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Home Performance Skills Calming Pregame Jitters

Calming Pregame Jitters

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10 Keys to Calming Your Pregame Jitters

Do your palms get sweaty before a game? Do you get butterflies in your stomach? Is it hard to focus? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you may have had pre-game jitters. 

Here are 4 things you should do before a game:

1. Establish a routine. The game day routine starts when you wake up, and ends when the buzzer or whistle goes off. You should determine how many hours before the game you need to get up to accomplish all of the steps in your routine. A few of the components in the routine are calorie intake, fluids, travel time to game location, warm-up, stretching, equipment check, mental exercises, etc.... Some components will vary depending upon the type and length of the game, but the basic framework will remain constant. Every game is different, but developing a consistent routine will provide a familiar base from which to compete in your game. It will also give you confidence that you know you are ready to perform

2. Mental exercises. You will often see top athletes close their eyes and engage in seemingly strange behavior, appearing either catatonic or moving to some unseen rhythm. The latter is especially evident in downhill skiers who sway and gyrate. They are rehearsing all the elements required in the race. This mental imagery helps you focus and plan each stage of your race. This takes the over-energized concept of “PLAY HARD, WIN”, and changes it into a series of steps, calmly planned and executed. Sometimes music (via headphones) is useful but it must not be distracting nor result in the wrong mood.

3. Breathing exercises and progressive muscular relaxation are other techniques that can alter your level of SNS activation and reduce unwanted muscular tension.

4. Monitor your body. Look for, and pay attention to, the signals your body provides. This will give you feedback as to the state of your SNS. Pulse rate, respiration rate, sweat rate, tremor and other clues give you a way to see where you are, and how effective your modulating techniques are.


6 things to avoid before a game: 

  1. Avoid fiber rich foods in the two days leading up to a game. The extra ‘bulk’ in the intestines means the cramping and diarrhea will be worse.
  2. Avoid anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., ibuprofen) since these alter prostagladin synthesis and can result in intestinal cramps and diarrhea.  Also avoid diphenhydramine and other over-the-counter antihistamines because of their sedating effects..
  3. Avoid protein/ fat rich foods for breakfast on game day.
  4. Be careful of caffeine. Some athletes use caffeine as a performance aid, but too much can definitely cause intestinal cramping and diarrhea, and contribute to nervousness and rapid pulse.
  5. Stay away from pseudoephedrine and other stimulants. Not only are these decongestants banned, but they may have considerable neurological (e.g., anxiety) and cardiovascular (e.g., rapid pulse) side effects.
  6. Avoid nicotine.