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Learning to Deal with Performance Anxiety in Sports

Learning to Deal with Performance Anxiety in Sports

Nearly every athlete, from every walk of life and every level of skill is familiar with the feeling of anxiety in sport, both before and during games, practices, and competitions. In fact, knowing how to deal with performance anxiety in sports might just be the best way to improve your performance. You can work with the best equipment available but still be held back by your mindset. 

This is why eSmartr and HEAD are working together – to offer equipment that helps you deal with anxiety in sport and competitive environments, and to help you focus on your mental game and physical performance side by side.

Understanding Anxiety in Sport

There are two types of anxiety that can affect your sporting performance: cognitive anxiety and somatic anxiety.1 Somatic anxiety means physical anxiety: feeling your heart pounding before a game, or sweating in a cool room for no apparent reason; cognitive anxiety occurs within the brain, and can take the form of negative thoughts and troubles focusing.2

Kirsty Dunne rests before a game wearing an eSmartr HEAD sleeve.

The good news is that there are plenty of studies to suggest that these reactions are normal, and vary from person to person based on factors such as event type and how well a player has been performing lately.3
Similarly, studies have found that, unsurprisingly, your average level of anxiety and self-confidence is typically reflected in your athletic performance.4

This is why it is so important to learn how to deal with performance anxiety in sports! It can noticeably improve your game.

How to Deal with Performance Anxiety in Sports

There are a lot of ways to manage anxiety in sport situations. Some of our best methods include:

  • Set achievable goals – make sure you aren’t asking too much of yourself! We see it all the time with professional athletes after signing a big contract or demanding a trade, as they try to do too much and, ultimately, their performance suffers because of it. One way to combat this, whether you’re a top level athlete or a new recreational athlete, is to set up a feedback system that is trustworthy, consistent, and that works for you. This can be a coach, a training partner, or even yourself – but studies have shown that positive motivational profiles lead to reduced performance anxiety.5
  • Practice wellness – Mindful breathing, meditation, and relaxation techniques can be invaluable for an anxious athlete. Again, many professional athletes work closely with sports psychologists, sleep therapists, dieticians, and other specialized wellness professionals to help them relax away from the sport so they can compete at their best level. There are plenty of guides available to help you focus on calming yourself. The eSmartr smart compression sleeve can also help here, as its cognitive-boost design allows it to non-invasively improve your sense of mental focus, clarity, and calm.
  • Find sources of confidence – Confidence is the anti-anxiety. Begin looking at how your own performance changes from game to game and see the improvements. Use the best-quality gear you can. Remember that you love the game you’re playing and that nothing else is more important.
    • You can also use visualization techniques to boost your confidence; picture, as vividly as you can, the outcome you want most. Your brain will react to the image and work to make it happen!6

An eSmartr HEAD sleeve working to beat performance anxiety in sports.

HEAD and eSmartr can help you to deal with performance anxiety in any sports events by providing you with the best equipment to boost your physical and mental game. Ultimately, however, it’s down to you to take care of yourself and ensure that you’re in the best place possible mentally before every competition. You are your own most steadfast teammate – work with yourself, and you’ll come through for yourself every time.


2. Ford, J. L., Ildefonso, K., Jones, M. L., & Arvinen-Barrow, M. (2017). Sport-related anxiety: current insights. Open access journal of sports medicine, 8, 205–212.
3. Castelo G., B. S., Cortez L., A. C., Roberto Andrade do Nascimento Júnior R., Thamires C., L. G., Francisco E., Q. C., Ferreira G., d. M. (2019). Analysis of pre-competitive anxiety of brazilian young swimmers. Acta Scientiarum. Health Sciences, 41.
4. Woodman,T, Hardy, L. (2003). The relative impact of cognitive anxiety and self-confidence upon sport performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of sports sciences. 21. 443-57. 10.1080/0264041031000101809.
Chu T.L.,  Zhang T.,  Hung T.M., (2018). Motivational profiles in table tennis players: Relations with performance anxiety and subjective vitality, Journal of Sports Sciences, 36:23, 2738-2750, DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1488517

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