“I think (performance anxiety is) a very natural thing for all athletes to go through, especially when you’re doing (a) pretty competitive sport … you’re always going to have expectations for what you should be doing,” said Felix Waterman, a sophomore at Berkeley High School and an archer in the Regional Elite Development Program.
In terms of sports, performance anxiety is when one feels fear of playing in a game or competition due to pressure. It can prevent athletes from playing to their full capability. Different athletes have different causes for feeling this pressure and how they can overcome it.
Waterman shared that he feels performance anxiety due to his long relationship with the sport.
“The main (cause) is, I’ve been doing it for around some time,” said Waterman, “I’m going to the same tournaments again. And I have previous scores and previous things that I feel like I need to do better than because I need to show improvement. So I’m really just psyching myself out.”
Oliver Rose-Haiman, a junior and a member of the BHS badminton team, stated that his performance anxiety comes from wanting to impress the coach and do well for the team. He shared how the pressure can also have physical effects on him during his game.
“I feel like both teams are watching me,” Rose-Haiman said, “I feel like I have to have some outstanding performance, outstanding shots and it gets to my head, and I started to mess up some of my shots, I started to not play as well as I normally would. And sometimes that gives me a stomach ache. Sometimes it gives me a headache.”
According to Alice Sinclair, a sophomore at BHS and a part of the Piedmont swim team, she usually feels the most stressed before her first swim race but can naturally get rid of the stressful feeling as she starts her first event.
“Usually when I start swimming, I feel less stressed because I feel like swimming is really meditating for me,” Sinclair said, “And because I’m just thinking about swimming … I’m just thinking about getting to the end of the race. And not how well I will do it because I’ve already started.”
For Waterman, distracting himself from the pressure and going over his form helps him to be in a calmer state. He added that he has also been doing mental training and mental fortitude in order to be able to control his mind better during a competition.
Rose-Haiman also shared his experience with handling his performance anxiety.
“Since I’m a doubles (badminton) player, I can talk to my partner, we can handle the situation together, calm each other down, and be there for each other,” said Rose-Haiman, “In between games, I can take a break and breathe, I can drink some water. You know, anything that’s in my head, make myself reset and calm down.”