How Do Olympians Deal With Nerves? 8 Things Mental Skills Coaches Train Them To Do

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We all get nervous from time to time. But when your job is based on performing extreme feats of agility and strength in front of hundreds, thousands, or millions of people, it’s fair to say that you may be more familiar with that nervous feeling than most. In addition to their physical training, Olympians and other elite athletes often undergo what’s called mental skills coaching in order to harness their anxiety around performing to become better athletes. “Once athletes get to [elite] levels, the difference between winning and losing is often times not a physical difference,” Ben Oliva, a Mental Performance Coach at Sports Strata in New York City, tells Bustle. Certain techniques can help athletes hone their skills for consistent success, but as these sports psychologists tell Bustle, these are strategies that you can use even if you’re not an elite athlete.

“People assume that you have to be an elite athlete in order to work with a mental skills coach, but the truth is, anyone that is involved in any type of performance can benefit from mental skills training,” Carrie Cheadle, author of On Top of Your Game: Mental Skills to Maximize Your Athletic Performance, tells Bustle. “It’s about assessing your strengths, understanding your weaknesses, and then learning, practicing, and implementing the mental skills you need to help achieve your own goals.” Mental skills coaches have seen firsthand how anyone can benefit from these stress-management techniques. “The pressure an Olympian feels at the top of their Olympic run is not very different than the manager feels when he has to make a board presentation,” says Oliva. “Sure, the stakes might be higher, but for the person who it's happening to, it feels the same.”

There are tons of mental skills that these professionals teach their clients, but these are eight that literally anyone can benefit from, athlete or not. All it takes is an open mind, and, as with any new sport, lots and lots of practice.