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Erin Mirabella
Erin Mirabella
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Helping kids combat nerves.

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Try This At Home……………….

Have your child make a list of the ingredients that make up his or her perfect performance, whether it is for sports, school, or something else.  For example, do they need to be aggressive, patient, calm, thorough, go harder on a certain cue, watch for a certain tactic, etc.  Once he or she has written it down, have them close their eyes and visualize having the perfect performance, by doing all of the things on the list. Have your child visualize this daily.  Next time he or she starts to get nervous, pull out the list and have them focus on the specific things he or she needs to do to be successful. Your child’s pre-performance routine is also important.   I’ll discuss that in next week’s blog.


Are you one of those people like me, who gets nervous before competition, or are you more like my husband, Chris, who hardly gets nervous at all?  How about your kids?

If your kids get very nervous before their performance, they may not be competing at their best and worst-case scenario may develop an aversion to competing.   Pre-competition jitters are good to a point, but past that they become detrimental. Help your child deal with extreme nervousness, by discovering the root of the problem and teaching them tactics for combating their nerves.

During my cycling career I got extremely nervous before races.  The more important a race was to me, the more nervous I got.  Since track racing was my main focus, I was painfully nervous before every race.  Once I started racing I was fine, but it was not uncommon for me to make myself ill to the point of puking before a race.  The question always became, whether or not I could control my nerves enough to prevent them from negatively affecting my racing. Even through I loved track racing, I started enjoying road racing more, simply because I didn’t get as nervous for it. Thankfully I learned some tactics to combat my nerves, but it was still something that I struggled with at every race. 

One of my motivations for doing this weekly blog is to help the next generation overcome some of the detrimental hang-ups that I watched myself and other Olympians battle with during our careers.  Each of us had our own personal nemesis that, left unchecked, inhibited us from reaching our full potential.  A lot of the reason I would get so nervous was due to my nemeses, my unrealistically high expectations and fear of failure.  These are topics for their own blog posts, but I mention them because I think it’s important to get to the root of the problem.  You and your children might have different reasons for being nervous, but no matter the cause, here are some things that I found that helped me. 

I tried not to think; it was my worst enemy.  I have an overactive imagination and the what-ifs always got me.  One of the reason’s I trained so hard, was so that when race time came instinct would kick in.  If I could turn my brain off and go on autopilot, my body would take over and do what it did every day in training. I knew if I could just get to the start line with out psyching myself out, I’d be fine.

The what-ifs can be motivating for some, but for me they became all consuming.  I knew that in order to be successful at racing, I had to stop thinking about the end result and focus on the things I had to do  in order to be successful.  So, Instead of thinking about winning or losing, I focused on things like my pre-race routine, my aggressiveness and pack positioning during the race. (For those readers who aren’t cyclists, a group of cyclists is called a pack.)  Since in the end I couldn’t control what my competition did or didn’t do, I tried to stop worry about them and focus on what I could control.  If I focused on the small picture things, I found the big picture took care of itself.

Lastly, and this was something I was crummy at remembering, our past does not have to be indicative of our future.  Each new competition is just that, new.  It is a fresh start, and while it’s important to learn from our past mistakes they don’t need to define us.  In addition, Remind them  to have some fun.

Hopefully these will give you a starting point when it comes to fighting nerves. If you have any tactics that help you, please share them.

My children’s book, Gracie Goat’s Bike Race, addresses Gracie’s fears and anxiety’s.  It is a great book to read to kids who are nervous because they are worried about all of the what-ifs.  For more information on Gracie please visit www.erinmirabella.com.