Performance Anxiety and Tennis

Performance anxiety essential

Everyone at some point in their life has experienced performance anxiety; that sense of fear and dread that is experienced when faced with the prospect of performing to achieve a reward or recognition. The greater the reward, the more likely one is to experience performance anxiety.

To minimize the detrimental effects of performance anxiety, you need to master the art of losing your self (that awareness of self that is impacted negatively by what you think others are expecting of you and your awareness of what is at stake). When you are expected to perform at your best to achieve certain goals, your once automatic actions are now under your conscious control and your “procedural memory” is disrupted, which results in you performing at a level below your capability (performance anxiety).

Being in the zone, “performing outside of one’s conscious awareness”, can be interrupted when you become self-aware. The more supportive and friendly the fans are, the more self-aware you become and their expectations bring pressure. When you develop certain skills in practice and become good at doing them, you develop “procedural memory”; however, pressure compromises procedural memory in many people. While it is often easy to tell someone, don’t think just hit the ball; the act of thinking in pressured situations becomes almost automatic, impeding one’s ability to play outside of their conscious awareness.

When you are relaxed, there is minimal communication between the motor and reasoning areas (found in the prefrontal cortex) of the brain and your actions are automatic without conscious thought. When you are stressed, or anxious, there is increased communication between the motor and reasoning centers of your brain, which clouds the issue and leads to decreased or impaired performance. This decreased performance is often called “CHOKING”.

EXAMPLE:  when I play tennis with my friend in Central Park without the pressure of who wins or who loses, I play my best tennis. In fact, my friend always complains that she can’t keep up with me. The minute she says let’s play a match, I find myself getting tense. Now there are expectations and more is at stake. My brain goes into over drive, I lose my fluidity and I struggle to beat her. I still win, but my performance deteriorated the minute there was more at stake.

Stay tuned for more to come on performing under pressure.

SOURCE OF IMAGE: serveandrally


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