How They Do It
What are the keys to an athlete changing the arousal feelings to positive results? Psychologists point to three main areas:
1. An athlete’s focus on performance rather than results
3. No thinking to the point of surrendering to skills
Athletes have a better chance to be successful during a crisis point in a match if they are not focused on the results of their performance, according to Nideffer. In a previous chapter, Nideffer said that an effective way to get into neutral in a performance is to use cues during high stress thoughts that focus on execution of a skill or strategy, rather than the potential results of a performance. The ball coming at you would be a process cue, he said. [Such cues] are stimuli that trigger very complex, yet automatic, motor responses. Quite often, these cues are emotionally neutral. As an athlete gets caught up in the process cues, and in the process of performing, arousal automatically adjusts to a more optimal level. But if an athlete thinks about winning rather than the process of what it takes to win, arousal may be increased too much, Nideffer says.
Body Bridge Exercise
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Jack Nicklaus says it’s important for athletes to make an effort to understand their fears, to recognize that it can be either an ally or a foe. Many times when fear starts to hit me, my best chance of overcoming it lies in facing it squarely and examining it rationally, he says. Here’s what I say to myself: ‘OK, what are you frightened of? You’ve obviously played well or you wouldn’t be here. You’re still playing well overall. You’re always telling yourself you get your biggest kicks out of the challenges of golf. Well, go ahead and enjoy yourself. Play each shot one at a time and meet the challenge.’
Confidence is the key link to overcome or channel nervousness, said Dan Millman. Athletes can get a better result from their arousal just by slightly changing their attitude from a negative to a positive, he said. If your mind is filled with negative images or ideas ‘I’d better do well or it will be humiliating; my parents (girlfriend, boyfriend, teammates) are depending on me I can’t mess up; I hope I don’t break my neck’ then you will experience the jitters as fear, weakness, or even paralysis. If you work on positive images ‘Now is my chance to come through in a real pinch; my parents (girlfriend, boyfriend, teammates) are going to be proud of me; wow, look at that enthusiastic audience’ then you’ll experience these nerves as excitement and anticipation.