It doesn’t matter what sport you’re participating in, fencing or otherwise. Nerves are a normal part of life, especially before any sort of competitive event. Letting your feelings of anxiety get the best of you can hinder your performance, though. So what can you do to stay calm before your event starts?

Stay Focused On Your Goals

Don’t worry about what other people think of you, whether it’s a parent, peer, coach, or another competitor. Stay in the “now” and keep focusing your thoughts back on your individual goals. Don’t think about what happened in your last tournament, or even what you need to accomplish in the ones coming up next. Think about one thing at a time.

Keep Practicing

The key word here is to practice, not cram. Nothing truly magical is going to happen if you add a bunch of extra training hours in the last week before a tournament. You may refine a skill if you have a singular focus, but otherwise you simply run the risk of burning yourself out before the big day. Maintain a consistent practice schedule in the weeks before your competition, slowly ramping things up in the weeks closer to the big day. But don’t try to cram an unrealistic number of hours into your schedule.

Distract Yourself

Don’t lose sleep worrying about your upcoming tournament. Spend the day or night before doing things you enjoy with family or friends. See a movie, have a game night, or settle in early with a good book. Doing some of the other things you love will help you keep your mind off of the things making your nervous.

Don’t Skip Meals or Hydration

A lot of people skip meals when they’re nervous, but doing so will only leave you running on fumes by the time your bout comes up. Be strict about your nutrition schedule, eating rounded meals and packing healthy snacks for tournament day. Staying hydrated will help you to avoid muscle cramping while maintaining mental focus, too.

You Can’t Control Everything

Remember that, at the end of the day, there are aspects of fencing you can’t control. The only person you can control is yourself. A referee may make a call you don’t agree with, the crowd may distract you, or you might even wake up with a cold. Focus on the things you can by preparing yourself physically and mentally.

Your attitude going into a tournament will be your greatest asset or detriment to your performance. Stay focused on your goals and do the best you can for yourself on any given day. And remember, most of all, to go out there and have fun!