How do you handle sports stress? To be clear, I’m not referring to when you’re playing sports, but when you’re watching a game/match. I personally realize that I can definitely rule out a career as a professional poker player, as I have too many obvious physical reactions.
Take Game 5 of the Soo Greyhounds’ playoff series against Owen Sound, for example. The game was a roller-coaster. We were behind. We tied it up. We were ahead. They tied it up. The momentum was shifting back and forth like a teeter-totter and it was truly uncertain as to which side would end up on top.
I became more keenly aware of my own tells after noticing a woman in front of me clenching her hands to her face. For her, the game was a real nail-biter. (An aptly named description of a close game and what many people physically do.)
For me, when we were winning, I sat comfortably in my seat, leaning against the backrest. I was chatting and calm. As things became tense, I would begin to edge forward in my seat, leaning, and straining to follow the play, bobbing and weaving my head with the puck’s movements. Every power play had me literally on the edge of my seat. (I guess there are foundations for those sayings.)
Hometeam goals would have me spring to my feet with cheers, applause, and a few of us shared high-fives. There might even have been some dance moves …
Yes, my hands told the whole game like closed-captioning, I was betraying my feelings with my actions with every play. My hands stayed calmly in my lap while the game was neither at a high nor a low in the roller-coaster. During the highs, however, applause sounded out and/or high-fives were demanded. Since we were given towels in game one, sometimes the small towel was spun around over my head for goals. During the lows, I found my face buried in my hands.
As the game was hinging on a key moment, my hands were clenched against my chin, fingers drawn in, perhaps to keep my nails out of my mouth. As tension mounted, my hands crept up and covered my mouth. In super important moments I was surprised to find my fingers spread out of their hiding spots and quickly propping up my face, with my index fingers plugging my ears.
(I’ve always been sensitive to sound. I prefer the television or radio to not be too loud (unless my jam is on). I wear earplugs at most concerts. (In scary movies I block out the suspenseful, creepy soundtrack so that jump scares don’t send me through the roof.)
When the power play was over, my hands would return to their spot in my lap … calmly if the opposing team didn’t score. If they did scored, my fingers quickly spread out and stretched over my now closed eyelids for a few seconds, and my head hung down.
If you’d asked me before the game if I had any of those sports stress reactions, I probably would have said that I didn’t. Now if you ask me, the only ones I may not lay claim to are the dance moves.
Go Hounds Go!