Pressure is a word that is often thrown into a conversation about sports. Even though athletes might say that pressure is put on them from their coaches, teammates, and/or parents, ultimately the athlete is in charge of whether or not they accept the pressure or remain relaxed and confident. While it is easy to say that an athlete should reject the pressure and remain relaxed, it can be easier said than done.
When an athlete accepts the pressure, they will experience anxiety factors that will interfere with their ability to perform at optimal levels. Physical tightness prevents an athlete from getting into the zone because they are fighting their body’s muscle memory, which leads to errors, and ultimately higher levels of pressure! The physical response to pressure is not the only area that can interfere with performance; mental focus often becomes affected by pressure as well.
Typically, when an athlete is performing under pressure, they are focused on the outcome of the competition, which in previous blogs has been discussed as problematic. When an athlete is not in the present, they are unable to attend to the factors impacting their performance in the moment, which also leads to avoidable errors. Athletes need to keep their attention from the outcome and stay in the here-and-now. Some athletes might argue that by not attending to the outcome of the performance, they are not adequately setting goals; however, an athlete can set goals and remain present focused. Instead of focusing on the larger goal, an athlete can set smaller goals that improve the process of their performance. So instead of a golfer saying that he wants to shoot 5 below par in a given tournament, he/she could focus on their drives and putts being accurate while attending to the process of doing so.
Finally, when experiencing pressure in their performance, the athlete often focuses their attention externally, which can exacerbate any anxiety they are experiencing. For example, if the athlete is feeling the pressure due to tough competition, and is focused on the performance of their opponent, they will feel defeated and nervous; however, an athlete cannot control how their opponent performs, only how they themselves will perform. An athlete needs to be sure that they keep their attention focused more internally on the factors that are under their control. This will help alleviate the pressure and increase confidence during the performance.
Relaxation and confidence are essential for optimal performance. Be sure you are putting yourself in the right frame of mind so you are not standing in your own way! MVP Mentality Sports Psychology is a specialized sports psychology group that focus only on athletes. Our sports psychology approach is based on Neurofeedback therapy. Studies have shown tremendous improvements in athletes of all ages and levels. Call MVP Mentality Sports Psychology today at 954-317-0551 or contact us online to learn how we can help you!
NFL looking into hiring Sports Psychologist?
February 2, 2013
The Locker Room Magazine featured Dr. Hennessy's article : The Zone