Conquering Those Competition Nerves

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Cheer competition is fun and exciting, but it can also be very stressful if you suffer from competition nerves, AKA stage fright. If that applies to you, you are not alone; performing or speaking in front of an audience is the most common social anxiety disorder. Having a few butterflies before a performance is normal, but if you find yourself overwhelmed by fear and anxiety before a competition, here are a few simple tricks to help you calm those nerves.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The better you know your routine, the more confident you will feel when you step onto the mat, and the more likely you will be to stay calm. Clarifying your goals will help you know what you need to do to perform well.

Believe in Yourself

Again, self-confidence is key to performing your best. I often tell my cheerleaders that by the time they get to competition, they should be able to do the routine in their sleep. Coaches, if your cheerleaders aren’t hitting a stunt, tumbling pass, or jump sequence at least 80% of the time in practice, take out the element until they are. You can always put it in for the next competition after they have had more time to perfect it.

Know That Others Believe in You, Too

Believe it or not, the audience wants you to do well. Your coach believes (or should believe) that you will succeed. Even the judges want to like you. Trust me, anyone who is willing to judge a cheer competition appreciates and wants to reward the hard work that it takes to perfect those skills. So give them a big smile and be an entertainer!

Remember Nobody’s Perfect

A large part of social anxiety stems from the fear of showing vulnerability and being ridiculed for making mistakes. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, nobody is perfect, and nobody expects you to be perfect. Keep telling that to yourself until you truly believe it.

Think Positive

Many people who suffer from stage fright are negative thinkers. Instead of worrying about everything that could go wrong, practice visualizing yourself and your team hitting your routine. Focus on performing well and recovering from adversity and overcoming challenges.

Who Loves You, Baby?

You may have heard of the old public speaking tip of imagining your audience in their underwear. It’s supposed to make you laugh, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, think of the person or people who love you the most—grandma, mom, dad, your favorite aunt or teacher. Now imagine that the audience and judging panel is full of those people. Not only should that make you less nervous, it will help you smile, too!

Practice Good Nutrition

Have a light but healthy meal a few hours before the competition, and avoid sugar and caffeine. If you need a snack to keep up your energy, go with something nutritious like yogurt with nuts, some fresh veggies, or a piece of fruit. You can also try drinking a glass of orange or grapefruit juice, which may help lower your blood pressure.

Keep Calm and Carry On!

Do some deep breathing, meditate, or practice yoga—any of these calming exercises will help lower your heart rate and blood pressure and, more importantly, take your mind off of yourself and your worries and place it back where it belongs—on entertaining your audience.

Stage fright can seem overwhelming, but with a lot of hard work and a little bit of imagination, you can calm those competition nerves and put on a great show!

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Marge Packman

Marge was a member of her high school pom team and has coached youth and school cheer for over 17 years. She has a BA in English from Northern Illinois University (Go, Huskies!). After graduation she joined the Peace Corps, met her husband, and moved to The OC. After cheer practice, you can find her watching football with her son or perusing the scrapbooking aisles with her daughter.

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