Methods to Manage Nervousness at Competitions

If you have attended a WCA competition at a semi-competitive level, I am sure you are familiar with the shaky, nervous feeling you get as soon as you sit down to solve. It definitely doesn’t feel nice to have and probably slows you down to an extent that renders your months of practice useless.

You may think of nervousness as an obstacle, something that you have to fight in order to reach your goal. While you are completely free to try and rid yourself of nervousness, you can probably try something else.

If there is a giant rock in your path, why not walk around the rock? 

What I mean to say is you can also work around your nervousness. You can still get good times while feeling nervous. Read below to know how. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

To get around your nervousness, you must ask yourself what makes you nervous. Simply knowing what makes you nervous is enough to help you overcome it.

You may get a variety of answers to this question. Maybe multiple at once as well. 

Here are a few examples: 

  • A crowd watching you
  • You care a lot about your results
  • You are not suited to the competitive environment 
  • You feel the stakes are high (a championship or even just a win at stake if you mess up) 
  • The fact that you only get 5-10 solves to encapsulate your months of practice before the comp.

The next time you are at a competition, you will immediately notice that now that you know what makes you nervous, you are not afraid to go in and solve. 

But let’s be honest, the jittery hands don’t make for a pleasant solving experience. So here are some more tips to help you with nervousness.

1. Go to many competitions Go to many competitions for cubing

Experience beats all. As you attend more competitions, you will naturally get accustomed to competing. You may still feel your nerves here and there, but it becomes a part of you and barely affects you after a certain point. 

2. Competition Simulation

Meet up with a cubing friend. Grab a timer and cube cover. Generate scrambles and simulate a competition. This technique has helped me improve so much at competing. It may not simulate the EXACT same nerves as a real competition, but you do feel a little nervous after getting a good string of solves. This helps in dealing with the same when you are in a real competition. 

3. Don’t think, just solve

This is Max Park’s motto. Tune out everything and just solve. This does not mean you go into autopilot, which can make you lose focus. It is more about not dealing with the thoughts that make you nervous. 

4. Use Accessories

Using accessories like noise-canceling earmuffs and hand warmers can help. World-class speedcubers like Max Park, Tymon Kolasinski, and recently even Feliks have adopted these strategies. 

5. Pre-solve ritual 

Try to have a fixed set of things you do right before you start your solve. Some people like to do a few turns on a practice cube. Others like to listen to music, take deep breaths, and calm down. For me, it would be turning on my GoPro and immediately saying I am ready after. 

These rituals enable you to have a straightforward process and not think too much. You mustn’t let the cause of your nervousness take you over. 

At one point I also used to say I was ready as soon as I sat down to not think too much.

6. Talk to people… or not

If there is a waiting area, talk to your friends around you about anything other than cubing. This helps take your mind off the ongoing round. Try not to discuss your or your friends’ times during the round. 

Even if there are fixed solving stations, talk to your judge in between solves. Requesting to have a good friend judge you instead of a random person helps even more. 

You can also see if the reversal of this method helps you. That being you do not talk to anyone until the round is over to stay focused. 

Try out both methods for yourself at your next competition to see what helps.

7. Hardware 

Make sure you know what kind of cube suits your turning style when you have shaky hands. A cube at home feels very different from the same cube at a competition. Even your turning may differ at competitions and home. You will realize what kind of hardware you need through experience and going to lots of competitions. 

That’s all I have for this blog. Hope these tips help and your practice pays off. Thank you for reading!

About Author

Shubham Maharana

Shubham Maharana is an all-rounding speedcuber from Mumbai. He is currently ranked 2nd for 2x2 Single and 7th for Sum of Ranks in India. He started cubing 8 years ago at the age of 9 and attended his first competition at 11. He was one of India’s Youngest Competition Organizers at the age of 14. He has won 23 WCA medals across 6 events.

Apart from Cubing, Shubham enjoys playing the piano, listening to music, and writing.

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