The question surfaces often by coaches and parents, “how can I help some of my athletes relax before big (games, meets, races, etc.)”
Tom Petty said it best, “the waiting is the hardest part.” It’s the amount of time to actually “think” before a competition that causes the most stress. Since, the moment itself provides enough excitement and nervousness, it is a matter of athletes NOT getting “over-hyped” rather than being “under-hyped.”
Aside from actual mental training that focuses on pre-competition strategies, there actually is a super-fun way to help ease the tension of a team. When I am with teams at ALL levels, I’ll use breaks to play the old reliable “rock, paper, scissors.”
It is easy, fun, fast, and best of all, competitive. All athletes hate to lose, so they can switch their focus to winning a game of RPS rather easily. These moments have scored big points with getting their mind away from the upcoming competition. But more importantly, I also use the quick game to help them with their focus, confidence, and to ease the tension.