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Managing Pressure

Managing pressure
Fear of failure
Stress management
managing pressure in sport  

What managing pressure means

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.

Keys to managing pressure

Here are some keys to developing your ability to manage your feelings and emotions when you feel under pressure.

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


Watch this video

To develop your understanding of how to manage pressure, watch this video featuring Richie McCaw talking about managing pressure in rugby.


Read this book

Read With Winning in Mind: The Mental Management System by Lanny Bassham.