Fear of Performing | Q&A with Coach Jimmy

Today’s Topic: Fear of Performing – What is it and what happens when it develops?


About Me

Hi everyone. My name is Jimmy Yu. I’m a high performance coach here at Complete Performance Coaching. I specialize in working with athletes aged 8 to 18, so youth and high school athletes – both individual and team sports related. For today’s Q&A, I’m going to talk about that fear to perform. What happens when I develop this fear to perform? What is it, and some ideas on how to deal with it. I’m going to give you an example today.

Q: What happens when we develop fear to perform?


Actually, first what I mean by that is that fear to perform for sports like gymnastics, or if it’s slope-style skiing, and MMA fighting. A mistake can result in a physical injury. For those sports, that fear develops because I don’t want to get injured, I don’t want to get hurt, I don’t want … In MMA fighting if I make a mistake and I get hit I don’t want to get knocked out, I don’t want to have a broken jaw. There’s that physical fear that develops with individual sports like that. Today, I’m going to focus on team sports, and that idea of that fear to perform and what happens.


Team Sports – Letting Down the Team

Team sports like track and field, cross country, football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse, soccer. All those sports it’s more that mental aspect and whether it’s gymnastics or that these team sports it’s about letting the team down, performing poorly. That’s where that fear to perform starts.

To give you an example, I’m going to use a soccer player. Let’s saying they’re playing in a game, and they have three kind of open shots on goal. Every time they’re wide open. It’s just them and the goalie. First time, they take a nice hard shot, misses a goal. Second time, it hits one of the pipes, bounces off. Third time, they hit it right on goal, but that goalie makes an amazing save.


“What Did I Do Wrong?”

In those moments like undeveloped, and athletes are really hard on themselves. The main thing is they start to think about “What did I do wrong?” You’re either upset at themselves for performing poorly, but at the other side maybe they’re looking at the stands. They see mom and dad are going, “Oh man, what’s he doing?” And I look over at my coach or they look at their coach and the coach is like, “Come on! Try harder! Get that in the goal!” And I look at my team mates and they’re like, “Hmm. I don’t know if I should pass to him again.” Maybe that’s just me thinking in my head as an athlete. I develop that fear.

What happens next? I get open again or that player gets open again. Instead of taking that shot because they have the best look they pass it off to somebody else. There’s that fear to perform. “I have given it up because I’m scared that I’m going to miss again or that the ball is going to be saved,” to “I’m going to lose this game for my team mates.” Again, losing for someone else, I’m letting somebody else down and that’s where that fear to perform develops.


Reflect on Your Performance

Let’s say I’ve had that poor performance. I’m experiencing that. What do I do right now? First, reflect on it. When I ask athletes is think about things and journal it. Things you did well, and to me that’s the hardest thing for most athletes is “I don’t know what I did well. I’ve sucked today.” That’s the first thing they’ll say. Even if they had a good performance, most athletes can tell you maybe one good thing they did. It’s like, “Alright, I got that one good thing. What did you do poorly? They can tell you like 10,000 things.

“I did all these things poorly, and I got to do better at this.” Right? Get all that on paper. Write that all down, get your emotions down. For me, when I was playing in college I didn’t like journaling, so I didn’t journal. But what I did instead, and this was pre-cellphone, pre-smartphone after a game, walking out of the gym, walking out of the locker room I’d pick up a landline.


Vent to Yourself

I call my answering machine, and I would vent my answering machine. “Oh this game sucked today,” or “Hey, great job today. You did this well.” I would also vent to my answering machine, and I would always leave it with, “Don’t forget, tomorrow practice this. Practice something to get better until the next game. We either don’t make this mistake or we improve on this.”

Reflection, journal it, write it down so that you can review it again, you can remember it, and if you set a goal you’ll remember that goal for later.


Fear of PerformingAsk For Help

Secondly, if I can’t think of anything and I’m just like, “I don’t know. I’m just kind of stuck.” Go talk to your coaches. Go let them know your frustration. Go ask for help. Alright, a lot of times athletes think “If I go talk to a coach and tell them I don’t feel like I’m playing well, I get really nervous right now, I don’t want to let anyone down.” It’s a sign of weakness.

Maybe the coach would be like, “Oh you’re just a wimp. I’m not going to play you anymore.” It’s really the opposite. You’re building that relationship, you’re putting yourself out there to trust the coach, and to get advice. Go talk to the if you can’t think of it yourself and really talk to them anyways. Ask them how you’re doing, have them help pump you up. Talk to them, talk to a team mate.


Practice As If You’re Competing

I’m also a lacrosse coach. I coach youth and high school athletes. I tell them to go into practice, go into games with a mindset of trying to compete in practice, and play to compete in competition. What I mean by this, after every practice, after every game I ask my athletes “What did you do well? How did you make someone else better today?”

In practice, if I go hard and I give 100% effort in athlete I can say “I made my team mate work harder today because I went 100%, and they responded.” My goal in games is my goal is to play really hard, give a lot of effort, and focus on my best games so that I hopefully get your best game out of you as an opponent because I don’t want to play to get better, I want to play to be the best, and I can only do that if I play and have my competition play up to that as well. Get in that mindset of play to compete in competition, practice to compete in practice.



I tell people to focus on this acronym: WIN. “Go out there and WIN.” Alright. That acronym stands for What’s Important Now. That acronym was from Lou Holtz. He is a legendary football coach at Notre Dame, and what’s important right now? I want to focus on those little things. Not the “Don’t do this, don’t suck today,” or “I need to go out there, and I need to be the best, I need to score 100 goals today. Not setting these huge expectation, but focusing on what’s important for me right now in practice. Those little things to make me better.”

When I’m in the game, what’s going to help me score that goal? What’s that little thing I need to do? What’s important right now? WIN.


You’ve Got to Give to Get

Lastly, I get a lot of athletes that say, “I don’t feel supported by my coach, I don’t feel like my coaches, and team mates are very positive.” I got to give out the positives, I got to give out positive specific praise to team mates, maybe my coaches, and my parents. Just give them some positives. Again, direct something small. Maybe it was just “Hey, Johnny you did great today. You went for every ball. You went hard after it. There was sometimes you messed up and missed, but you gave 100% effort. That was awesome. Great job today.” For parents, “Hey, you cheered me on great. You didn’t yell at me, you’re really supportive, thanks for coming out. Thanks for being a great cheerleader.” Give to get.

Those are my tips for today. When we developed that fear to perform reflect on it, write it down, or talk to your phone, or call your answering machine if you have it like I did, talk to a coach. Remember, get the best out of your team mates, get the best out of yourself by training to compete in practice, and play to compete in competition. WIN. What’s important right now, and give to get. Give your team mates, give your coaches, give your parents specific positive praise, and hopes that one it creates an environment where everyone is doing it, and that you get it yourself. Alright.

Okay. Until next time take care.

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