Competing is physically and emotionally demanding. Elite athletes can experience a wide range of emotions while performing. They can experience excitement from being watched by large numbers of people, they can experience fear resulting from poor play, bad decisions or anticipating losing, and they can experience happiness and joy from doing well or winning.

Top athletes learn quickly that the ability to control your feelings and emotions is critical. While some level of nervous excitement enhances focus and improves performance, too much anxiety leads to poor decisions and chokes performance. Being able to handle pressure and manage your emotions makes the difference between success and failure. When the stakes are high and there is pressure to succeed, mental preparation and mental skills help top athletes to manage performance anxiety and perform to the best of their ability.

Mental preparation often includes self-talk, visualization, and thinking through situations which might arise and how you would handle them. Research shows that these techniques help athletes focus and sustain performance in high pressure sporting situations.

Managing Pressure Tips
1 View nervousness as a natural and essential part of strong competitive performance.
2 During competition, take things one step at a time and focus on performing to the best of your ability rather than winning.
3 Think about the different situations and challenges that might arise while competing and options and preferred ways of handling them.
4 Identify and write down the feelings you experience when performing well and use imagery to create a positive mindset before competing.
5 Learn to reduce tension using mental routines such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.
6 When under pressure, step back, get things in perspective, and if necessary develop a new game plan.

What experts say

No matter how tough, no matter what kind of outside pressure, no matter how many bad breaks along the way, I must keep my sights on the final goal, to win, win, win—and with more love and passion than the world has ever witnessed in any performance.

Billie Jean King Tennis Player

By putting pressure on myself to develop a great game, I had less pressure to win. These days, I tell kids that the way I grew up. It wasn’t about winning. It was about playing well and about playing the right way. That approach helped me enjoy the game and develop mine to its maximum potential.

Pete Sampras Tennis Player

Do the SPQ20 and find out how skilled you are at managing pressure