Almost anyone who has ever played sports can talk firsthand about what it means to deal with sports pressure. In fact, sports pressure is the single biggest reason why otherwise talented and able athletes sometimes play below their natural abilities (we refer to this as “choking”). With that said, it makes sense that we better understand pressure — and more importantly, mental toughness tips and strategies to help minimize the negative effects of pressure.
Understanding sports pressure
Pressure is defined as the burden of physical or mental distress. More simply, when we feel the worries about performing our best, we are experiencing pressure. Interestingly, the negative pressure one person experiences can, and often is, experienced dramatically different by another person. For example, while one athlete might become overly-anxious before the start of a big game, another athlete might look at that very same example and become eagerly excited by the challenge. As you can see the same stimulus (the upcoming game) lead to two very different results (one athlete worries while the other becomes excited).
The old saying “one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure” is an idiom often used to describe the dramatic differences often witnessed when examining human perception. How we perceive things in life makes all the difference when it comes to our actions and reactions, and the great thing is that we 100% control how we perceive the world around us (so choose wisely!).
Yes, it really is as easy as perceiving situations in positive, healthy ways if you want to change nervous energy into eager excitement. Amazingly, this one very important choice immediately changes pessimism into optimism, fear into confidence, and thoughts of quitting into powerful motivation.
A few additional tips on beating sports pressure include:
- Remember, pressure only exists if we allow it to exist. What this means is that every situation can be viewed in healthy, challenging ways if we choose to take this mindset.
- While we don’t always get to control the things we face in life (for an athlete this might mean being taken out of the starting lineup), we do control how we react/respond. This is important as it allows us to re-frame situations in healthy ways, and thereby set realistic goals for the future.
- A quick, immediate way to control sports pressure is to ask what is the worst thing that can happen today? In most cases it means losing a game — hardly anything life threatening when you think about it, and this allows the perspective needed to ward off unnecessary pressure.
One of the fastest ways to reach your full athletic abilities is to re-frame pressure into healthy excitement, and by doing so you will almost immediately notice a decrease in anxiety and an increase in self-confidence. Better yet, every athlete at every level of sport can make this cognitive shift, and the results will be almost immediate.