In this guide I hope to show you some different ways of dealing with competition nerves, I recommend that you try out multiple techniques to find what is best for you.
Many of the following methods are based around distraction, so that you are less focussed on times and have a more enjoyable time competing. These are the methods that I recommend when attempting to reduce competition nervousness.
Talk to people (but not about your times, or scrambles):
Often just talking to people in the waiting area between solves (or perhaps seated if it’s a small final) can greatly help one take their mind of the pressure of competing, talking about anything helps but stay away from talking about ‘how your average is going?’ or ‘will you podium?’, so you do not stress about your times. I personally find this method to be of great help as simply talking to people relieves a lot of stress that helps to calm one down in a tense situation. Please also be aware that you should not talk about the scrambles during a round as this can give competitors yet to solve on that scramble an unfair advantage - see here link
Listen to music:
If talking to people is not your thing, or perhaps you prefer some alone time; listening to music (with headphones) can massively help to calm oneself down. This is reflected in the music you listen to so I recommend listening to calm music with a soft beat to help you relax whilst competing. Please be aware of the WCA regulations surrounding competitors listening to music - see here link
When under stress during a speedsolve one will often begin to increase their TPS (turns per second) / turn faster, this decreases their look-ahead ability, causing major pauses between moves as well as panic, overall greatly increasing their solve time. Therefore forcing yourself to turn slightly slower than usual can greatly help in keeping your stress levels to a minimum. This can also be achieved by using a slower-turning puzzle, perhaps one on slightly tighter tensions, or thickly lubed, this will help you in turning slower as well as reassuring you of minimal potential pops/lockups as the cube will likely be more stable.
These are methods that I highly suggest you steer clear of when attempting to reduce competition nervousness as they will cause your stress levels to rise, as well as one to have much less enjoyable competition experience
In the led up to a competition, and especially before one is about to compete, you may feel the urge to greatly practice your events, especially the ones that you wish to perform the best/have been focusing on. This can often greatly increase one’s nervousness as you pressurise yourself into performing well; I therefore recommend that in the few days before the competition you do not practice the event at all, in order to relax, however I do recommend that you do a few solves (perhaps 5-10 minutes’ worth) of the event just before you are about to compete; simply to get yourself re-familiarised with the puzzle. You should limit this however as too much practice can make your hand tired for when you are competing, and nobody wants that!
This method simply consists of trying to care as little as possible about your official results; done through telling yourself it doesn’t matter in a sort of ‘fake it till you make it’ way, however this is somewhat controversial as no matter what you will always care at least a little bit about your solves. I believe this method should be completely avoided as I have attempted it a lot in the past and it has led to myself enjoying a god solve much less - as I do not care.
What do I do to calm my nerves?
My (attempted) stress level reduction usually goes as follows:
Before the round: I will do some practice solves of the event, either with other people or alone with music, depending on my mood.
During the round: I try not to focus on my average, but on each individual solve, I talk to people about random things and try to have a fun, calm time. When I get a bad solve (so most of my solves), I try to forget about and move on, there’s always next time!
After the round: I try not to focus on my results, but on the next event or I will likely just socialise and have a good time!
To conclude: You shouldn’t rely on your results to have a good time, if you do well, great! If not, there’s always next time! Competitions are mostly about socialising and have fun. The calmer you are, the faster you are.
These videos greatly helped me to decrease my competition nervousness, check them out!
The most OVERLOOKED part of competitive cubing