Coping with pre-race nerves

With the all-important National Schools Regatta just over a month away now, crews all over the country are starting to get in gear for what will be the culmination of this season's hard work. At the top end of the juniors, this will be many athletes' fifth and final NSR, but for the J14s at the other end of the spectrum, their first National Schools will be their biggest race to date by some way. So what are some tried-and-tested methods J15s would recommend for the younger athletes coming into their first major regatta season? 

Henley RC paddling up to the start

So you have a race coming up. You may be starting to feel that twist in your stomach. You’re nervous... and it’s completely fine to be. Even the most experienced athlete feels a little nervous before a race that's important to them. This article will list some ideas on how to reduce nerves and anxiety on the start line. Try these methods to calm the mind and body and maximise your focus before you race:

Breathe- Stressful situations cause a release of adrenaline, which will elevate your heart rate and lead you to breathe more shallowly. Alternate your breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth. Repeat ten or more times until your heart rate has settled and you are feeling calmer. 

Radley College taking some deep breaths before the start of their Henley final

Stretch- Stretching your muscles will relieve them from tension, making them more relaxed and flexible, which will not only help keep anxiety in check but improve your performance on race day too. If you've already boated and are feeling a little tense, go through the major muscle groups of your body and squeeze them for a few seconds before relaxing them again. Cycling through this process a couple of times can help release any tension before you get to the start line. Check out our article with five simple stretches to get started. 

Meditate- This will help you focus and stay calm. Find a quiet spot, perhaps around the trailer or on the riverbank, and sit down with your legs crossed. Close your eyes and only focus on your breathing, taking your time. Just doing this for five minutes will set your mind into a more positive one.

Listen to music- Some people prefer listen to music through their headphones and tune everything else out- check out what Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, listens to before a race here. Whether you want to get pumped up or listen to something more relaxing, find what works for you. 

Think Positively- Go into the race with confidence in your training and preparation. Think about your race plan what you’ll do at each stage of the race, rate and technique wise, learn that well and remind yourself that you’re giving every race your 100% best. Everyone has the potential to make the final and win a medal.

Scotch College, winners of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta 2017

Smile- Remember racing should be a fun and enjoyable experience. Smiling produces endorphins and serotonin in our brain; these are natural painkillers that will keep you relaxed and ready to race. It also shows off them pearly whites on race photos! 

Hopefully these six ways of dealing with your nerves on race day can help get you out there and doing your very best. Good Luck!


J15- North East,  UK 

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