Image: Sergei Supinsky / AFP
Stomach tense with nervous excitement in the build up to the next elimination game, the team jersey worn with pride, and the inescapable fear of being knocked out of the competition—and that's just the fans! We asked Anthony Mette, author of "Préparation mentale du sportif "*—a book focusing on the mental preparation of sportspeople— about how fans can manage their stress during a crucial match.
Prepare for the worst-case scenario
We all know that sport is never an exact science, and starting out as a favorite can inevitably lead to disappointment. Anthony Mette advises fans to anticipate the worst-case scenarios to help them hold on to hope when things get tough. This is what is known as shields. "The more a supporter is able to anticipate the key moments of a match, the more they will spot weaknesses and be useful for supporting the team." And, since the supporters in a stadium can influence the match by 20% to 30%, according to the coach, it's definitely worth preparing.
Remember to breathe
"The whole stadium is holding its breath." It's a natural reflex when under stress, but it's counterproductive to keeping calm. Poor oxygenation creates noradrenaline, leading to undesirable effects such as accelerating heart rate and slowing down digestion. To help keep your breathing in check, the coach suggests doing breathing exercises throughout the day. Taking the time to breathe in and out slowly and deeply can help keep you calm during a tense game.
Focus on fair-play
This is easier said than done, especially in a sport where banter and joshing are all part of the culture. However, having a positive attitude will help you to enjoy the moment while keeping the atmosphere pleasant, jovial and positive. The coach notes that a light-hearted attitude cheers on players with encouragement while allowing fans to enjoy the game even more. And this way, if the pressure mounts, it's more likely to lead to celebration than violence.
These tips can also be helpful in other, more common stressful situations, so why not try them out during a game and adopt them on a daily basis?
*"Préparation mentale du sportif" [Mental preparation for sportspeople] by Anthony Mette, published by Vigot, 2017
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