How Athletes Perform Better Under Pressure
What is pressure? How is pressure created? And what can athletes do to perform better and shine under pressure? Read on to find out more...
“There is a lot of pressure put on me, but I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself. I feel if I play my game, it will take care of itself” - LeBron James
Pressure In Sport
One of the most important things you’ll need to develop as an athlete, is the ability to remain calm and perform well under pressure.
Even in the most chaotic of circumstances a champion is compossed under pressure, they retain the ability to make good decisions, think clearly and attack the task at hand with confidence, enthusiasm and persistence.
They are able to control the symptoms of pressure, remain focused and maintain situational awareness so that they can make good decisions in the heat of the moment.
Athletes often report feeling so much pressure during major competitions that they find it difficult to perform when it matters most.
Pressure has such an impact on performance, ignoring its presence will only feed it.
By understanding the process of pressure, you can better prepared and equipped to perform in critical moments of competitions.
What is pressure?
The term “pressure” dominates the headlines of sporting, business and political events.
Pressure usually refers to the feelings an athlete experiences about performing in a sporting situation. For example, “I get so anxious before I go into an event” or “I can’t seem to concentrate when the game is on the line.”
Pressure manifests itself physically (increased adrenaline, breathing, heart rate, etc), mentally (positive or negative thoughts about the event) and emotionally (positive feelings of anticipation, excitement or negative feelings of fear, anxiety).
How is pressure created?
No sporting event contains pressure in or of itself. This is important… there is zero pressure in a sporting event.
Pressure is an internal experience (a feeling) that is created by an athlete.
Pressure is created by how you perceive a particular event.
How you view an event will determine your internal response. (Do you see the situation as a challenge or threat?) Ultimately, your perception of the event will determine how you perform.
Why do athletes experience pressure?
If an athlete is experiencing pressure, it is more than likely because we perceive that there are expectations placed upon us. However, similar to pressure, expectations are imaginary projections into the future. Athletes often begin to experience pressure when they begin imagining what may occur if the desired outcome is not achieved. Athletes are known for either choking or excelling under extreme pressurized circumstances. Often we see a fear of failure tied to pressure, which can either fuel or exhaust athletes’ efforts. A few examples of how fear plays into an athletes’ performance include:
Fear of disappointing others (coaches, parents, fans)
Fear of feeling embarrassed if under-perform
Fear of losing their place on the team if they under-perform
Fear of not performing perfectly and of making mistakes
What can athletes do to better perform under pressure?
The Challenge State way for athletes to help deal with pressure is to tell themselves 'IM BLESSED'.
'IM BLESSED' is an acronym for:
• Interpret pressure is good
• Memorise you belong here
• Let go of winning
• Enjoy the moment
• Stay focused on the process
• Stop worrying about things you can't control
• Envisage the positive outcome
• Downsize the importance
Reminding yourself with ‘IM BLESSED’ can help give you Challenge State. Entering into a stressful situation with a positive mental approach leads to a Challenge State. But, if you approach a tough situation with negativity, you’re more likely to enter into a Threat State which can hinder your performance.
Some athletes shine under pressure, while others crumble. This pressure gets more intense as the competition becomes more important. Learning how to deal and respond to pressure is crucial to optimal performance. Successful athletes are able to thrive because they enter into high pressure situations in a Challenge State. The good news is, we all have the ability to do this.
How do you perform better under pressure? Share your thoughts in the comments below!