Embrace the Jitters – How to Make Jitters your Best Friend

Dealing with jitters or pre-match nerves is a common challenge in any sport, including pickleball. Like many things in life, it is often best to embrace obstacles or circumstances that stand before us. Wishing something away or trying to ignore it usually does not work. A certain degree of jitters can be helpful as it creates focus, determination, and presence in your game. However, sometimes too much of the jitters can lead to fear, worry, and apprehension which can negatively affect your game.
Here are a few strategies to help you manage jitters and turn that energy into a positive tool in your game:

1. Pre-Game Routine

Establish a pre-game routine that includes activities you find calming and enjoyable. This might involve stretching, listening to music, or engaging in a light warm-up. Having a routine can help create a sense of familiarity and reduce anxiety.

2. Positive Visualization

Visualize yourself performing well and feeling confident on the pickleball court. Imagine executing your shots effectively and enjoying the game. This positive visualization can help counteract nervous thoughts and boost your self-belief.

3. Controlled Breathing

Deep breathing exercises can be an effective tool for managing jitters. Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose, hold briefly, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. This technique helps slow your heart rate and induce a sense of calmness.

4. Focus on the Process

Instead of fixating on the outcome or the pressure of winning, focus on the process of playing pickleball. Concentrate on your technique, footwork, and strategy. Shifting your attention to the present moment can help reduce anxiety. Focus on following the ball from the moment it leaves your opponent’s paddles to a few moments after it leaves your paddle.

5. Positive Self-Talk

Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations and encouragement. Remind yourself of your strengths and capabilities. Repeat phrases like "I am prepared," "I trust my skills," or "I enjoy the game." This self-talk can boost your confidence and alleviate jitters.

6. Embrace the Challenge

Recognize that feeling nervous before a game is natural and a sign that you care about your performance. Instead of trying to eliminate jitters completely, view them as a source of energy and excitement that can enhance your focus and competitiveness.
Remember that everyone experiences jitters to some extent, even professional athletes. With practice and experience, you can learn to manage them effectively and perform your best on the pickleball court.

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