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The #1 student news site of Yorba Linda High School

The Wrangler

The #1 student news site of Yorba Linda High School

The Wrangler

A Guide for Student Athletes: Strategies to Ease Pre-Competition Stress

Cynthia Lan
YLHS’s swimming athletes participated in the 2024 CIF prelims held at Mt. SAC.

As the countdown to a competition begins, athletes will naturally feel the excitement and pressure. Having some of those emotions is normal, but sometimes, too much of it might affect the performance of the competition; the practice result may be better than the competition result. If you are struggling with pre-competition stress, you’ve clicked on the right article. Understanding the sources of this stress is the first step to managing it. 


The stress in sports often stems from internal pressures to perform well, such as external expectations from coaches, teammates, and supporters, as well as the uncertainties that come with competitive environments. However, with the right methods and support, student-athletes can be ready to handle these challenges and take to the race with confidence.


One of the Yorba Linda High School Football coaches, Mr. Aed (S), points out that the most common source of stress for athletes is the desire for good performance. He says that “[h]ours of practice time goes into preparation for each game/match/event. Similar to taking a test, athletes get limited opportunities to showcase their abilities to complete the task at hand,” and that in most sports, “[s]uccess for an athlete is not singular. Teammates depend on them to do their part flawlessly in order for everything else to fall into place. On that note, being accountable to the team and their teammates forces athletes to think less about ME and more about WE. Athletes never want to let their coaches and teammates down when their moment arrives.” 


Mr. Aed (S) also provides an effective way to manage pre-game stress: to “use music to ‘get their minds right’ before games.” Additionally, prayer plays a significant role in helping athletes calm down and concentrate. Before leading into an event, the best advice he can give coaches and players is “[b]eing prepared…[K]nowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it will slow the game down and breed confidence with every new situation.” As for the uncertainties in the game, he added, “…understanding that mistakes will be made and getting over it quickly and moving on will allow athletes to maintain positivity and confidence as the game goes on and the next opportunity for success presents itself.”


Mrs. Shube (S), the Head Coach of Cheer and Song from YLHS, shares some additional methods that her athletes have found effective, stating, “The stress for cheer and song in competitive situations usually centers on whether or not the athletes can execute the skills they need to in the routine. Managing stress is really an individual endeavor. Some need to visualize the routines, successfully hitting the questionable skills. Some need to get hyped up and excited, taking their minds off of their anxiety. ” 


She says that “playing upbeat, inspiring music before they compete can help focus their energy,” and that “[v]isualizing is usually an effective strategy. I tell my athletes to close their eyes and picture their routines executed the way they want them to look. 


One piece of advice she can give athletes is to “[b]e thoughtful of your particular stress and how you best process through it. Find a routine and pattern of pre-competition prep that works for you.”


One thing to keep in mind is that developing a pregame routine involves not only physical preparation but also mental preparation. Engaging in activities such as listening to music, journaling, or positive self-talk can help athletes focus and channel their energy into productive pathways. However, it is important to avoid overthinking or dwelling on potential outcomes, as this may unnecessarily increase stress levels.


Ultimately, there are many different ways to manage pre-competition stress, and what works best for one athlete may not work as well for another. The key is to experiment with different strategies and find what works best for you. With practice and support, you can learn to manage your stress and perform your best when it matters most. By understanding the sources of stress and implementing effective strategies, student-athletes can compete calmly and confidently and be prepared to give their best effort on the track, field, or court.


Despite the stress, athletes who read this article should thrive on the challenge and use it as motivation to push themselves to be their best.

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About the Contributor
Cynthia Lan
Cynthia Lan, Photojournalist
Cynthia Lan is a sophomore at Yorba Linda High School, and she is eager to embark on her second year at The Wrangler. She is a member of the women's varsity swimming team. Her favorite subject is biology. Outside of school, Cynthia enjoys watching movies, spending time with friends and family, and listening to music. On weekends, she is at the pool and practices swimming with her swim club. In the future, Cynthia hopes to study sports medicine, because it is what she loves. Cynthia wants to publish impactful articles through the newspaper and engage the Yorba Linda community positively.

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