A Pro Athlete Does This One Thing to Calm Her Nerves, and You Can, Too

Picture this: you're gearing up for a big presentation, meeting your partner's parents for the first time, or competing in a CrossFit regional event. The pressure's on. What is the single most important thing you rely on to calm your nerves? You might want to consider your breath.

I sat down with 24-year-old Rose Lavelle, USWNT midfielder who plays professionally for Washington Spirit and was a three-time NSCAA All-American at University of Wisconsin. She's preparing for the biggest game there is in soccer — the FIFA Women's World Cup, held in France this June — but Rose is no stranger to the international stage having represented USA at the 2014 Under-20 tournament. Still, this is different. It's her first-ever World Cup on the women's national team.

The US women are defending champs — the 2015 win marked the team's third World Cup title — and Rose said she's thinking of it as just another game. "You have to treat every game the same," she explained. "Play 100 percent every game and don't treat one more or less than the other." When it comes to calming any nerves that do come up, Rose said she uses a breathing technique her sports psychologist, who's helped her overcome injuries and "get her mind in a good place," taught her.

Her breathing exercise isn't anything complicated — she just counts her breaths. "You're supposed to practice breathing throughout any point of the day. I'll sit down and do it for a couple of minutes," she explained. Then, when she's in a stressful situation — even midgame — she'll become mindful of her inhales and exhales, counting them one by one. Overall, Rose said her sports psychologist has played a crucial role in helping her manage pressures of soccer and training "because the same way that we train our bodies, we need to train our minds."

As the World Cup approaches and you conquer your own fears, try to remember what Rose will surely be doing when she's feeling the pressure: counting her breaths. Or use a meditation app — Rose likes Headspace — instead.

More of Rose's Pregame Rituals

Beyond her breathing technique, Rose listens to calming music on her way to games, and, while stretching before the whistle blows, she'll put on country music (nothing intense, since she doesn't want to be "too amped up"). In terms of pregame nutrition, she'll try to eat protein, whether that's eggs or chicken, and maybe have a little pasta or a bagel for carbs. She doesn't describe herself as a "big eater," so she gets in as much as she can for fuel.

The World Cup, she said, won't be about defending a title — at least not for her. She's still set on winning, but her goal is to "be the best player and teammate" she can be. You'll hopefully see a lot of her this June on the field, your TV screens, and social feeds. KT Tape will actually be selling limited-edition Rose Lavelle Pro Tape throughout the World Cup, as well as limited-edition headbands from which 100 percent of proceeds will go to the Women's Sports Foundation. Unfortunately, you won't be seeing any of Wilma, Rose's adorable English bulldog, who has to stay in their hometown of Cincinnati. When I asked about Wilma heading to France with her, Rose laughed: "I don't think she could handle the flight."