Bet You Didn’t Know these 3 Things About Sports Pressure
One of the biggest challenges in sports is learning the skills needed to perform well in the clutch and not succumb to pressure. Athletes of all ages, skill levels, and various sports routinely experience situations on the court or field where they need to make a shot, pass, or defensive stop as the end of the game nears and the outcome hangs in the balance. Some athletes excel in these types of situations, while other athletes (many otherwise talented athletes I might add) allow the pressure of the situation to take them out of their game and they perform poorly as a result. In these examples, the athlete fails not because he or she didn’t know what to do, but the failure is instead a direct result of allowing the pressure of the situation to disrupt confidence, composure, and the mind-body synchrony needed for sport success.
When examining sports pressure it is important to note the following three facts:
- “Pressure” is experienced on the same human arousal continuum as being in the zone. What this means is that human energy can be directed toward negative anxiety just as it can be directed toward helping get in the zone by increasing motivation, focus, and galvanizing resiliency. More simply, people are not born to excel or succumb to pressure, but instead have fallen into patterns that direct them to either experience negative anxiety at the end of a game, or positive adrenaline and enthusiasm in those same situations.
- How you appraise situations and life experiences will determine if you experience pressure or confidence. If there is just one second on the clock and you need 2 free throws to win the game, what do you think? For some athletes they think “don’t miss” (and consequently do), while others immediately cull from their confident mindset and calmly drain the free throws. When you appraise situations as healthy challenges rather than dangerous threats, your mind and body align and the result is a calm, positive, confident feeling that allows for a greater chance of sport success.
- Athletes can become clutch performers, even if they never have been clutch in the past. You don’t need medication, shock therapy, or anything else other than the desire to want to become a clutch athlete if you want to improve upon sports anxiety. If you want to become a clutch athlete, there are many sport psychology mental toughness skills to help — including deep breathing, imagery, cue words, and positive self-talk.
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