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Sports Psychology: Competitive Pressure: When the “Heat” is On

When athletes are confronted with performing in tournaments where they care greatly about the match and the outcome of the match is uncertain, they often feel pressure.  Pressure can be both helpful and harmful to athletes.  As a coach, your role is to help players learn to handle pressure.  The following are some techniques that a coach can use to help players manage pressure more effectively:

• Teach players to believe they can control their thoughts.  Remember, our thoughts are what cause pressure, not the match.
• Emphasize that some pressure is good.  Without it, playing competitively wouldn’t be very exciting.  Plus, they may not be as motivated to improve as they normally would be.
• Insist that players develop a complete performance routine that prepares them to play in any competitive situation.
• Teach players to view each point in the same manner.  This means sticking to their game plans and performance routines regardless of the situation.  No point should have more or less importance than another.  All should be played with 100% attention and effort.
• Create as many different situations in workouts as possible that put players in the position to feel pressure.  Then provide feedback as to how they handle them.

Remember, players spend hours practicing so that they can test their skills in competition.  Teach your players to look forward to and prepare them for the pressures associated with tournament competition. 

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