Post By: Rachel Hoeft, M.A. | Thursday, May 7, 2020

sport psychology performance STRESS COURAGE

Sometimes, the pressure, fear, and anxiety of a situation are overwhelming. Sometimes the task seems far too daunting to even consider. And yet, you know that you need to get it done. So how, in times like these, do we find the courage within ourselves to make it happen? There is a multitude of tips and tricks, but the key is that they all start with your mindset and come from within.

Uncertainty and Fear

A lack of courage often stems from uncertainty and fear--the uncertainty of the outcome and the fear that our decision will turn into regret if we choose or act unfavorably. In these moments, it is useful to acknowledge the fear and then identify the positives. For example, “I can avoid potential negative emotions if I don't attempt X, but I know that I'll be so much prouder of myself if I at least give it a shot.” Shifting your mindset to end with a positive outcome can help to mitigate that feeling of uncertainty, or to at least identify that there is a possibility of a more favorable outcome you had not yet thought of.

To target the fear of regret, it is useful to note that making a decision and learning from the outcome is better than making no decision at all. In reality, not making a decision is also a decision. That said, by making your decision and supporting it, you can at least control your own actions and the way you handle the situation instead of letting the situation control you.

Every one of us has encountered a circumstance that we shied away from, and we likely told ourselves something like, “I wish I had done it” or “I wish I had just tried and taken a chance.” I have learned from first-hand experience in athletics, academics, and personal life that refusing to even give it a shot felt more like failure than actually attempting the task and failing. When I at least gave it a go, I felt better because I had given my best effort and usually picked up a few pointers or words of encouragement afterward. Then, the next time that task came around, I felt good about it. I was ready for the challenge--to take it head-on. I wanted it.

Create Positivity and Achievability

Now, I get it. Sometimes things are just too terrifying to even consider or you just cannot imagine it being achievable, safe, or effective. This is when it is best to divide the task up into tinier, achievable pieces that you can talk yourself through with our trusty friend positive self-talk, a mental skill that focuses on neutralizing and spinning the negative thoughts and emotions we experience (Ay et al., 2013). Once the pieces are simpler, it is easier to find the courage to step up to the plate.

For example, let's say you are up to bat in game seven of the championship series against your toughest opponent, the starting pitcher. You're afraid of the result, fearful that you'll make a mistake, and be embarrassed. Let's dissect that into chewable pieces.

1. This is my toughest opponent? I have played this opponent before and identified the mistakes they made which I can capitalize on.

2. I'm afraid that I'll make a mistake? Everybody makes mistakes in this game. Here are X and X skills that will prevent me from making my most common mistakes.

3. If I strike out I will be embarrassed? I've struck out before and I will strike out again. It's okay to experience negative emotions, but if I give it my best shot at least I know I tried. I will NOT make this easy for them.

Courage comes from knowing that you have a daunting task ahead of you and still taking the risk to achieve it. By telling yourself that you are capable of achieving great things, you are setting yourself up for success. Bandura (1983) notes that an athlete who believes they are capable is more likely to beat a non-confident opponent, even if they are less skilled than the person they are playing. Believing in your abilities, your training, and your work ethic is the first step. Once you combine this positive mindset with your skills, the rest is sure to follow.

Dare to Succeed

Some of the best advice I've ever received is, “Be afraid. And do it anyway.” Nobody has ever reached greatness without stepping out of their comfort zone. No elite athlete or performer has skipped the hard work, fear, and anxiety. They experienced the same emotions and told themselves that nothing could stop them. If you have gotten this far in your athletic career, I am sure you can count more than a handful of examples of when you were afraid or discouraged and “did it anyway.” For all the times you didn't do it, how much did that hurt? How much of that was regret that you hadn't given it a shot? Don't be your own enemy and set yourself up for those emotions.

To wrap this up, I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from author Jen Sincero. “On the other side of your fear is your freedom.” Don't waste your valuable time with “What if...” or “I'm just unsure of…” Tell yourself that you are going to give it a damn good shot; go give it your best effort; and enjoy the freedom that comes with knowing that in choosing to act, YOU controlled your situation and not the other way around. And of course, if you need a little push, reach out to a mental performance coach here at Mindurance. We're ready for you...NOW!


Ay, K. M., Halaweh, R., & Al-Taieb, M. A. (2013). Positive self-talk and its effect on learning the grab start skill in swimming and self-efficacy improvement. Journal of Physical Education & Sport, 13(4), 578-582.

Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.

Sincero, J. (2013). You are a badass: How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life.