How To React Well In High Pressure Situations
How do you play under pressure? In your sport, what situations do you find the most stressful?
Playoff games, elimination games and the last minutes of close games are stressful for many athletes. As the importance of the contest is greater, the pressure athletes feel can skyrocket.
Overtime games are particularly stressful for some athletes.
In baseball, the pitcher may feel increased pressure to work out of a jam in extra innings. The pressure could cause him to overthrow and lose command of his pitches.
In golf, pressure can cause a player to over control and try to hit perfect shots, which leads to not hitting the ball as solid or straight.
In basketball, a player feeling pressure in the last minute of a game might force shots instead of looking for an open teammate.
Reasons for feeling increased pressure in overtime situations:
* You may want to get the game over quickly, instead of patiently waiting for opportunities to score.
* You might want to be the hero and win the game for the team, instead of getting your teammates involved or playing as a unit.
* You may feel the team depends upon you to guide the team to victory.
When you feel increased pressure, you play tense, press, and make costly mistakes.
Playing with excessive pressure rarely results in peak performance.
The key to producing in overtime is managing pressure and playing within yourself.
In the NHL, overtime play is frequent. In a 2021 regular season matchup where the Minnesota Wild faced the Los Angeles Kings, the game was tied 3-3 heading into overtime.
As time was running out in overtime, Minnesota winger Mats Zuccarello threaded a pass between defenders to teammate Matt Dumba. Dumba skillfully deked the goaltender and scored in the last seconds of overtime to give the Wild a 4-3 victory.
The win was the fourth overtime victory by the Wild in the 2021 season and Dumba’s goal broke a franchise record for most career overtime tallies.
Why has Dumba been so successful in overtime?
Dumba doesn’t overthink or try to force his game. Instead, Dumba keeps pressure at bay by playing within himself and focusing on the action as it unfolds on the ice.
DUMBA: “I wasn’t even thinking. I was just focusing on making the right play and not trying to force it. Just so happened that Zuccy was able to find me.”
Managing pressure does not mean eliminating pressure, it means reacting well to pressure situations.
Coping with pressure is well within your mental abilities. Learning to maintain just the right range of pressure will help you be on top of your game no matter if it’s a regular season game, overtime or the playoffs.
How to Manage Pressure in Overtime Games:
1. Embrace the pressure as a something that will elevate your game and give your more energy to perform well.
2. Use breathing, stretching, staying in the moment, and trust in your skills to perform well under pressure.
3. Play within yourself and try to to force the action while playing in overtime.
Managing pressure is a mental skill that all athletes should have in their toolbox. Contact us for more information about one on one mental coaching if you are not getting the job done in pressure situations.
Related Articles on Mental Toughness:
- Tom Brady and Mental Toughness
- 3 Keys to Finishing Strong in Competition
- Don’t Let Adversity Affect Your Game in Sports
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