Competing is physically and emotionally demanding. Elite athletes can experience a wide range of emotions while performing. They can experience excitement from being watched by large numbers of people, they can experience fear resulting from poor play, bad decisions or anticipating losing, and they can experience happiness and joy from doing well or winning.
Top athletes learn quickly that the ability to control your feelings and emotions is critical. While some level of nervous excitement enhances focus and improves performance, too much anxiety leads to poor decisions and chokes performance. Being able to handle pressure and manage your emotions makes the difference between success and failure. When the stakes are high and there is pressure to succeed, mental preparation and mental skills help top athletes to manage performance anxiety and perform to the best of their ability.
Mental preparation often includes self-talk, visualization, and thinking through situations which might arise and how you would handle them. Research shows that these techniques help athletes focus and sustain performance in high pressure sporting situations.