7 Ways To Develop Nerves Of Steel (During A Penalty Shootout…

…Or at any other crucial moment!)

There we were…down 21-20 and it was my serve. It was hot! A bead of sweat trickled off my brow ridge into my eye. I flinched momentarily but stayed focussed. My serve went wide onto the line and was an ace…we went on to win the match.

Whether it be during a penalty shootout at the World Cup or match point at Wimbledon, there are times when most of us will be in a nervy situation and the outcome will be dependant on whether our nerves will hold out for that crucial moment in order to scoop victory!

The big question is of course, how can we develop nerves of steel so that we don’t crack during the moments where it really counts? How can we steady our nerves and be unaffected by minor distractions or hesitate on our split second decisions which cause those upsets?

There are 7 ways to do it so that the next time you taking a penalty for a shootout at the World Cup, putting on the eighteenth, or serving for the match at Wimbledon (or preparing to play Operation after your dinner party and you want a steady hand) you will be unaffected by the occasion and it will seem just like a practice session for you.

1. Preparation

If you don’t prepare of those situations up front then when you get there you won’t be ready. You won’t understand how to cope when it comes to real deal. Do a dress rehearsal.

2. Concentration

A skill that needs to be honed. Can you cope with noise around you or do you feel like looking around and asking people to shut up? Can you drown out the background sounds and increase the volume of your inner voice?

3. Breath

The fastest way of getting focussed is controlling your breathing. If you are shaking then stop, take a few deep breaths, and then continue.

4. Eyes

If you have an opponent, don’t be afraid to look them in the eyes. Don’t you sense the fear in the opponents that keep their eyes down? Stare you opponent dead in the eye!

5. Failure

If failure is in your mind expect to fail. Step up your thinking and focus at the task at hand.

6. Winning

Don’t get ahead of yourself and focus on winning. If you let the arrogance slip in you may have your backside handed to you on a plate. Bring it back to this moment.

7. Heart

At the crunch moment your heart will race and your success will depend on how much of your heart you put into getting that ball into the back of the net.

So, whether it be you taking the crucial penalty in a shootout, making the serve on match point, putting in the ball on the eighteenth, remember these 7 key ways to develop nerves of steel.

41 Responses

  1. Hey Amit, thanks for this post man. I like your analogy of a penalty shoot-out to something that gives us a lot of pressure in life. Your tips here are very important for developing future success. One thing that I want to add is always to stay persistent. Keep going even when you face struggles. Your post also reminded me of the recent tennis match between Isner and Mahut which took more than 10 hours to finish! Both of those guys are definitely examples of what it means to give it your all and have heart in the final crucial moments of a game. Good job man.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Hulbert, very true my friend and I was fortunate to see some of the match! I so wanted Mahut to win as he looked like he could’ve gone on forever but Isner did so well with his persistence to hold his nerve and win the match.

  2. Hi Amit,

    You have made sport analogy that easy for anyone not playing game could also understand it. I like it that you mentioned failure and winning both as either can bring low moral or too high moral that can crash badly.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Preeti, (that’s the first time I’m addressing you as that!) and I’m glad you’ve touched on that point as I’ve done it a lot, that is, become complacent while I was winning only to go on and then lose the match.

  3. Topi says:

    Hi Amit,
    I’m not a particularly sporty person, but I do love a game of operation and have been looking for ways to steady my hand 😉
    Thanks for the great tips!
    Topi

  4. Phil - Less Ordinary Living says:

    Amit –

    What a great and timely post. Learning to control our emotions and stay focussed is such a powerful art. I’ve found it takes tons and tons of structured practice to improve in this area. I also think that daily meditation makes a huge difference in being able to step back from our feelings and stay centered in stressful situations. Thanks for this.

    Phil

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Phil. Absolutely. The dress rehearsal part is such a big thing. I find any time I practise rigourously like before going for an interview I enter it in such a different mode that it’s like I’m sill in that mode and able to perform much more naturally.

  5. Hi Amit,
    These can all be applied to professional speaking. Except failure…if you mess us speaking you never stop and mention your error. Most don’t even notice. You just keep going. Also we are suppose to have an hour preparation for every minute on stage.

    Eye contact…get to the event early and introduce yourself…it’s like having friends before you go on stage! Great post.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Thanks Tess. I agree it can be applied to so many different areas. I used to be a magician and one of the cardinal rules in never mention your mistake or if a trick goes wrong because people don’t know what to expect so they don’t know when it has gone wrong unless your draw attention to it.

  6. Good stuff, Amit. Eye contact is very powerful indeed, not just in competition but also in many ways we relate to others.

  7. rob white says:

    Hi Amit,
    I always love a good sports analogy. This is precisely why we love watching sports. We realize that the great athletes are complete masters of controlling their inner world as much as their outer world.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Rob, so true. If you look at Federer and what he’s achieved, even though he lost this year at Wimbledon, he’s is the ultimate master of staying focussed.

  8. Awesome post! I’ve had an extreme anxiety-producing situation happening at work this week. Staying calm under pressure has been harder than ever, but breathing worked so well for me. It may be #3 on the list, but it was #1 when it came to helping me maintain my composure.

  9. Hi Amit,

    You are also a football fan? So am I! 😉

    Thanks for this nice post!

  10. It scares me when these crucial moments arrive. I’m not somebody who has the courage to face things like this. I keep on thinking, maybe it’s jut there somewhere. I just couldn’t find it.

    • Amit Sodha says:

      Hey Miranda, it’s the same thing as persistence and practise. Before I used to go for big interviews I used to call my friends who I knew would be tough on me and interview me worse than I was going to get in the real situation…that prepared me so well that the interview seemed almost easy! 🙂

  11. The sad part Amit is that I don’t have friends like yours. We just goof around so nothing really happens.

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