Tony Macri on Overcoming Nerves with Proper Preparation

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden led his UCLA team to 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years. Along with the talent of his players, he credited hard work and focused practice sessions. “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail,” he once said of the value of preparation.

PSIA-AASI Snowboard Team member Tony Macri has a similar take, especially when it comes to overcoming nerves before a certification exam. “Whether it’s going into an exam or teaching your first private lesson, there are expectations that you’re going to be ready to perform,” said Macri. “The better you prepare for that moment, the better you’ll be able to succeed in that situation.”

Macri credits being prepared with helping him rely on his skills and “be who he is” in potentially stressful situations. “The first time I tried out for the national team, I was too focused on trying to pass an exam, and over-analyzing what I had done rather than what I was going to be doing,” he said. “I was better prepared the next time, and that let me focus on the tasks at hand.”

Here are some of Tony’s top tips to help you ace your next big exam:

Be prepared
The more knowledge you have of the situation beforehand, the more you can focus on the moment as it happens. Make sure you have seen the assessment form so you know what you are being assessed on. You can get that from your division website, or from your trainers. If you’re being assessed on small skidded turns, practice small skidded turns. Know the topics and use some of those topics in lessons you are teaching, and, whenever possible, shadow higher-level instructors who are teaching higher level lessons.

Speak to the examiner as you would to a student
Many instructors say what they think the examiner wants to hear, rather than taking ownership of the information. Present the information in a clear, knowledgeable way for an examiner – or student – to understand. One way to do that is to deliver your message as a statement, rather than as a question. For instance, if someone asks, “What is counter rotation?” you should be able to offer a textbook definition, and also a real life example of how it can improve your riding.

Enjoy the situation
Exams aren’t about you against the world, or whether the examiner is deciding whether to pass or fail you. Like all instructional experiences, it’s about creating relationships with the people around you, and understanding what they want to get out of the situation. The more you contribute – rooting on everyone else in your group and encouraging them – and the less time you spend criticizing yourself (we are our own worst critics), the more involved and satisfying an experience it will be for everyone.

You can find this story on the PSIA-AASI Facebook page, with the question, “How do you deal with stressful situations?” We can’t wait to hear your top tips. For more about Tony, check out

– Peter Kray