Thursday, 23 May 2024

Calming Your Nerves: Focusing on What You Can Control

When it comes to playing sports, even the most seasoned athletes get nervous. The pressure of reaching the highest level of the game can be overwhelming, and it’s no different for national team players. Karch Kiraly’s Volleyblog sheds light on the fact that even players at the top of their game are not impervious to the jitters.

Take, for example, the U.S. Women’s team at the Montreux Volley Masters tournament. Five out of the 14 players on the roster were making their first appearance in a senior national team competition. Understandably, these players were very nervous. However, they were able to overcome their nerves and put on an impressive performance, earning a silver medal.

In the previous issue, we discussed the importance of maintaining a composed demeanor on the volleyball court. But what else can be done to calm those nerves? One effective strategy is to focus on the little things. Whether you’re a 12-year-old playing in a club tournament or a 26-year-old competing in an Olympic gold-medal match, concentrating on the things within your control can make a big difference.

During the Montreux tournament, each position group on the U.S. Women’s team identified something they could do to help them through the more challenging moments. For example, the passers decided to make eye contact with each other before every point and engage in some form of physical contact, such as a high five or a pat on the back. This simple routine fostered a sense of unity and provided a positive distraction from the pressure of the match.

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So, what should you think about between points? Instead of dwelling on the stress and anxiety, focus on the next play. Break it down into small, manageable tasks that you can control. For example, concentrate on the specific hitting cues that you’ve practiced repeatedly, such as “elbow up, shoulder back quickly.” By redirecting your mind to these details, you can stay in the moment and minimize the overwhelm.

Remember, nerves are a natural part of sports, but they don’t have to control your performance. By focusing on what you can control and adopting strategies to calm your mind, you can maximize your potential on the court.


Q: How can I overcome nerves when playing sports?
A: One effective strategy is to focus on the things within your control. Break down the game into small, manageable tasks and concentrate on executing them to the best of your ability. By redirecting your mind to these details, you can stay present and minimize the overwhelm.

Q: What are some practical techniques for calming nerves during a match?
A: Each athlete is different, but some common techniques include deep breathing exercises, positive self-talk, visualization, and having a pre-match routine or ritual. Finding what works best for you and incorporating it into your preparation can help calm your nerves and improve your performance.


In the world of sports, nerves are a universal experience. Even elite athletes like the U.S. Women’s national volleyball team face the challenge of managing their anxiety. However, by focusing on the things within their control and adopting practical techniques, they can overcome their nerves and deliver outstanding performances.

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One valuable strategy is to break down the game into small, manageable tasks and concentrate on executing them flawlessly. By redirecting their attention to specific cues, such as hitting techniques, they can stay present and composed on the court.

Additionally, the U.S. Women’s team found unity and distraction from the pressure by engaging in simple routines like making eye contact and sharing physical contact before each point. These actions fostered a sense of unity and helped the players stay focused and grounded.

So, whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just starting your sports journey, remember that nerves are normal. Embrace techniques that help you stay calm and focused, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving your best performance.