Heart & Sole Dance just finished our competition season (everyone rocked!) and we are headed into our next competition season, which includes ballroom, swing and country!  As this article came across my desk today I thought it was perfect and a great time to share it!
We utilize many of the Bassham’s principles in our coaching at the studio.  Here are some words of wisdom directly from Troy Bassham.

Overcoming Nerves in Competition

One of the most common issues we come across is how to handle nerves before and during competition.  This is something that most people have experienced and have struggled with.  There are things you can do to tackle this issue.
First, be disciplined and follow your training plan.  I see too many people fail to follow their training plan or do not have one in the first place.  This is a must in overcoming nerves in competition.  If someone is nervous because he or she didn’t properly prepare for the event, I would understand why they would have trouble with nerves; however if the individual followed a plan and properly prepared, he or she would be in a position to trust their performance.  Preparation is a key ingredient to overcoming nerves.  When you properly prepare and nerves come into play just before or during the competition, you can remind yourself that you have prepared for this and are ready to perform.
Second, experience helps to overcome fear.  For most of us the reason we become nervous is the fear of not doing well.  We question if our performance will generate the result we desire.  This adds more pressure in competition.  However, with more competition experience we can overcome many of these feelings of nervousness and fear.
I remember going into my second National Championships and feeling less anxious than the year before.  I asked my dad if this was normal.  His response was spot on, as usual.  “Last year you didn’t know what to expect, this year you do.  You are familiar with the facility, the competitors, and the situation you are facing.”  This is why veterans have an advantage over the less experienced competitor.  They can rely on their experience to reduce nerves because they know what to expect.
Third, you must have a strategy.  The strategy we teach is a three step strategy.  You begin with mentally rehearsing how you want to feel during the competition before your warmup.  The focus should be on specifically how you want to feel during the event.  Some examples are feeling confident, calm, having fun, relaxed, and being process minded.
The next step is to do deep breathing techniques while mentally rehearsing your performance of the event.  This is done just before the start of the event.  It takes five minutes and in some sports can be done during the warmup period.  Mental rehearsal narrows your focus and increases the probability of having a good start.
The final step is the fake yawn.  This technique can be used immediately before the start of the event or during the event when nerves kick in.  This strategy forces the individual to focus on yawning and not on being nervous, at the same time generating a calming effect.  These simple strategies can provide you an advantage over your competition.