It’s now 36 hours before kick-off of the Big Game.  Players have endured the media hype and other distractions.  Now reality starts to hit. The Big Game may be the biggest sports stage in the world.  It all comes down to one game.  One chance to win.  Performance anxiety is real even at this level.  I even have a bit of it as a fan!  But performance anxiety doesn’t have to be all bad.  In fact, if focused and balanced correctly, it can be a good thing.

Six Spokes of the Wheel

In my last post I referenced the, “Wheel of Excellence,” and distractions (1). Five other factors include positive imagery,  confidence, commitment, ongoing learning, and mental readiness . In a recent interview Chief’s quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he practices visualization to the point of holding up the championship trophy!  Do you see your trophy?  Confidence can grow through rehearsal.  This is an uncommon but differentiating practice in the business world.  Do you regularly rehearse for your Big Game?  Recommitment to your goals and keeping an open mind to learning from your preparation routine can focus anxiety in the right direction?  Flexibility to make adjustments can help stifle unhealthy pre-game anxiety and create new options for doing what it takes to achieve and even exceed your goal. What about mental readiness?

Mental Readiness = Healthy Performance Anxiety

Mental readiness can help morph performance anxiety from a deficit to a benefit.  Readiness can range from opening up your mind to all of your emotions, or practicing mindfulness, to managing ANTs or automatic negative thoughts (2,3).  Evidence suggests that both can play a role in reducing performance anxiety to a healthy level.  Other options include prayer, meditation, and deep-breathing techniques.

By now each player has a ritual and routine they rely on to stay calm and focused.  Do you have a pre-Big Game routine?  If you are a day or two before your Big Game the time for skill training and building technical prowess has passed.  Now it’s all about how you, “Show up,” in the moment that matters most.  Conquering pre-Big Game jitters is one key to winning.  You may only get one chance.

COMING IN PART 5 (and a Supplemental Part 6)

It’s Big Game Time!  You will not want to miss it!

  • Orlick & Partington, 2008
  • IevaIeva & Terry, 2008
  • Henriksen, et al., 2019