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Sports & Gaming

Simone Biles’s 7 Tips for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Sep 4, 2020 • 4 min read

Stage fright can be a part of any performance situation that takes place in front of an audience. Whether it’s a fear of public speaking, sports anxiety, or acting in front of people for the first time, any activity performed in front of others can lead to nervousness that may be a detriment to your self-esteem and inhibit your performance.

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A Brief Introduction to Simone Biles

Simone Biles is an American artistic gymnast and one of the foremost athletes of our time. She was a star of the 2016 Olympics, winning gold for the all-around, vault, and floor as well as bronze for the balance beam. At that same Olympics, she helped the U.S. team, a.k.a the “Final Five,” take home gold. She holds the record for the most gold medals for an American female gymnast at a single Olympic Games.Simone’s record at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships is unmatched. She has been undefeated in the all-around competition since 2013 and is the most decorated female gymnast in world championships history, winning 20 total medals: 14 gold, 3 silver,and 3 bronze. She is the first female gymnast to win three consecutive World All-Around titles, the first female African American all-around World Champion, and the first U.S. gymnast of either gender to win a World medal in every event. She has been a member of three gold medal–winning national teams at Worlds. With the addition of her recent win at the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships, she has now clinched 21 all-around titles in the last six years.

Simone Biles Explains How She Copes With Performance Anxiety

Simone Biles’s 7 Tips for Overcoming Performance Anxiety in Sports

When you suffer from feelings of anxiety, your body experiences a “fight-or-flight” reaction. Anxiety causes physical symptoms like raised heart rate, sweating, shaking, dry mouth, nausea, and rapid breathing—all signals that tell your body it’s in danger. Finding ways to let go or harness your nervous energy can be the key to overcoming anxiety symptoms. If you want to learn how to overcome stage fright and pull off your best performance possible, check out the following tips from world-champion gymnast Simone Biles:

  1. Go back to the fundamentals. If you’re fearful of any skill in your athletic performance, go all the way back to the basics and fundamentals of that skill to work your way back up so that you’re not fearful of it anymore. This can involve doing more drills and asking a coach for specific help so that you can gain confidence in that skill again.
  2. Treat every game as a new opportunity. If you experience performance anxiety and negative thinking, remember that every competition is a new day, a new chance to prove to yourself you can do it, and to prove to everybody else what your training was like and what you’re made of.
  3. Remember your training. Every time you set foot on a gymnastics mat or other playing field, remember that you’re doing the same exact skills you did in training. This is what you’ve been training for, so once you remove that self-doubt in your abilities, you can help yourself overcome competition anxiety.
  4. Visualize it. Imagine yourself waking up on the day of an upcoming competition. Picture yourself getting ready or arriving at the site. Use as much detail as possible so your mind thinks the experience is real, and maintain a positive and relaxed state of being as you visualize each of the steps. Picture yourself arriving at the gym and doing your warm-up stretches. Picture the people who would be there: your coach, your teammates, and any family members. This kind of mental rehearsal can aid your sport performance by getting you in the right mindset.
  5. Listen to music. Simone likes to listen to music on her way to the competition to manage her pre-competition anxiety. Listening to music can help get you overcome performance anxiety by getting you out of your head and away from negative thoughts, which can alleviate the pre-competition jitters and help you calm down.
  6. Try deep breathing exercises. Taking deep breaths is a simple relaxation technique that can help calm your body and mind. Inhale for a count of five, pause, and exhale for a count of five. As you breathe, try to relax your jaw and forehead, allow your shoulders to drop, and release any tension in your back or belly. Practice for a few minutes or until you feel centered. If you’re nervous, try making your exhale twice as long as your inhale: Inhale for a count of four and then exhale for a count of eight.
  7. Practice being confident. Simone says that when she’s lacking confidence things “can turn a little bit iffy” and “a little bit dangerous.” In a high-impact sport like gymnastics, you have to feel confident that you can land complex and dangerous maneuvers. Doubting your abilities can make you misstep and possibly hurt yourself. When she’s feeling less than confident, Simone will pretend to be confident so she can safely perform with the rest of her team. It’s important not to engage in negative self-talk around performance time. Whether it’s using positive self-talk or exuding self-confidence through body language, sometimes all it takes is faking it to make it.

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