The Sport Information Resource Centre
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The Sport Information Resource Centre

It is the dying seconds of a basketball game. Your team is down. Making the next basket would lift your team to victory. What do you do? Some players live for the high-pressure moments and want the ball in their hands, since the game is on the line. Others struggle under the pressure and may experience performance anxiety that can hinder their ability to perform. These high-pressure moments are where championships are won or lost and where heroes and villains are made. In amateur sport, clutch moments such as these, and how athletes deal with the associated pressure, could be the difference in motivating an athlete to press forward or drop out.

Being a competitive athlete comes with pressure and high expectations, which can lead to stage fright or performance anxiety. Performance anxiety can impair your ability to perform physically, psychologically or both. It can cause you to think too much – to imagine that even a routine groundball might seem like something you never learned. Even highly skilled and talented athletes with performance anxiety can lose their ability to perform, assuming the label of choke artists. The ability to remain relaxed, stay positive, having the right energy level, visualizing and the ability to concentrate can help alleviate some of the negative outcomes caused by performance anxiety.

Great athletes are well prepared, confident, calm under pressure and mentally focused in the present. Being nervous before a game or performance routine is part of competing. However, when fear and anxiety limit your ability to perform, you need to create manageable methods to diminish anxiety and help you focus on your performance. A few ways you can deal with performance anxiety include:

  • Practicing for those moments. The more you practice the more confident you will become and the less nervous you will feel.
  • Focusing on things you can control.
  • Meditation 
  • Mental Imagery 

Practicing performing under pressure, focusing on things you can control, relaxing to keep yourself focused on the task at hand, and visualization can help control performance anxiety. Being an athlete comes with pressure and high expectations. Being able to control the inevitable nerves can lead to better performances and keep you focused.

References from the SIRC Collection:

1. Abrahamsen F, Pensgaard A. Longitudinal Changes in Motivational Climate and Performance Anxiety Among Elite Handball Players. International Journal Of Applied Sports Sciences. June 2012;24(1):31-42.
2. ABOUZEKRI O, KARAGEORGHIS C. Effects of precompetition state anxiety interventions on performance time and accuracy among amateur soccer players: Revisiting the matching hypothesis. European Journal Of Sport Science. May 2010;10(3):209-221.
3. Englert C, Bertrams A. Anxiety, Ego Depletion, and Sports Performance. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology. October 2012;34(5):580-599.
4. Khalsa S, Shorter S, Cope S, Wyshak G, Sklar E. Yoga Ameliorates Performance Anxiety and Mood Disturbance in Young Professional Musicians. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback. December 2009;34(4):279-289.
5. NICHOLLS A, POLMAN R, LEVY A. Coping self-efficacy, pre-competitive anxiety, and subjective performance among athletes. European Journal Of Sport Science. March 2010;10(2):97-102.
6. Paul M, Garg K. The Effect of Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback on Performance Psychology of Basketball Players. Applied Psychophysiology & Biofeedback. June 2012;37(2):131-144.


The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.