How to Perform Well Under Pressure
Are you able to convert pressure into energy, enthusiasm, or excitement during high-level competition?
Athletes who choke under pressure usually make the moment bigger than it is. In other words, they assign more significance to big tournaments than other competitors.
When you view a major competition as the most important part of the season, you will often feel more pressure, fear the possibility of failure, and experience a heightened level of anxiety. Fear and anxiety are the major contributors to choking.
Think of it as the following equation:
Fear of Failure + Increased Pressure = Anxiety + Choking
For example, if you view a competition as the most important competition of the year or a must-win game, you will put more pressure on yourself. You will think, “I have to be my best. I trained all year for this competition.
If I don’t perform well, my season will be wasted.” You will think of all the people expecting you to achieve a personal best performance.
That is a lot of pressure to put on yourself. Under these circumstances, your mind will be full of doubt, and your body will feel tight. Focusing will be difficult. Decision-making and reaction times will slow up. All these factors lead to choking.
So, how can you perform better under pressure?
You can prevent choking and perform better by changing your perspective about pressure or the importance of a competition, “This tournament is just another competition or game. I’ve been competing in this sport for years. I’m well-trained and prepared. A little pressure will help give me a boost of energy and improve my focus.”
The competition hasn’t changed, but your perspective about the competition changed. Of course, weather and field/course conditions may differ, but most aspects of the competition remain the same.
A shift in perspective changes your thoughts and emotions and fuels performance.
In the Olympics, athletes worldwide compete against the best athletes on the grandest stage. These athletes have trained for years and need to be in peak mental and physical condition to perform their best. Perspective and mindset are crucial to perform at their peak.
Take, for instance, 18-year-old Eileen Gu. Gu is a freestyle skier and is favored to medal at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. At the 2021 World Championships, Gu won two gold medals in Freeski Halfpipe and Freeski Slopestyle.
In an interview, Gu talked about her perspective on pressure.
GU: “I grew up as a runner, so I’ve been working on that to build myself up; mentally and physically, I’m really proud of myself to be able to keep that consistency throughout [the season]. I do feel fatigued, but I really love pressure, I genuinely feed off of nervous energy, and so I think it was good because it kept my adrenaline high.”
Gu views the Olympics as a challenge, an opportunity to see how far she can go in the sport. Gu converts pressure into excitement and motivation to fuel her performance.
Maintaining perspective, thinking highly of your skills, and preparation foster positive emotions, helping you manage pressure. These conditions foster peak performance.
Handling Pressure in High-Level Competitions
Don’t wait until you arrive at a competition to cope with pressure. Getting ready for a major competition requires the mental work ahead of time.
Start by anticipating what you might feel in this event? What are the emotions you might have? What are the challenges you can anticipate?
Next, how will you cope with these challenges and emotions. For example, if you have to compete in extreme cold conditions, how will you cope with this?
A prepared mind will help you manage pressure and perform at your peak.
Related Sports Psychology Articles
- The Importance of Mental Toughness
- How Athletes Deal with Stress
- How to Overcome the Fear of Negative Outcomes
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