Recently, one of my players told me that they were feeling nervous about an upcoming competition at the end of the year. This made me think about this topic quite a bit.

Nervousness before a competition is common. When I was training in Camberley, I had a training partner who told me he used to throw up before every competition. That’s how nervous he’d get.

It is said that you don’t have to feel good to perform well in competition. You could feel crappy and still win the gold. My training partner was like that. He often did well despite the extreme nervousness he’d feel before the competition. But not everybody’s built that way. Some athletes are not able to perform well when they are nervous. And some are practically paralyzed when they feel pre-competition jitters.

When I look back at my time as a competitor, I realize I was not the nervous type. This was not because I was supremely confident or anything like that. Rather, I think it had to do with the fact that I had trained a lot, and was always as prepared as I could possibly be before a competition.

When you can ask yourself repeatedly: “Was there anything more I could have done?” and the consistent answer is “No,” any nervousness just magically disappears (at least for me, anyway).

The logic is hard to refute. If there really isn’t anything more I could have done, it literally means I am as prepared as I can possibly be. That being the case, what’s there to be nervous about? Nothing.

Being well prepared doesn’t mean you can’t lose. Of course, you can. And of course, I knew that. But the prospect of losing didn’t make me nervous because I know if it were to happen, it’d be because the other person was simply the better player on that day. It wasn’t because I didn’t train hard enough for it.

Being able to say, “No” to that same question, is also a good way to ensure that you have no regrets. If you don’t achieve your goals, of course you will feel disappointed. But you won’t have any regrets if you had really done everything you could possibly do to prepare for it. If there’s literally nothing more you could have done, what’s there to regret? Nothing.

Doing “all that you could possibly do” may sound similar to “doing your best”, but these are two very different things. It’s possible that you have been lazy all season but on competition day itself, you did do your very best.

Yes, you did your best but your best obviously was not good enough because you didn’t put in the work. In such a case, there is plenty of scope for regret.

Doing your best doesn't eliminate regret from the equation. The only way you can insulate yourself from regret is to put in the work and to be able to honestly say time and again: “There was really nothing more I could have done.”