Fear is a natural instinct that once helped protect humans from being eaten. Though being eaten is no longer a daily problem, fear is still a large part of life. Fear is a combination of thoughts, emotions and physical responses that work together to help alert someone to danger and prepare the body to react. When a person feels fear, additional adrenaline and other chemicals are produced which increase strength and decrease reaction times.
At normal levels, fear can be helpful. At excessive levels, the chemicals and emotions triggered by fear can easily cloud judgements, create a feeling of nausea and sickness and actually decrease performance. In athletics, fear is common when players are trying something new, playing in a big game or attending team tryouts. To cope with fear, players can try these techniques:
- Admit That You Are Afraid - Recognizing that fear is a factor is the first step in correcting it.
- Learn and Prepare - Nothing minimizes fear more than being over prepared. The higher the confidence level players have in their ability, the less likely they are to become afraid of the outcome.
- Focus on Positive Images - There are many images that players can visualize when motivating themselves. If the images are positive then the outcomes are more likely to be positive. Michael Jordan often visualized making free throws in his back yard when making high-pressure free throws in games.
- Listen to Experience - When going into a new situation, seek advice from people who have been there before. Older siblings or players can help less-experienced players better understand the situation.
- Stay Busy - Withdrawing into oneself provides even more time for negative thoughts. Staying busy with friends and family is an easy way to relax and minimize the opportunity for fear.
- Talk it Over With Parents - Fear is normal and players' parents have had many opportunities to experience fear in their own lives. Parents have the unique advantage of helping players see a broader perspective.
Fear can help players. The fear of being scored against can make the defense try harder to block a shot. The fear of losing can make the offense work harder to score. However, when players keep dwelling on these fears before or after the immediate event, they need to quickly work to regain control of their emotions and stay focused on playing well rather than playing afraid.