Mental Edge: Does pressure hurt or help your game?

Photo: Wade Payne/The Tennessean

Mental Edge: Does pressure hurt or help your game?

High School Sports

Mental Edge: Does pressure hurt or help your game?


What leads to you feeling competitive pressure?

This is a question each athlete needs to ask themselves. You can think of many triggers that can add to the pressure of competitive sports. For some athletes, they feel pressure from excessively high expectations for themselves. Some athletes feel added pressure due to their perfectionist mentality.

Some athletes feel pressure to perform due to perceived expectations from teammates, coaches and parents. Other athletes feel pressure from: media outlets, redemption from past performances or mistakes earlier in competition, the feeling they need to prove others wrong or the importance of a big competition, Also, athletes attempt to live up to their ranking, attempt to bounce back from injury or adversity. Fear of losing playing time or fear of losing can instill pressure. The list can go on and on.

In order to manage pressure, you first must know the sources of pressure that negatively affect your performance. For some athletes, even a little bit of pressure may be too much for them to handle. For other athletes, more pressure allows them to get psyched up and ready to compete. The range of pressure for an athlete to perform at their peak is unique for each athlete. Pressure is a unique experience for all athletes. Knowing how you put pressure on yourself and the optimal range of pressure for you to perform at your peak will help improve consistency.

Managing Competitive Pressure:

  • Review some of your best performances in big competitions.
  • Identify the preparation and mindset that added to your confidence and reduced the pressure you felt.
  • Did you feel prepared for the competition? Were you excited to compete? Were you focused on game strategy or tactics?

Pressure is all about perception for each athlete. How you interpret expectations and pressure will lead to a success-mindset or avoidance-mindset for competition.

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Mental Edge: Does pressure hurt or help your game?
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