How to beat your nerves ahead of Lausanne 2020

John Morris is one of only six curlers to have won two Olympic gold medals, having topped the podium with the Canadian men’s team in 2010 and with mixed doubles partner Kaitlyn Lawes in 2018. But Morris – who will be an Athlete Role Model at the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lausanne 2020 – had to battle anxiety and self-doubt to reach the top. Here, he reveals how young athletes preparing to compete in Lausanne can overcome their own worries before the YOG.

  • John Morris is a two-time Olympic gold medallist in curling.
  • He will be mentoring young athletes at Lausanne 2020 as an Athlete Role Model.
  • Here, he reveals how you can overcome your nerves ahead of the Games.

We’re getting close to Lausanne and there’s going to be a lot going through your head. This might be the first major international event that you’ve competed in, so you might be feeling a lot of anxiety. That’s something I’ve faced a lot in my life and my sporting career, and it took me a while to figure out how to deal with it in a positive way.

Looking back at my own junior competitions, and thinking about how I felt, I can tell you that feeling nervous is normal. You aren’t the only person feeling that way; it’s something everyone else will be dealing with too. By sharing some advice and suggestions with those of you preparing for Lausanne, I can hopefully help you manage your nerves and anxiety going into the event.

Trust that you are ready

It’s getting close to crunch time now. Before you get there, all you can do is prepare as much as you can and do everything that’s in your power, be that practising or training in the gym. Just trust that you have done everything you could have to be prepared for these Games, and don’t be worried about whether your opponents are better than you or if they have trained harder than you. Judging yourself against your opponents can create negativity in your mind. It’s very hard not to do it, but if you can tell yourself not to think about what other people are doing and focus only on what you can control and your own performance, then that can be a key turning point for you.

Trust in your processes and know that you have done the best that you can do. And when you get to Lausanne, just remember to be in the moment, enjoy it and have fun. A lot of the time that sentiment is lost in the intensity of competition, but if you enjoy your experience you will be more relaxed.

Remind yourself that failure can be a step to success

I had a few tough losses in the early stages of my career, in particular when I lost the final of the Canadian national championship. It felt at the time like my only chance had gone. I felt like I had failed and was on the verge of giving up because I thought that I’d missed my only shot at winning the title. That’s the perspective you have when you’re young, but in reality failure is just another stepping stone to success. Most athletes have to overcome challenges in their careers. Failure is purely in your own mind and it can be a great learning tool. If I hadn’t lost that final, I wouldn’t have been as hungry or as driven to come back the following year and win it. I felt like I had something to prove and you need to have that patience and that perspective. If you don’t win this one event, it’s not the be-all and end-all. It took me a while to realise that.

Embrace the opportunity

Competing in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) is such an amazing opportunity for you as a young athlete. It should give you something to strive for, because if you’re at an event like this, at such a young age, then the sky really is the limit for you. Whatever your result, you can use the YOG as a motivating factor, because you clearly have the chance to make it to the Olympics one day. Your experiences at the YOG will make you realise that you can do that, if you continue to work hard at it.

Feed your mind

Having nerves and anxiety is completely normal; everyone in this competition will be feeling the same way. If you’re not feeling even a little bit anxious then you’re probably not human! But there are still ways you can manage your nerves and anxiety. I’ve taken up things like yoga, which balances my training by not only focusing on the physical aspects, but also more on breathing and the mental aspects. That’s really helped me when preparing for big events.

Nutrition is also really vital. I didn’t realise when I was younger that when I was eating foods like burgers and fries I wasn’t at the top of my game. I questioned what I could do and when I changed my diet I found that improving my nutrition not only helped me physically but also mentally as well. You may not think things like that are related, but there’s a significant link between your mind and your gut.

Keep your eyes on the prize

Distractions are much more of a factor now for young athletes nowadays. It’s very difficult not to get caught up in social media during an event, but for the most part it can have a detrimental effect. I witnessed it first-hand at the last Olympics, and I think the more you can block that ‘white noise’ out of your brain and focus on being in the moment, performing to your best and doing what is within your control and not worrying about these distractions, the more it will bring out the best in you.

Talk to me about it

I want to be as approachable as possible in Lausanne, so I’m happy for you to come and talk to me about anything – I think the most important thing as a role model is to show that I’m not on a different level to you just because I’ve won two Olympic gold medals. I was in your shoes one day too, I know exactly how it feels, and I want to relate to you. As soon as you feel you can trust me and relate to me, then hopefully you can open up to me and ask me about things that may help you, so that you can draw from my experiences.

In the build-up to Lausanne 2020, we will be hearing from an Athlete Role Model from each winter sport. Follow @Athlete365 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for the latest updates.