an emotion that signals danger. However, what often gets overlooked is that fear is also a verb. When fear becomes active it triggers specific responses within the individual who is experiencing the emotion: flight or fight (http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/emotions/fear2.htm).

In the sport of weightlifting, athletes often face stressful situations when they compete. While there are many reasons weightlifters may experience fear, a common fear is the fear of failure.

While this fear—and others—is understandable, the responses that athletes have will vary. These responses can help an athlete learn to use such underlying fear to his or her advantage, or they can have a negative impact on an athlete’s performance.

Understanding how to manage fear is the key.

Here are five tips to managing fear:

1.  Breathe. Learning how to breathe MUST occur during practice and takes some time to do. However, when you learn how to breathe, you will notice that your stamina improves and your fear is more manageable. HINT: When fear becomes active, our entire body freezes up. Breathing from the lowest part of your abdomen relaxes the muscles in your body so you can remain loose. When fear is experienced as a strong emotion, we feel it in our chest and our breathing becomes shorter. Breathing from the top of your chest (above the diaphragm) helps to release the tightness so you can breathe easier. 

2.  Learn how to relax. If you are too excited, you’re going to be all over the place and burn yourself out during competition. On the other hand, if you’re too laid back you will have a difficult time. Calming the mind is part of all sports, and meditation is the common mode of learning how to find that inner peace. I strongly recommend meditating daily or at least twice a week. Here is a FREE mediation for to relax: http://highachievers.contentshelf.com/product?product=I130622000001A63

3.  Stay grounded. Confidence is one thing; arrogance is another. Never get so comfortable in your space as to think that you are above reproach. Staying humble and focused is timeless advice to performing at your best.

4.  Identify the REAL reason you’re afraid. A lot of athletes compete because they need to finish something that was left undone or release something that has been building up—and that’s OK. It’s best to know what your reason is so when it’s time to face your fear, you can do so with courage and commitment. Here is a meditation on anger and fear:http://highachievers.contentshelf.com/product?product=I130531000001966

5.  Practice game-time conditions. Competing against the same people in your gym does not make you a better athlete; it just makes you better at competing against the same person. Go to different weightlifting events so you can mix things up a bit. If you don’t have those options, ask your coach to create competition-like situations so you can become more comfortable when tournaments come around.

Compete against yourself. Competition is healthy but if you are constantly competing against others, you are more likely to experience failure. When you compete against another athlete, you tend to feel anxious and lose confidence. Instead, try to compete against your best self and beat that part of you. You are only able to control your performance, not other’s; and - NO - hoping your opponent falls short should not be part of your competition strategy or training.

With love and light, I wish you all pleasant journeys.

ABOUT US: International Sport Achievers are taekwondo sport psychology experts. Working with Olympians like 2004 silver medalist Nia Abdallah (http://youtu.be/vWSEbdFvBi8), we have developed some of the best taekwondo athletes and other sport athletes from the ground up. We are committed to ensuring that all athletes have an opportunity to compete at the top of their game while developing the skills they need for life. If you have questions or would like more information go towww.SportAchiever.com; send us an email at TKD@HighAchiever.net; or call us 312-382-8710.