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Many people take up sports mainly for the fun and thrill of it. However, little is known that sports do experience its fair share of stress as well. Stress has reportedly been the cause of many poor performances among athletes and sportsmen. How does stress affect sports?
Before, during or even after a sport event, stress can affect you in many ways that would ultimately determine the outcome of your performance. For sports coaches, athletes or any sportsman, the need to be focused when under training or in the midst of a competition is of utmost importance. Under the negative effects of stress, a form of psychological tension i.e. performance anxiety may develop which has the tendency to distract you from staying focused which in turn would adversely affect the outcome of your performance in any sports events.
In addition to the psychological effects of stress, we may also experience negative physical effects of stress. Your body may experience physical tension. It may be in the form of muscle tightening which in turn affect the body co-ordination, speed, fluidity of movement, hand-eyes movement etc. This can also make a mark difference in the outcome of your performance.
“What can you do to reduce the effect of stress affecting your sports performance?”
There are a number of ways on how to reduce stress so as to improve your performance.
1. As part of stress management techniques that were frequently taught, it is best to learn how to isolate your stress from your sports activities. Very often, people tend to bring along their problems be it personal or work related into their sports activities. A simple way to avoid influencing your performance by stress is to learn how to “let-go”. Just forget about your stress, your work and focus on your pleasurable activities. Enjoy the sport that you are playing!
2. Before entering into any sports activities, do some mental focusing whereby you force yourself to think only of the sport activities and nothing else. Some deep breathing or the use of relaxation exercise may be helpful.
3. Avoid taking any caffeinated beverages, high protein or high fat food at least 6 hours before your sport activities. These food or beverages may be sources of hidden stressor creating physical stress within your body.
4. Try visualizing your performance before the start of your game. If you are playing basketball, try to visualize how you can choose the best angle to throw the ball into the net. If you are playing soccer, just imagine how you would dribble the ball past your opponents and into the goal posts and if you are playing golf, visualizing how you would swing your golf club for the best hit. It is believed that visualization can greatly improve your performance.
Strange as it seems, mental visualization is a very powerful tool. It helps to reinforce your instinctive moves during your match. When you practice mental rehearsing, you tend to be able to sharpen your skills and the outcome of your performance may be amazing.
It’s evident that stress does affect sports performance. Nevertheless, its influence can be minimized if you can maintain both a relaxed state of mind and body.