Frozen hands, sweaty palms. Butterflies taking up all the space in the stomach, no room for food. Accelerated heart rate pulsating through the clothing. No, I'm not talking about a teenager falling in love.
Those were my symptoms. Symptoms that I felt every time before my match during the 18 years on the WTA tour. It was facing the unknown situation whereby the outcome has not yet revealed itself and I desperately wish for the outcome to swing my way that triggered them. The anticipation into the future instead of staying at the present.
It is normal to feel anxious before a competition. Competition in itself is not the problem. The symptoms associated with anxiety are not the problem. It's the experience that the child feels during and immediately following their performance on how you behave that dictates their association to competition and anxiety.
Let me explain. With anxieties, performance can suffer if the player can't get settled during the event. While struggling in their match, your kid will look at you or sense you (if they're playing on a further court) for support and encouragement. They are off balance. They are doubting their ability to handle the situation. During that intense moment, what you do and how you behave matter. In fact, it matters a lot. If they see your body language or facial expression of disapproval (shaking of the head, folding of the arms, tight jaw, pacing up and down, etc, etc) they will link your behaviors to their level of play. You become a reflection of their performance. On the contrary is also true, if your body language projects poise and confidence, your superstar will hook on those cues as well.
You see, it's not what you say as much as it is what your body language projects during the most intense moment when your child looks your way. You need to be mindful of what you do in the face of unpredictable situations. You can choose to project positive vibes with poise and calmness or moan and groan on every unforced error and every mishap. Whatever you choose, you can't be negative and positive at the same time. So, choose wisely :-)
It is natural to feel anxious about the things that we want to do very well at. Every child is different. Some have the maturity to tame their anxiety symptoms and settle into their match quickly and others need extra support. You want to be their solution, not become an added problem to their symptoms.
Best of luck this week.