It was like clockwork; my palms would sweat, my stomach would cramp so bad I felt sick, my heart would race out of control to the point I couldn’t even hear, I couldn’t even think straight. Butterflies. Everything that I had been conditioned to believe was that those feelings meant I was nervous and that I was so unprepared that I never wanted the game to start. I couldn’t understand it; I loved playing basketball probably more than anything else in the world but the way I saw my pregame jitters I could convince myself that I never wanted to touch that court again. That’s where it got confusing to me; my body was telling me I was nervous, so I thought I was nervous, but as soon as I got on the court and played through those feelings I was in the zone. If they weren’t there, I wasn’t mentally there in that game. I began to realize that if I started a game calm I wasn’t ready and my performance suffered every single time. It made no sense; if I have butterflies I’m good to go, if I’m calm I’m not ready? I had to train myself to just accept that those butterflies were what my body needed to play. They were just there and I stopped dedicating my attention to them.
As I got older I learned that those “nervous” feelings my body was going through before each game weren’t telling me that I wasn’t ready, they were telling that I was. Every sensation we have been conditioned to interpret as unprepared can just as easily be interpreted as being prepared. We must condition ourselves to realize that these physiological changes are simply our body getting ready for something that is important to use. Our body knows what matters to us and it has to get ready for game time too. The sweaty palms were my body cooling down, my stomach was cramping because the digestive system was shutting down so that that energy could be used somewhere else in my body and my heart was racing because it was busy pumping blood to my muscles so when game time came I was ready to perform. Just like we warm up and get our minds right my body had its own pregame routine to make sure that I was ready to go physiologically.
The sooner we become mindful of what our bodies are trying to tell us, the easier it is to interpret those physiological sensations in a more effective way. When we realize how we feel when we perform our best, we can use it to our advantage and help boost our confidence. I stopped playing a long time ago but I have the same feeling whenever I get up to teach, or do any performance for that matters. My stomach gets upset, my heart races and my palms sweat. Now however, instead of seeing those butterflies as meaning I’m nervous or I’m not ready, I see them as it meaning that I’m prepared ultimately making me even more confident than I was before. Those butterflies now make me excited because I know that my body is pregaming too. If those butterflies ever become too overwhelming, I know to take control, get them all flying in the same direction and trust that my body has my back. I embrace those butterflies.