Back to School Stress: How to Mentally Prepare for Tryouts

Summer is coming to an end, students are heading back to school, and sports tryouts are right around the corner. Athletes of all ages experience jitters when it comes to tryouts or being scouted. No matter your level of play, these four tips can help you prepare your mind so that you can confidently perform under pressure during tryout.

1. Introduce yourself to the coach.

Arrive early, walk confidently, and introduce yourself to the coaching staff. This shows basic communication skills, that you can take the initiative to meet new people, and that you can be a cooperative team member. The lost art of communication includes eye contact, a formal introduction including your name and position, and a firm handshake. A formal introduction can break the ice and help you feel more comfortable as tryouts begin.

2. Think positively.

Keeping a positive mindset seems like a no-brainer, but it can be hard to do when you are under pressure. Be confident in your athletic skills and take pride in your presence on the field or on the court. If you find yourself thinking negative thoughts — e.g., “this is hard,” “the other athletes are better,” “I don’t belong here” — stop yourself and rephrase the statements into something positive. “This is hard,” can be rephrased into “this is challenging, but I can do it;” “the other athletes are better,” can be rephrased into “playing with talented athletes will help me get better;” and “I don’t belong here,” can be rephrased into “I want to be on the team and I deserve to be here.” Staying positive will help you build confidence in your skills and ability to develop a strong mind under pressure.

3. Do not compare yourself to others.

It can be challenging to focus on yourself during tryouts when you have dozens of other athletes around you, some competing for the same spot as the one you have your eye on. Checking out other athletes’ performances and making comparisons to your performance is a distraction. It is the coaches’ job to compare your skills to others and to determine the needs of the team. The more time you spend comparing yourself to others, the less time and mental energy you have to focus on performing at your best.

4. Focus on the current play.

Let go of previous plays and do not worry about upcoming plays. Focusing on the current play allows you to be fully present. Thinking about the past and wondering about the future pulls your attention away from important details that are happening right now. Refocus yourself and try your best during every play. You can take time during a break to analyze your performance and make necessary adjustments for when you return to the field or court.

Developing a strategy to help reduce tryout jitters can help you remain calm and focused on your athletic performance. Taking time to introduce yourself to the coach, thinking positively, concentrating on your performance, and staying focused on the current play are four ways you can mentally prepare for tryouts. Go get ’em champ!