Performance Anxiety in Sports

Did You Know?
Gregory John Norman, a.k.a Greg Norman is an Australian golfer who retained the world number 1 ranking for almost a year. His aggressive golfing style and looks earned him the nickname of “The Great White Shark.” He has a glorified record, winning over 80 championships. However, he is also popular not just for his golf, but also for the game of 1996 Masters in Augusta, where this seasoned professional player gave in to performance anxiety and “choked.”
The world of sports has drastically changed from being the entertaining realm, to an ambit of pugnacity. In a competitive game, all physical and mental limits are stretched, providing the inevitable gap for anxiety to fill in. The pressure to retain the top spot and dominate the sport can get to you.

The coordinated movement that is required for athletic events becomes tough if your body is in a tense state. Certain amount of worry is okay and can help your performance, but too much of it can induce negative thoughts, affecting your self-confidence. If your performance during practice sessions and competitions displays a significant difference, anxiety may be affecting your performance. Although you may not totally get the better of it, there are many things you can try to reduce anxiety.
What is Performance Anxiety?

The feeling of restlessness and nervousness gradually leading to self-doubt is known as performance anxiety. It is common in stage artists and sportspersons, who are required to present themselves and their skills to a large crowd. It is believed that the pressure of attaining excellence as marked by the audience is one of the greatest triggers that causes a sportsperson to choke.

Types of Sports Anxiety
According to ‘Athletic Insight’, a journal of sports psychology, anxiety can be classified in two ways: trait anxiety and state anxiety. State anxiety is situational stress induced by situations in the game. A sportsperson’s autonomic nervous system is aroused in this state, which is the natural reaction of any individual. On the other hand, trait anxiety can be thought of as a world view that an individual uses when coping with stress.
In sports, individuals who are state anxious and low on the trait anxiety in tough situations, often deliver good performances consistently. On the other hand, athletes who have higher levels of trait anxiety, added with state anxiety, tend to perform below expectations.
What Causes Performance Anxiety?
Various psychologists have tried to figure out why is it during high tension situations that our brain fails to cope up and leads to a detrimental effect on our performance. Researches have shown that expert athletes behave like amateurs under pressure.
Unfamiliar Environment
During training and preparing for any competition, an athlete focuses on improving skills in a familiar environment. All the efforts taken and practice done are, thus, stored in the procedural memory. However, in a real competitive setup, the conscious awareness of unfamiliar grounds and the presence of a crowd corrupts the memory of the practiced game. It is also found that with more involved and encouraging crowds, the pressure to achieve the best is accentuated.